Sandeep Jain is amongst the few clinical scientists in the field who have taken their research discovery from laboratory to the clinic and converted them to new therapies.
His research and clinical practice have both focused on very severe cases of dry eye disease caused by autoimmune disorders, in particular by a condition known as ocular graft versus host disease, which is a serious complication that occurs in patients with blood cancers who have undergone stem cell or bone marrow transplants.
“We have established a virtually unique translational research ecosystem that makes feasible the discovery and development of novel therapeutics,” said Jain, an associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences in the UIC College of Medicine. “This ecosystem comprises of a highly specialized patient care clinic, an advanced cell and molecular biology laboratory, dedicated clinical trial center lanes, a UIC-based startup entity to enable commercialization and a core team of personnel that seamlessly connect these components.”
Jain intertwines basic science investigations with clinical care of patients that suffer from severe ocular surface diseases — thus positioning his efforts at the interface between medicine and science.
Jain and colleagues determined that extracellular DNA — bits of DNA that escape their cells and sit on the surface of the eye is one of the main causes of inflammation of the eye in patients affected with severe dry eye disease. In people without dry eye disease, enzymes present in tears break up these stray pieces of DNA, but in people with severe dry eye, the enzyme, called DNase, is lacking. From this discovery, Jain developed a replacement enzyme eye drop that contains DNase. He received a patent for the enzyme and has funding from the National Institutes of Health for phase I/II clinical trials using his enzyme eye drops to treat patients with ocular graft versus host disease.
Another treatment Jain and colleagues have developed is actually a repurposed drug used as an anticoagulant in high doses — but at very low doses, it helps reduce inflammation of the eye. The drug, called ADV100, has led to the development of a UIC startup company headed by Jain called ADVAITE, which is housed in Health, Technology, and Innovation (HTI) on Harrison Street, UIC’s startup company incubator facility. Jain has submitted an application to the National Institutes of Health to continue the development of ADV100.
Another drug, brimonidine, a treatment for ocular graft versus host disease, has been licensed to Ocugen, an early stage biopharmaceutical company. As a science consultant, Jain is spearheading the development of brimonidine eye drops through clinical trials.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted orphan drug designation for brimonidine for the treatment of ocular GVHD – the first drug to receive this status. Brimonidine treatment for ocular GVHD is expected to enter pivotal clinical trials in 2018.