3D Printed Corneal Grafts at Precise Bio Obtain New R&D Funding from Carl Zeiss Meditec

American biotech start-up Accurate Bio got the support of Carl Zeiss Meditec to fund the further development of its 3D-printed corneal grafts.

Precise Bio is currently perfecting endothelial keratoplasty and natural lenticule transplants, designed to treat patients with eye diseases such as keratoconus who require vision correction. With the support of Carl Zeiss Meditec, as well as the synergy between the companies’ offerings, it is believed that Precise Bio will now be able to accelerate the time-to-market process.

“We are excited about this partnership which builds on our successful and ongoing collaboration with Carl Zeiss (ZEISS) for the development of corneal tissue to address unmet needs in the field of ophthalmology,” said Aryeh Batt, CEO of Precise Bio. “We are confident that the synergy between the two companies will enable us to develop breakthrough solutions to recover patients’ sight, bringing hope to hundreds of millions of patients worldwide.

“This strategic agreement builds on ZEISS’ global leadership in ophthalmology and Precise’s innovative and unique 4D biofabrication platform technology.

Precise Bio’s bio-printing platform. Photo via Accurate Bio.

The bioprinting ambition of Precise Bio

Over the past seven years, Precise Bio has worked to develop a precise and practical approach to the biofabrication of transplantable tissues and organs. At the heart of the company’s research is the Accurate bio platforma bioprinter capable of creating complex organoids at single-cell resolution in a reproducible manner.

According to Precise Bio, its technology therefore enables “rapid innovation and product development”, while “providing a foundation on which a robust pipeline of proprietary products” can be created. Compared to other 3D bioprinting technologies, the company is also said to overcome commonly encountered scalability and repeatability issues, in a way that allows it to meet therapeutic R&D needs.

So far, the company has mainly used its platform as a base to develop treatments for eye diseases such as keratoconus, a disease in which the cornea bulges outward in a cone shape, causing blurred vision. and eye sensitivity.

Since late 2018, when Precise Bio established an ophthalmology business unit, its leading R&D program has focused on creating a new graft, designed to replace the need for donor corneas. Ultimately, working with external partners like ZEISSthe firm says it aims to develop a bio-retinal patch, capable of treating age-related macular degeneration, but its efforts have yet to hit the market.

EyeMag medical loupes from Carl Zeiss Meditec.  Image via Carl Zeiss Meditec.
EyeMag medical loupes from Carl Zeiss Meditec. Image via Carl Zeiss Meditec.

Zeiss medical portfolio expands

To give Precise Bio’s research a boost, it has now secured support from Carl Zeiss Meditec, a subsidiary of optical systems manufacturer ZEISS. While the activity of the parent company ZEISS is mainly focused on the optics and optoelectronics sectors, it is increasingly looking to deploy its expertise in different areas of the 3D printing industry.

Last year, ZEISS began working with SENAI and Petroleo Brasileiro develop parameters of 3D printed oil and gas parts, before engaging in research with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to advance the characterization of 3D printed parts with AI. More recently, the company also partnered with Siemens Energy to launch a unique Makerverse 3D printing workshop, for the production of spare parts or prototypes.

With regard to the Meditiec subsidiary of ZEISS, the activity is more oriented towards meeting clinical needs. The company’s product portfolio covers everything from dentistry to neurosurgery and radiation oncology, but it has established a particularly strong ophthalmology offering. This includes several devices designed to facilitate microsurgery, such as cameras and medical loupes.

Following its investment in Precise Bio, Carl Zeiss Meditec will not only contribute to the development of its partner’s bio-printed grafts, but will also expand this clinical portfolio. While financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, it is understood to grant the ZEISS subsidiary exclusive rights to commercialize two products under development.

“This investment in Precise Bio should complement our leading portfolio of refractive workflow solutions for cataract and cornea,” said Euan S. Thomson, PhD, president of ophthalmic devices and head of digital business unit at Carl Zeiss. Meditec. “The technology has the potential to advance treatment options for corneal diseases, as well as elective procedures, further optimizing patient care.”

Steve Verze received the first 3D printed ocular prosthesis.  Photo via Moorfields Eye Hospital.
Steve Verze, recipient of the first 3D printed ocular prosthesis. Photo via Moorfields Eye Hospital.

3D printing of artificial eyes

In the absence of a clinically approved corneal bioprinting process, scientists have also used traditional 3D printing to produce prostheses, for those whose eyes cannot currently be saved from optical disease. Late last year, a Londoner named Steve Verze was fitted with the world’s first 3D-printed prosthetic eye, a breakthrough hailed as “strong proof” of the technology’s value in the field.

Additive manufacturing has also been used by some researchers to develop new approaches to treating eye disorders. Scientists at FabRX, University College of London and that of Spain University of Santiago de Compostelasucceeded in delivering a drug-loaded 3D-printed tear plug in October 2021, designed to be inserted into the tear duct of an eye to block it and prevent fluid drainage.

Likewise, researchers from University of Basel have 3D printed a socket fracture implant that has a reduced risk of patient rejection. Made using a Prusa i3 3D printer and PEEK filament, the team’s grafts are said to have porous characteristics that allow them to overcome bioinertia and enhance cell repair.

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Featured image shows Precise Bio’s bio-printing platform. Photo via Accurate Bio.

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