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Landmark EU project to tackle age-related macular degeneration

5-year project aims to reduce the disease burden of age-related macular degeneration in Europe and worldwide

by George Wigmore (Senior Communications Officer)

A new European-wide project involving researchers from City, University of London aims to develop new tests and therapies for age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The MACUSTAR project, which involves several European universities, medical-technology and pharmaceutical companies, will develop these clinical tests and therapeutic options over the course of the 5-year project to help reduce the disease burden of AMD in Europe and worldwide. The project is funded with 16 million euros and is being led by the University of Bonn, Germany.

MACUSTAR is the first exclusively eye disease-focused project approved by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), Europe's largest public-private initiative aiming to speed up the development of better and safer medicines for patients.

AMD is a painless eye condition that causes you to lose central vision, usually in both eyes. AMD currently affects more than 600,000 people in the UK and is the leading cause of vision loss. By 2020, it's predicted almost 700,000 people will have a late-stage form of the condition in the UK.

Central to MACUSTAR is the development of a series of tests for worsening of AMD using state of the art imaging techniques, vision testing and patient reported outcome measures. The main idea is to test these novel approaches to see if subtle changes in AMD can be accurately detected over time. If this is achieved then it will lead to more efficient clinical trials for new treatments for AMD and accelerate drug development. The main costs for the MACUSTAR project are for a huge observational clinical study to be conducted in more than 700 AMD patients from 20 clinical sites across Europe.

Dr Alison Binns and Professor David Crabb, from the Division of Optometry and Visual Science in the School of Health Science, will assess a series of tests of visual function in conjunction with colleagues at UCL (University College London) and Moorfields Eye Hospital. Starting in September 2017, the project fund will also support a research fellow to work in the Crabb Lab to see how results from different tests can be combined together to improve the detection of worsening of AMD. Around 0.35 million euros has been awarded to City over the five year period.

David Crabb, Professor of Statistics and Vision Research in the School of Health Sciences at City, said:

“This is a very exciting European-wide collaboration. The data from the observational study is going to be quite unique. Our research lab offers particular expertise making us an important named partner. The consortium won through a long and highly competitive process in order to secure a massive funding budget. We are thrilled to bring some of these resources directly to City.

“We are also proud that City is a significant partner in such an important initiative allied to centres of excellence throughout Europe. Of course, more importantly, we hope this project will develop methods to detect key changes in the disease process. In turn this will accelerate the adoption of new therapies for AMD and in the long term, directly benefit patients with this eye disease.”

Find out more about the Crabb lab

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