Wet AMD is a chronic eye disease that causes blurred vision or a blind spot in a person’s visual field. It is characterized by abnormal blood vessels that leak blood and fluids into the macula, a region of the eye that is responsible for sharp, central vision. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye condition among the aging and elderly population. Wet AMD is its most advanced form that accounts for 90% of vision loss or blindness associated with AMD.
The damage caused by wet AMD cannot be reversed but it is possible to stall the progression of macular damage. Current treatment strategies for arresting or slowing the advancement of wet AMD include laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, and anti-VEGF treatment. Anti-VEGF therapeutic agents target a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) that plays an important role in angiogenesis and growth of abnormal blood vessels. Treatment of wet AMD with anti-VEGF therapeutics is becoming highly popular because of its convenience when compared to surgical methods.
There are different anti-VEGF therapeutics include RNA aptamers (short strands of RNA that prevent the binding of VEGF to their receptors), monoclonal antibodies and recombinant peptides commercially available, where the current FDA approved anti-VEGF agents for the treatment of wet AMD include Macugen (EyeTech/Pfizer), Lucentis (Genentech) and Eylea (Regeneron). However, Avastin (Genentech), an anti-VEGF therapeutic originally approved for the treatment of a variety of cancers, is also frequently prescribed (off-label) for wet-AMD.
The current pipeline landscape for wet AMD is quite robust. Various companies are actively developing their proprietary products for the treatment of wet AMD. Major players include Novartis and Opthotech Corporation, both of whom have two product candidates in late stages of clinical development. Apexigen is emerging as a strong competitor in the market with a phase III product candidate. Some of the other companies with promising drug candidates include Roche, Tyrogenx, Santen Pharmaceuticals and Iconic Therapeutics.
Therapeutics development for the treatment of wet AMD is, thus, progressing at a fast pace with many promising candidates in line.