March 18, 2024

Kumar lab earns fourth grant from Eversight to develop critical preliminary data for ocular infection research

From left are Wayne State University's Linda Hazlett, Ph.D. and Ashok Kumar, Ph.D., Eversight's Ebony Johnson, and Wayne State University's Mark Juzych, M.D.

Ashok Kumar, Ph.D., professor of Ophthalmology, Visual and Anatomical Sciences at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, has been awarded a grant through the Eversight Center for Vision and Eye Banking Research to develop nanoformulations to treat ocular infections.

In this specific project, Dr. Kumar is formulating and evaluating the therapeutic efficacy of dual-acting nanoparticles containing antibiotics to treat ocular bacterial infections such as keratitis and endophthalmitis, which remain the leading cause of blindness worldwide.

“I am indebted to Eversight for providing funding for this new line of research, which will allow us to generate preliminary data to seek funding from the National Institutes of Health and allow us to continue this much-needed research of national and international importance,” Dr. Kumar said.

He has received funding from Eversight, formerly known as Midwest Eye Banks, four times in 19 years. Each project garnered support from NIH.

“Despite aggressive antibiotics and surgical interventions, ocular bacterial infections often result in partial or complete vision loss,” Dr. Kumar said. “Moreover, infection with resistant organisms can complicate antibiotic selection, increasing the risk of treatment failure with potentially sight-threatening consequences. Thus, the long-term goal of our research has been to study the pathobiology of ocular infections and identify newer therapeutic modalities for their treatment.”

In the study, Dr. Kumar and his research team will use the $15,000 award to develop dual-acting antibacterial nanoparticles using silver and conventional antibiotics for the treatment of bacterial keratitis and endophthalmitis.

“We envisioned that these nanoformulations possess broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity to kill both sensitive and resistant pathogens,” Dr. Kumar said. “The ability of nanoformulations to provide controlled and sustained drug (antibiotic) release eliminates the repeated dosage and enhances patients’ compliance to adhere to eye drops. The knowledge gained from this study into the development of nanoparticle-based ocular drug delivery systems could have a significant impact not only on ocular infections, but also on other eye diseases. Ultimately, our work aims to contribute to the advancement of therapeutic interventions in the field, offering new hope for preserving vision and improving outcomes in patients affected by these conditions.”

Dr. Kumar is one of four Eversight grant recipients selected by an independent review panel of academic researchers and ophthalmologists.

“I am enthusiastic about evaluating the therapeutic efficacy of our nanoformulations in ocular infections. Nanotechnology is at the forefront of drug delivery as it can overcome several barriers, including those present in the eye. This makes this project even more interesting and challenging,” said Henry Kolge, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Kumar’s lab who will be working on this project.

“Ocular infections pose a significant threat to vision. This becomes more problematic when the bugs become resistant to antibiotics, resulting in treatment failures. Dr. Kumar’s work on developing dual-acting nanoformulations that possess inherent antibacterial activity is innovative and can aid in reducing antibiotic resistance,” added School of Medicine Vice Dean of Research and Graduate Programs and Vice Chair of Ophthalmology, Visual and Anatomical Sciences Linda Hazlett, Ph.D.

Proposals selected for funding align with Eversight’s mission to restore sight and prevent blindness through meaningful scientific inquisition.

“The Eversight Center for Vision and Eye Banking Research proudly supports early-stage eye and vision research,” said Onkar Sawant, Ph.D., Eversight vice president of Research and Development. “The questions our awardees are asking today are pioneering research that gives hope to patients experiencing corneal transplant graft failure, ocular bacterial infection, age-related macular degeneration and corneal dystrophies. Their investigations may one day lead to improved vision care, disease treatment and prevention, making vision a reality for more people worldwide.”

Eversight is a nonprofit organization with a mission to restore sight and prevent blindness through donation, transplantation and research. The Eversight network is responsible for recovering, evaluating and providing human eye tissue for transplantation; supporting research into the causes and cures of blinding eye conditions; promoting donation awareness through public and professional education; and providing humanitarian aid to people around the world in need of corneal transplantation.

“Dr. Kumar is a preeminent vision researcher. His robust research program is geared toward developing newer therapeutic modalities to treat ocular infection and inflammation. The development of an efficacious ocular drug delivery system to treat eye diseases faces many challenges due to the unique anatomy and physiology of the eye. Dr. Kumar's work on nanoformulations can improve the therapeutic efficacy of antibiotics,” said Mark Juzych, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, Visual and Anatomical Sciences, and director of the Kresge Eye Institute.

Operating in Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and South Korea, Eversight works in collaboration with surgeons, researchers, academic medical centers and eye banks.

“Funding from organizations like Eversight help support important exploratory research that leads to new directions and further funding in a research area,” said Ezemenari Obasi, Ph.D., vice president for research at Wayne State University. “I look forward to seeing the outcomes of Dr. Kumar’s research and the impact it will have on preventing blindness in people around the globe.”


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