Trauma patients rushed to A&E with serious eye injuries can now benefit from a ground-breaking sight-saving wound dressing made from amniotic membrane.
The unique biological dressing ‘Omnigen’ was originally developed by researchers in The University of Nottingham’s School of Medicine, work which led to the formation of a University spin-out company NuVision Biotherapies. Omnigen has the potential to revolutionise the treatment for emergency cases of ophthalmic wounds including abrasions, burns and more serious perforations, as well as planned operations on the eye.
NuVision has now been granted a full licence by the Human Tissue Authority to distribute Omnigen, and patients coming for treatment at Nottingham University NHS Trust’s Queen’s Medical Centre are among the first to try this innovative new treatment.
Dr Andrew Hopkinson, principal research fellow in Academic Ophthalmology within the Division of Clinical Neuroscience at the University, and CEO and founder of NuVision Biotherapies, said: “Imagine a world where treating a serious eye injury could be as easy as applying a contact lens. Omnigen will allow hospital emergency departments to treat patients quickly and give them the best chance of recovery in a way which has never before been available to them.”
Natural healing properties
The innovative product will receive its official launch at an event at the company’s MediCity headquarters in Nottingham on Thursday this week (June 30), when leading UK ophthalmic specialists from both human and veterinary medicine will gather to share their experiences and hear how amniotic membrane is being used.
Over the past two decades, amnion — the innermost layer of membrane from the amniotic sac collected from caesarean deliveries of newborn babies — has been developed for a number of medical applications including wound care.
The tissue is rich in collagen and a variety of growth factors that can promote wound healing. It also has natural antibacterial properties, immediately reduces pain on contact with a wound and can be used on patients of all blood types.
Currently amnion for medical use is stored by cryogenically freezing it at -80˚. Unfortunately, this method of preparing the membrane and storing it at such a low temperature can damage the tissue and reduce its clinical effectiveness.
Freezing the tissue also requires heavily regulated cold chain storage and costly logistics, which prevents storage in hospitals. Amnion can only be distributed for scheduled surgery once ordered, taking up to 24 hours for delivery, on a named patient basis, and once it reaches its destination must be used within 48 hours or be discarded.
Until now, these difficulties have also prevented amnion from being used as an emergency therapy for the routine treatment of trauma.
Dr Hopkinson was challenged to overcome these problems while studying for his PhD at The University of Nottingham, which has led to the revolutionary new preparation of amnion, which the company calls Omnigen™. Using a patented Tereo™ manufacturing process, the company has standardised a new approach to processing the membrane and preserving its therapeutic properties in a new easy-to-store dry format.
When applied, the natural moisture in the eye works to rehydrate the patch and immediately delivers a 70 per cent reduction in pain for the patient without the need for extra painkillers. The way the amnion is treated also retains some antibacterial features, which results in extra infection-fighting properties and speeds the healing process. It can be applied on a structure converting it into a type of contact lens which can be removed and reapplied as necessary or can remain in the eye as a type of scaffold on to which eye cells can grow as the organ heals.
The breakthrough has huge implications for its clinical use: for the first time, hospitals can order specially vacuum-sealed packs containing multiple bandages to be stored with regular hospital supplies at room temperature and used immediately in the event of emergency cases coming into the A&E department. Nurses can be trained to apply Omnigen, offering even more flexibility to the NHS and benefit for patients.
Professor Harminder Dua, Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Honorary Consultant Ophthalmology, is now treating patients with Omnigen at his clinic at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Dr Susan Huxtable, Director of Intellectual Property and Commercialisation at The University of Nottingham, said: “The granting of the full licence by the Human Tissue Authority to enable the distribution of Omnigen is great news for NuVision. This is an outstanding example of the kind of innovative technologies that we develop here at The University of Nottingham.”
NuVision has also received funding from the Ministry of Defence, which was interested in the potential of Omnigen for treating injuries on the battlefield.
Omnigen is also safe for use across the human-animal barrier. It is currently being used by veterinary surgeons across the UK for treating larger animals such as dogs, cats and horses.
Thursday’s launch event will share recent innovations in the development of amniotic membrane for improved ocular surface reconstruction and as a therapy for the treatment of emergency and acute conditions using surgical free application methods.
The programme will include:
- Clinical and scientific presentations on amniotic membrane innovations.
- Case series presentations from human and veterinary surgeons, using the dry amniotic membrane product, Omnigen.
- A keynote speech and wet lab demonstration of Omnigen application as a conventional surgical adjunct and as an innovative surgical free biological bandage by Professor Harminder Dua.
- A networking opportunity over lunch and post-event dinner.
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and was named University of the Year for Graduate Employment in the 2017 The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, and 8th in the UK for research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for four years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.
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