A pioneering solution for assessing glaucoma risk in clinical settings is closer to commercialisation with the support of a $304,000 state government seed grant.
South Australian company Seonix Bio is advancing the new polygenic risk score (PRS) test developed by a world-leading research team comprising experts from Flinders University, the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, the SA Local Health Network within SA Health, and University of Tasmania.
Flinders University ophthalmologist Professor Jamie Craig, co-author of several scientific articles outlining the research results, including in international journal Nature Genetics, said the PRS is the first test able to estimate glaucoma risk sufficiently accurately for clinical use.
“Our world-leading research represents a step change in the clinical assessment of glaucoma risk. A patient with a high risk (top decile) PRS is 15x more likely to develop glaucoma than a patient at low risk (bottom decile),” Craig, who continues to work on the project with colleague Associate Professor Owen Siggs and others, said.
“Moreover, a glaucoma patient with a high risk PRS is significantly more likely to develop severe vision loss. Optometrists and ophthalmologists have been lacking tools to assess glaucoma risk, and our PRS has a significant role to play.”
The Government of SA Seed-Start grant will enable Seonix Bio to attain National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accreditation and deploy the PRS in clinics.
According to Flinders University, 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.
It is believed the Seonix Bio PRS test will enable health professionals to identify individuals at greatest risk of glaucoma, such that they can be prioritised in ophthalmology waiting lists and receive informed clinical care sooner.
Using a blood or saliva sample taken from a patient, the PRS test can be used to assess thousands of different genetic locations, known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, to quantify a patient’s genetic risk of glaucoma.
Seonix Bio CEO Mr Nick Haan said the PRS has the potential to improve management and treatment of glaucoma patients and those at risk of glaucoma, while reducing health system costs.
“This Seed-Start grant will crucially allow us to start offering the PRS in the clinic so that clinicians and their patients can better understand glaucoma risk,” he said.
SA Minister for Innovation and Skills Mr David Pisoni said the government is pleased to support the clinical roll out of 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,” 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.