Let there be sight
Transplanting the human cornea (1) can enable a blind person to see. But it requires the perfect human donor match and there are no guarantees of success. A group of EU-funded SMEs and researchers, however, has developed an artificial cornea that offers failed transplant patients a potentially life-changing alternative.
Vision for success
Creating an artificial cornea is a scientific and technological challenge. It must have the right physical, chemical and biological properties to match the human eye - an extremely complex organ. The CORNEA project succeeded where many other teams have failed thanks to the range of capabilities and expertise that each of the 10 partners contributed.
The project was coordinated solely by Dr Müller-Lierheim of CORONIS GmbH, an SME based in Germany, and brought together experts from Germany, France, the Netherlands, Poland and the UK. The six SMEs involved brought some key abilities to the project including technical and developmental resources, manufacturing capacity and, crucially, market access.
Each SME partner delivered a different area of expertise to the project:
- CORONIS used its 30 years' experience in international standards and medical device regulatory affairs to help get past the red tape.
- IOI International, based in the UK, brought its patented 'flexicornea' design to the project. The final artificial cornea is in fact based on the innovative design.
- Dr Schmidt Intraocularlinsen, also from Germany, brought more than 50 years' experience in precision mechanics and intraocular lenses to the project.
- Rockmed, an opthalmic-surgical device marketing company from the Netherlands, used its strong market presence in the Netherlands and Belgium to promote the project.
- Rhine-Tec from Germany adapted its new automatic video specular microscope to assist the CORNEA project. The specialist instrument helped in preclinical performance testing of the implant.
- Peschke, a German-based specialised ophthalmic-surgical instrument marketing company, used its strong market presence in Germany to endorse the project.
The next step
The first MIRO CORNEA UR keratoprotheses - to give it its full name - have been implanted in human eyes for over a year and are performing as expected. The team has now initiated a long-term post-market clinical follow-up study on 40 patients.
'SMEs bring their own unique attitude and standing to the research process,' concludes Dr Müller-Lierheim. 'They must be more cost effective than larger organisations, which can mean they are more driven and efficient; and they provide hands-on management, clear targets and realistic expectations. In short, SMEs are driven by the need to succeed and that ambition often leads to their success.'
Dr Wolfgang G.K. Müller-Lierheim
Project Coordinator, CORONIS GmbH
Tel: +49-89-5203 2880