Biotech startup Pandorum Technologies bio-engineers human cornea tissue with an eye on vision restoration
Biotech startup Pandorum Technologies, which focuses on tissue engineering, made history a few years ago by being the first Indian company to 3D-print human liver tissue for medical research. Now, scientists at Pandorum Technologies have achieved a new milestone, having bio-engineered human cornea tissue to enable scarless healing of corneal wounds and help restore vision through bio-regeneration.
Corneal injuries or disorders affecting the cornea, the outermost layer of the eye, are one of the major causes of vision loss across the world, according to the World Health Organisation. In India alone, more than a million people suffer from bilateral loss of vision due to corneal injuries, with many more suffering from unilateral corneal blindness.
While corneal transplants, through the surgical removal of the opaque corneal tissue, is an effective way to improve vision, there is currently an acute shortage of cadaveric human corneas available for transplantation.
To close this gap, Pandorum, in collaboration with Hyderabad-based L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, has bio-engineered human cornea tissues, with the aim of ultimately removing all dependencies on human donor cornea.
Scientists at Pandorum have now developed a novel hydrogel that can deliver corneal stem cells in the wound site to help in the scarless repair and regeneration of corneal tissues.
The hydrogel can be directly applied to corneal injuries in a minimally invasive manner. It can also be 3D bio-printed as corneal lenticules, or as a disc-shaped piece of corneal tissue, that can be used for lamellar keratoplasty, a surgical procedure for the partial replacement of the damaged cornea.
“Being able to bio-engineer critical tissues such as the human cornea is a major milestone for all of us," Arun Chandru, co-founder and Director of Pandorum Technologies, told YourStory.
"This innovation puts us on the global stage, and was possible due to the government’s excellent support of the Indian biotech startup ecosystem, the support of our investors, and our multi-disciplinary team of scientists, transplant surgeons, and engineers."
Founded in 2011 by Arun Chandru and Dr. Tuhin Bhowmick, both researchers from Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, Pandorum is supported by the Department of Biotechnology’s Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) and has labs at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms, Bangalore, and at the Bangalore BioInnovation Centre.
The biotech startup presented its pre-clinical trial findings related to the bio-engineered human cornea tissue at annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO-2019), Vancouver, Canada. Founded in 1928, ARVO is the largest eye and vision research organisation in the world, with nearly 12,000 researchers and clinicians from over 75 countries.
Cornea surgeon Dr. Virender Sangwan says,
“Pandorum’s bio-engineered cornea is a transformational technology and could lead to scarless healing of corneal injuries with rejection-free corneal graft. In a way, such platform technology addresses the need for the repair of corneal injuries and perforations, and also meeting the requirement for partial or total replacement of cornea.”
Pre-clinical studies involving clinically relevant corneal wound models in rabbits are currently underway, led by cornea surgeons Dr. Virender Sangwan and Dr. Sayan Basu and scientist Dr. Vivek Singh. The team is aiming to move toward piloting human studies in 2020.
“The technology can be a game changer in the field of regenerative treatment of corneal wounds, after the safety and efficacy have been successfully established,” says Dr. Singh.
Pandorum's investors include Binny Bansal, Sachin Bansal, Sunil Munjal, TK Kurien, Indian Angel Network (IAN), 021 Capital, KITVEN, Kotak Investment Advisors, and 500 Startups.