Regeneron Perspectives

Our Impact on Diseases of the Retina: Always Striving for Innovation

Author: Kimberly Reed
Global Medical Affairs, Regeneron Ophthalmology
April 18, 2023
Our Impact on Diseases of the Retina: Always Striving for Innovation

Since its founding, Regeneron’s core mission has been to push the boundaries of science to drive our understanding of serious and chronic diseases. Inspired by this mission, Regeneron began looking at the pathological development of new blood vessels, or angiogenesis, over 20 years ago. Since then, Regeneron’s angiogenic research has influenced multiple fields of medicine, with a unique impact on ophthalmology.

I've long been drawn to the fascinating underlying biology of how diseases develop and how treatments work on a molecular level. Prior to Regeneron, I spent 25 years in optometric education where I cultivated a love for teaching future eye care professionals on how to help improve their patients' vision. Now, as the head of Global Medical Affairs, Ophthalmology at Regeneron, I’m able to leverage my dual passions for scientific research and clinical patient care to help drive advancements in ophthalmology.

From my experiences, I've witnessed how a person’s independence and quality of life can be negatively impacted when their vision is impaired. Twenty-five years ago, patients diagnosed with certain serious retinal diseases were told that their inevitable fate was severe visual impairment or even blindness. Fortunately, that doesn’t need to be the case today – in large part due to Regeneron’s rigorous commitment to research.

Diseases of the Retina 

In our bodies, angiogenesis (a complex series of events that includes the development of new blood vessels) plays a fundamental role in our normal biological growth, development and health maintenance. However, when angiogenesis occurs in excess, it can set in motion the development of certain serious diseases.

When considering the underlying science behind retinal diseases, one influential protein is vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). An overexpression of VEGF in the retina has been shown to cause pathological angiogenesis, which can ultimately result in vision impairment, thereby making it a highly significant therapeutic target. Designed to inhibit this protein, anti-VEGF agents have sparked a dramatic shift in the treatment of pathologic causes of blindness around the world.

To help treat these diseases, Regeneron developed its own therapeutic agent. When VEGF is bound by the therapeutic agent instead of to its corresponding receptors in the retina, the molecule’s pathological effects may be inhibited, potentially resulting in reduced blood vessel growth.

Diagram showing a therapeutic agent, VEGF molecule and two VEGF receptors.

Regeneron’s leadership in ophthalmology has helped strengthen clinical understanding of VEGF inhibition and has demonstrated how targeting this molecular protein can help treat certain serious diseases of the retina. 

Always Striving for Innovation 

As physicians and scientists, our innovative approach continues to shape the field of ophthalmology by harnessing science to meet the needs of patients and those who care for them. Our ongoing research continues to evolve as we explore ways to help ease patient burden of frequent in-office visits and injections, and address the unmet patient need for more durable medicines.

Regeneron’s mission of pushing the boundaries of science means always striving for innovation. When I first started in academia, patients with serious retinal diseases had limited options for maintaining or improving their vision. Today, I continue to be inspired to see just how greatly we can help improve their experience.

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