Acucela's Innovative Approach
Acucela is leveraging promising science in visual cycle modulation to develop new methods for treating blinding eye diseases that affect tens of millions of people worldwide.
In preclinical and clinical studies, Acucela’s novel proprietary visual cycle modulators (VCM) have demonstrated ability to slow the visual cycle in multiple eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), retinopathy of prematurity, Stargardt disease and diabetic retinopathy.
About the visual cycle
The visual cycle is the biological conversion of a photon into an electrical signal in the retina, which comprises light-receptor cells known as rods (responsible for night vision) and cones (responsible for day vision).
Cone cells, which allow the perception of color, have a critical role in detailed vision and central vision. Rod cells, which are more numerous than cone cells, are extremely fragile and ultrasensitive to light. Even when they are not being used for night vision, rod cells are sending essentially unused information to the brain. But they do play a critical function: they support cone cells, and thus our vision.
By selectively modulating the visual cycle to first protect rod cells, we believe that we can ensure that cone cells — and by extension, visual acuity — can be preserved.
Studies have found that many more rod cells than cone cells are lost as our eyes age. Rod-cell deterioration is accepted as a component of both general visual decline and age-related diseases like AMD. Some research shows that environmental factors, such as smoking, nutrition, and exposure to sunlight, may influence the onset of AMD and the resulting visual decline.
Acucela’s visual cycle modulators reduce the activity of the rod visual system, thereby relieving or “lightening” the metabolic load on the retina. Reducing the speed of the visual cycle has been shown to protect the retina from light damage, improve retinal vasculature (the arrangement of blood vessels) and reduce the accumulation of retinal-related toxic by-products, including A2E, which is implicated in AMD. For more information about our groundbreaking technology, click here.
Acucela's VCM compounds show a good safety profile: they are non-retinoid and able to be delivered orally, rather than by injection into the eye, which is typical of many current eye therapeutics.