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King’s Ophthalmology part of team awarded prestigious grant

01 March 2022 - The team has received £2 million from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to conduct a novel neuroprotection trial in glaucoma.

A prestigious grant has been awarded to a team of researchers, led by Chief Investigators Professor Ted Garway-Heath at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology/Moorfields Eye Hospital and Mr Gerassimos Lascaratos at King’s College Hospital, to conduct a novel neuroprotection trial to treat glaucoma.

The grant, awarded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the Medical Research Council’s EME programme, could potentially benefit 300,000 people in the UK living with glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.

The trial will look at whether nicotinamide tablets, a form of vitamin B3, can improve mitochondrial function (energy production) and delay sight loss in people with primary open angle glaucoma (POAG), the most common type of glaucoma. Mr Lascaratos and Professor Garway-Heath will be using mitochondrial function in peripheral blood (blood that flows through the veins and arteries) as a biological marker of glaucoma and to monitor response to treatment, in the hope to offer more personalised treatment to patients. This is the first time such a study has been carried out for this condition in the world.

Mr Lascaratos, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at King’s College Hospital, said: “This is a landmark placebo-controlled 5-year clinical trial, which will hopefully open the door to more personalised treatment plans for our patients.”

Professor Tim Jackson, lead for the King’s Ophthalmology Research Unit and a Senior Investigator on the trial, added: “Full credit for the mechanistic insights that were core to the bid’s success goes to Mr Lascaratos. His understanding of mitochondrial dysfunction in glaucoma added enormously to the trial’s design, and from that, the scientific insight it will provide.

“Investigating novel neuroprotective treatments is a high priority in glaucoma, and this trial has the potential to improve the risk stratification in clinic and the management of glaucoma.”

Mr Lascaratos and Professor Garway-Heath will be recruiting patients from seven UK sites, including King’s College Hospital, and the trial will finish in November 2026.