Experimenting with the ‘liquid artificial retina’ on humans, an injectable and biocompatible device, which would allow a partial recovery of vision for people suffering from partial blindness from retinal degenerative diseases. This is the goal of Novavido Srl., born from the research activity of the Italian Institute of Technology (Iit) and the Ircss Sacro Cuore Don Calabria Hospital in Negrar (Verona) and thanks to the technological skills of Alfasigma. The start-up of Iit, accelerated in the G-Factor incubator of the Golinelli Foundation, aims to develop a new, potentially revolutionary therapeutic proposal for retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration.
The proposal – a note details – is based on the result of a research project developed over 10 years by the Center for Nano Science and Technology (Cnst-Iit Milan) led by Guglielmo Lanzani and by the Center for Synaptic Neuroscience and Technology (Nsyn- Iit Genova) led by Fabio Benfenati, in collaboration with Grazia Pertile and Maurizio Mete of the Irccs of Negrar (Verona). The start-up, thanks to an initial investment of 1.4 million euros by Alfasigma, Utopia SIS, Istituto David Chiossone and Club2021 – and a second of around 4.5 million at the end of 24 months, which will be linked to the success and implementation of the plan and the growth steps – the experimental phase on humans of the liquid artificial retina will begin in the next two years.
This technology consists in the injection in the retro-ocular area of a suspension of biocompatible and photoactive polymeric nanoparticles – that is, that react to light – and that replace damaged photoreceptors by restoring the stimulation of the retinal neurons that send visual information to the brain. The technique – reports the note – is supported by encouraging experimental results obtained during preclinical tests and published in 2020 in the journal ‘Nature Nanotechnology’. The liquid artificial retina does not require any kind of glasses, cameras or power sources and is administered locally as a drug by injection, thus allowing a short and little traumatic surgery.
The startup, which has concluded a license agreement for the use of the 3 patents filed during the research activities of IIT and the Veronese IRCCS, once the technology is validated in the first clinical tests, will follow the patients from the preliminary stages to the final rehabilitation and, at the same time – the note details – will continue the research activity for the optimization of this treatment and the development of other solutions to address the variety of neurodegenerative diseases related to vision.
“The birth of Novavido is an emblematic case of how research pursues the aim of improving the quality of life of people, approaching the objectives of social sustainability to which an increasingly inclusive society must aim. The technologies developed in our laboratories have reached a degree of maturity which, combined with the skills and work of our technology transfer team, have made it possible to attract very important private funding “, comments Giorgio Metta, Scientific Director Iit. “We are very pleased to have concluded this operation and honored by the trust that the partners have placed in our project. The interest aroused and the caliber of the subjects involved represent a strong push to transform Novavido Srl into a successful reality. This initiative is an example of all-Italian synergy between actors from different realities working for a common purpose“, comment the founders of the start-up Giovanni Manfredi, Guglielmo Lanzani is Fabio Benfenati.
“Alfasigma’s investment in Novavido represents a concrete sign of confidence in the innovative technology and for the start-up team, accelerated by G-Factor. Alfasigma is proud to contribute to the development of the project by bringing its expertise and specific skills in the development of innovative therapies “, comments Stefano Golinelli, president of Alfasigma Spa.
“Utopia starts with its first investment, aware of its role as a financial investor with smart money, or qualified and specialized finance necessary for the growth of such challenging and disruptive research projects. Doing this with an excellent team and with co-investors of such high standing is a pride “, he declares Antonio Falcone, Executive Vice President of Utopia SIS.
“It is an important commitment and a great satisfaction for the Chiossone Institute to participate in the establishment of Novavido srl. This is how our researches, which have been underway for years, for the identification of candidates for the implantation of visual prostheses, find their way. We will bring to the Novavido project the deep knowledge of the condition of blindness and its psychological dimension and the experience of over thirty years of health rehabilitation of the blind and visually impaired. We are aware of the need to develop methodological protocols aimed at adequately selecting the subjects to be candidates for the implant and define the subsequent training path to optimize the new post implantation visual condition “, he says. Claudio Cassinelli, president of the David Chiossone Onlus Institute.
“Novavido represents for us the ideal type of project to try our hand at from now on: once again we have invested in the highest scientific quality, guaranteed in this case by a research center of excellence such as the IIT“, he declares Antonio Danieli, Vice President of the Golinelli Foundation and Sole Director of G-Factor Srl “At the same time, ‘the how’ we built the ‘deal’ constitutes a reference model that I hope will be replicable and disseminated throughout the country: ‘research, business and finance is’ public, private and private social ‘, all together at the starting line. A combination that is still very rare, but which we have managed to prove possible “, he concludes.