Globally, some 300–500 million people suffer from dry eye syndrome. Their eyes feel uncomfortable and irritated. At its worst, it can result in inflammation, ulcers or scarring.
In addition, the condition constitutes a significant socio-economic burden. Dry eye syndrome is estimated to generate costs of €100–800 million in Finland alone each year. These costs accumulate from visits to the doctor, drugs as well as absences due to illness and reduced work performance.
RevEye is developing an entirely new form of treatment for the syndrome.
Dry eyes are typically treated with moisturising and lubricating eye drops, or with pharmaceutical products that alleviate inflammation. The efficacy of RevEye is based on the prevention of fluid evaporation from the surface of the eye in the first place.
“A healthy tear film is covered by a thin lipid layer that normally slows down the evaporation of fluid from the eye surface. In the case of dry eye syndrome, its function is usually disturbed, allowing fluid to evaporate more quickly than usual,” says Filip Ekholm from the University of Helsinki, one of the leaders of the RevEye project.
“We are developing a lipid-based product that prevents such evaporation very effectively.”
RevEye is based on natural lipids found in the lipid layer of the eye, which makes it a safe form of treatment. Another benefit of the solution is that lipids remain on the surface of the eye longer than regular moisturising drops. Consequently, they do not need to be administered as frequently.
“There is currently no product available whose moisturising mechanism is based on the lipids of the eye. Through research, we have successfully described the functional mechanism on the molecular level, giving RevEye an edge over its competitors.”
The incidence of dry eye syndrome is expected to increase further in the future, and the condition is most prevalent among the elderly. As the population grows older, the number of people with the syndrome increases. At the same time, our modern way of life where we spend a lot of time in front of display screens predisposes increasingly young people to its onset.
“Of course, our most ardent hope is that RevEye improves the quality of life of people suffering from dry eyes. This is the reason why we have chosen this path. We also hope that RevEye will have the capacity to transform the eye drop market by providing efficacious and safe alternatives to the current selection,” Ekholm says.
The commercial potential of RevEye is considerable.
“The market is very large. The ability of our product to prevent fluid from evaporating from the eye, which is something that other products are unable to do, provides us with a good starting point. We believe that we stand out clearly, which is why we have submitted a patent application for the invention.”
RevEye secured commercialisation funding from Business Finland for two years in 2021. The project is currently in the product development phase, in addition to which cellular and animal tests are being carried out. The aim is to complete the testing by the end of the Research to Business funding period, after which clinical trials for the actual product will commence.
RevEye is a joint project of the biomolecular chemistry research group at the University of Helsinki, the Helsinki Eye Lab research group coordinated by the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki University Hospital, and the Ocular Drug Delivery research group of the University of Eastern Finland.
RevEye is founded on four years of basic research focused on the structure and functional mechanisms of the lipid layer that covers the tear film as well as the traits of specific categories of lipids.
“We have tried to establish an understanding of how lipids in the eye affect the functioning of the lipid layer,” Ekholm says.
The lipid layer of the eye contains approximately 200–500 different lipids. No comprehensive knowledge of their significance to the functioning of the lipid layer has been previously available.
“We have produced new information on the structure and functioning of the lipid layer. Identifying the lipids that prevent evaporation and successfully demonstrating how they do it was sort of like winning the lottery.”
Dry eye syndrome affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The condition is expected to become increasingly prevalent in the future, in addition to which it can generate significant costs.
With the help of new knowledge, RevEye has developed an entirely new form of treatment based on a mechanism found in the eye itself. The treatment prevents the evaporation of fluid from the surface of the eye.
RevEye has received a two-year grant for developing the product and carrying out preclinical cellular and animal tests, as well as for other preparations for commercialising the invention. These stages will be followed by clinical trials.
Are you looking to become a collaboration partner or funder, or are you otherwise interested in hearing more about this innovation? We are looking for investors and partners for the period following the Business Finland–funded project, for example, for carrying out the clinical trial phase and commercialising the product, potentially in the form of a spinout company.
Filip Ekholm, project lead at University of Helsinki, email@example.com, +358 40 759 0853
Kari Lehmussaari, project commercial lead, firstname.lastname@example.org
Marika Ruponen, project manager, University of Eastern Finland, email@example.com, +358 40 355 2405
Websites for further information:
Biomolecular Chemistry Group, University of Helsinki
Helsinki Eye Lab, University of Helsinki