On April 12, Mickael Dang, a PhD student from the Shoichet Lab, took home first place during the business plan competition at the TERMIS-AM conference 2023 in Boston, MA. Synakis, a new spinoff from the Shoichet Lab, develops SYNGEL, a hyaluronan-based hydrogel as a novel biomimetic vitreous substitute for the treatment of retinal detachment. It also plans to create a pipeline of products to solve challenges around the leading causes of blindness, such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.
“Each year, 1.8 million people worldwide undergo vitreoretinal surgery to treat conditions including retinal detachment, diabetic retinopathy, macular hole, and epiretinal membrane. These surgeries require a vitrectomy, i.e. surgical removal of the vitreous humor to access and repair the retina. The vitreous is then replaced with a substitute material to tamponade the retina during recovery,” explains Mickael.
“Current clinical substitutes – gases and silicone oils – carry major drawbacks during patient recovery, including blurred vision and risk of high ocular pressure. Patients also require face-down posturing to properly tamponade the retina using these substitutes. These limitations prevent the patient from returning to work for a minimum of several weeks. In addition, many patients require follow-up surgeries to further fix retinal damage and/or remove silicone oil from the eye. The full recovery from vitreoretinal surgery is a major burden on patients, hospitals/clinics, insurers, and employers. There is an unmet need for a new biomimetic vitreous substitute to improve patient recovery following vitreoretinal surgery,” elaborates Mickael.
SYNGEL overcomes the limitations of current clinical substitutes by satisfying the following criteria:
- It provides clear vision post-surgery.
- It’s biodegradable, which eliminates the need for removal surgery.
- It has similar properties to the native vitreous, including density and surface tension. Therefore, face-down posturing is not required.
- It is minimally swelling. There is no risk of high ocular pressure.
- It allows patients to return to work quickly, and eases the burden placed on hospitals/clinics, insurers, and employers.
Synakis plans to develop the next-generation solutions for the leading causes of blindness, starting from retinal detachment disorder to chronic glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. Its mission is to help patients suffering from ocular disorders restore vision.
Research behind SYNGEL has been published in Biomaterials in 2021. On May 2, Mickael and his team will be competing at the pitch competition during Building the BioTech Venture hosted by Medicine by Design. They also plan to start approaching VCs and angel investors in the near future to create a “good manufacturing practices (GMP)” grade product. Read more about Mickael’s entrepreneurship journey.