Seonix Bio, a new company pioneering solutions for assessing glaucoma risk in a clinical context, has been awarded a $304,000 Seed-Start grant by the South Australian government.
Often known as `the silent thief of sight’, Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, affecting an estimated 80 million people. 300,000 Australians over the age of 40 currently suffer from glaucoma. Glaucoma is an insidious disease that is asymptomatic in the early stages, with damage to the eye’s optic nerve progressing gradually and unknown to the patient until irreversible vision loss occurs.
Fortunately, Glaucoma is a treatable condition if discovered early. Eye drops, laser and surgery are all effective interventions that can stabilise the condition, slowing or preventing disease progression. However, detecting early-stage glaucoma is challenging using current technology, as is predicting which glaucoma patients will progress to severe vision loss. Some patients whose sight could have been saved are treated too late, while other patients who will never develop severe glaucoma are unnecessarily investigated, monitored, and treated.
Seonix Bio is developing a pioneering polygenic risk score (PRS) test to enable health professionals to identify individuals at greatest risk of glaucoma, such that they can be prioritized in ophthalmology waiting lists and receive informed clinical care sooner.
Based on world leading research at Flinders University, the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, SALHN within SA Health, and the University of Tasmania, a blood or saliva sample is taken from a patient and thousands of different genetic locations, known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), are analysed to quantify a patient’s genetic risk of glaucoma.
Published in the prestigious international journal, Nature Genetics, the PRS is the first test able to estimate glaucoma risk sufficiently accurately for clinical use. Lead author and ophthalmologist, Prof Jamie Craig from Flinders University, commented:
Our world leading research represents a step change in the clinical assessment of glaucoma risk.
The Seed-Start grant will enable Seonix Bio to attain NATA accreditation and deploy the PRS in the clinic.
Nick Haan, CEO of Seonix Bio, said: “This Seed-Start grant is a key milestone for Seonix Bio. This grant will crucially allow us to start offering the PRS in the clinic so that clinicians and their patients can better understand glaucoma risk. Our PRS has the potential to improve management and treatment of glaucoma patients and those at risk of glaucoma, while reducing health system costs.”
Minister for Innovation and Skills David Pisoni said that the Marshall Government is pleased to support the clinical roll out of this world-leading research through its Seed-Start program.
“The Marshall Government is committed to supporting the growth of local early-stage ventures, particularly those like Seonix Bio with a strong foundation in research and with the potential to solve pressing health challenges,” Minister Pisoni said.
“Seonix Bio’s technology has the potential to improve patient care while increasing the number of high-value technology jobs for South Australians”
The Seed-Start program operates through the Government of South Australia’s Research and Innovation Fund (RIF) to provide financial support for early-stage, high-growth potential businesses. See fixe.org.au/seed-start for more details.
CEO, Seonix Bio Pty Ltd