It’s World Glaucoma Week, and as awareness of a devastating eye disorder that affects as many as 80 million people grows, an emerging Western Australia biotech is offering hope that a possible treatment may be within reach.

Neuroscientific Biopharmaceuticals (ASX:NSB) is working on developing its lead drug candidate, EmtinB, a synthetic version of a human regenerative protein known to inhibit cell death and mediate neuroinflammation.

While the drug is yet to be tested in humans, work in an animal model led by a research team from the Physiology and Pharmacology department at the Lions Eye Institute strongly suggested that EmtinB could reduce damage to RGC axons, the nerve fibres that connect the eye to the brain.

The study involved a pig model of increasing intraocular pressure which closely mimics the pathology of chronic severe human glaucoma – a model used for many years in glaucoma studies because the physiology of pig eyes closely resembles those of human eyes.

The successful study demonstrated neuroprotection across multiple highly relevant study endpoints and did not cause any toxicity or tissue damage. There were statistically significant differences in the principal site of glaucoma damage, what’s known as the laminar region of the optic nerve head.

“This gives us great confidence because there is a high likelihood that the amazing regenerative results we saw in the animal model will translate to humans,” says Neuroscientific director of operations Dr Alexandra Heaton.

Glaucoma causes an estimated 11.2 million cases of bilateral blindness in humans each year, the World Health Organisation estimates.

There are treatments such as eye drops, conventional and laser surgeries on the market to manage glaucoma, but the eye drops have side effects and surgery isn’t a permanent fix.

Still, glaucoma treatments are a huge industry, one that’s projected to grow to $US5.3 billion by 2022.

“At the moment there isn’t anything that reverses the damage that’s already been done by glaucoma,” Dr Heaton says.

‘Blockbuster potential’

EmtinB could possibly do just that — and more.

Neuroscientific non-executive chairman Brian Leedman views it as a potential “blockbuster drug” that could be used to treat everything from Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis, by effectively slowing down the death of dying cells and regenerating damaged ones.

NSB also recently partnered with the Institute of Respiratory Health and the University of Western Australia to investigate EmtinB as a possible treatment for the “post Covid fibrosis” – scarring or inflammation of the tissue of the air sacs of the lungs that can lead to breathing difficulties for COVID-19 survivors.

There’s a large body of published literature supporting the therapeutic potential of metallothionein, the human protein that EmtinB is modelled after.

A Phase 1 safety and tolerability study is in the works and expected to start soon, the company says.

This article was developed in collaboration with Neuroscientific Biopharmaceuticals, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.