School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine

WSU researcher's vision restoration technology now closer to U.S. patent approval

Zhuo-Han Pan, Ph.D.

Zhuo-Han Pan, Ph.D.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a notice of allowance for a patent application to a biotechnology company licensed to develop technology to restore vision through the use of a component of green algae developed by a Wayne State University School of Medicine researcher.

The notice, awarded to RetroSense Therapeutics, broadly covers methods of restoring visual responses with a variety of optogenetic compounds.

Zhuo-Han Pan, Ph.D., professor of Ophthalmology and Anatomy/Cell Biology for the Wayne State University School of Medicine, and scientific director of the Ligon Research Center of Vision at the Kresge Eye Institute, developed the novel strategy, which focuses on genetically converting light-insensitive inner retinal neurons into photosensitive cells, thus restoring light-sensitivity to retinas that lack photoreceptors.

The RetroSense Therapeutics application includes claims covering methods of restoring visual responses by delivery to retinal neurons any of a number of channelrhodopsin variants, as well as halorhodopsin. The two molecules have been studied extensively and published on as means of vision restoration in retinal degenerative conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa and dry age-related macular degeneration.

The approved patent application is part of the “Pan” patent family, which stems from the novel research of Dr. Pan and others at Wayne State University and Salus University, designed to restore vision in retinal degenerative conditions. Several Pan patent applications are part of RetroSense’s intellectual property estate, which focuses on optogenetic gene therapies and complementary devices for vision restoration.

“We are pleased that the U.S. Patent Office has allowed this patent application, which will substantively expand the coverage of RetroSense’s intellectual property estate,” said Sean Ainsworth, chief executive officer of RetroSense. “Our IP position provides broad protection. RetroSense continues to develop novel intellectual property in the area of optogenetics. Accordingly, we plan to continue to extend our basic patent protections on our technologies. We have also maintained an ongoing strategy to consolidate key intellectual property required to develop and commercialize optogenetics to restore visual responses.”

The newly allowed U.S. patent application covers methods of increasing visually evoked potentials by delivering to retinal neurons one or more of the following molecules: Channelrhodopsin-2 (and a multitude of variants thereof) and Halorhodopsin.

Claims also explicitly cover targeting these molecules with cell-type specific promoters, including mGluR6 (Grm6).

Following a Notice of Allowance, the process resulting in final issuance of a patent involves several administrative steps that are typically completed within a year.

Dr. Pan has received funding to support his research from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health (EY004068 and EY017130), The Foundation for Fighting Blindness and Hope for Vision.
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