Topical Ophthalmic Drug Delivery Device
The eyes might be the mirror to the soul but Vista Scientific is hoping they can also be used to deliver medication.

The Andover-based ophthalmic research and development company has developed a device -- called Topical Ophthalmic Drug Delivery Device (TODDD) -- that can deliver medications for an extended period of time through a lens inserted in the eye. The device has implications for the treatment of glaucoma as well as nearly all eye infections and diseases.

The company was the recipient of a phase one Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant in which it demonstrated that the device can therapeutically succeed. But in order to move forward, a phase two grant was needed to demonstrate that the device can be worn comfortably on human subjects. Unfortunately, their grant was submitted just as the economy was flagging.

That's where stimulus came in.

Stimulus funded the company's phase two SBIR grant of $1.6 million through the National Institutes of Health.

Vista Scientific
"We would not have been able to devote the time and the resources to this product without the stimulus grant," said Robert Thompson, a managing partner of Vista Scientific. Thompson credits the grant with retaining his and his three colleagues jobs at the company as well as the two graduate students employed at the plastics engineering department at University of Massachusetts - Lowell who are designing and tooling the lens.

Recovery Act Impact: Vista Scientific

  • $1.6 million

  • Retained 4 employees

  • Employ 2 graduate students

  • Develop device to dispense eye medication

  • Improve quality of life for those with eye disease

  • Realize cost savings for the healthcare system

"The need [for this product] is obvious," said Thompson. "This is a very well understood problem and this is an elegant way of addressing the issue."

As Thompson noted, glaucoma is the second cause of blindness in the world and patients need medical treatment to keep the disease under control. The problem is that keeping patients - the majority of whom are elderly - compliant with the necessary medication is very difficult. Drops are hard to administer and remembering to do it on a daily basis is tricky. "Compliance is the big topic in glaucoma," said Thompson. "Our product is intended to dispense drugs for 90 days."

Vista Scientific Staff
Charles Leahy, an optometrist and one of the founders of Vista Scientific pointed out that the lens does not impact vision - it sits under the eyelid - and can be inserted by a caregiver. "This is important for those elderly patients who want to stay in their homes," said Leahy.

Both Thompson and Leahy said that ultimately TODDD can be used to deliver medications for eye infections, dry eye, and inflammations - essentially anything that requires eye medication. "This will not only help people and improve their quality of life but it will also save the healthcare system substantial costs," said Thompson, who noted that the cost of servicing someone who is blind - a result of untreated glaucoma - is "astronomical"

"The stimulus grant lets us focus on our product," said Thompson. "Without these kinds of funds, a number of great ideas would die on the vine."