Press Releases

Faculty Member to Study Eye Disease through New NIH Grant

March 16, 2018

Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry Christopher Cioffi, PhD, will serve as co-principal investigator on an NIH grant seeking to develop novel drug compounds for treating Age-related Macular Degeneration. The grant, which totals $1.45 million over three years, will be shared with co-principal investigator Konstantin Petrukhin, PhD, Associate Professor of Ophthalmic Sciences at Columbia University Medical Center.

The Project

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in people age 50 and older. AMD is a multi-factorial disease whose causes can be hereditary and/or environmental. It affects more than 10 million Americans and is expected to impact 196 million people worldwide by 2020. 

The grant will target a type of the disease referred to as "dry" AMD, which accounts for 85-90% of all patient cases. While there are pharmacological treatments now available for treating "wet" AMD (which affects less than 15% of AMD patients), no such options currently exist for patients suffering from the dry form of the disease.

The Approach

When light impacts the retina of the eye, it is converted to a neural signal that is carried to the brain. The brain translates the signal into an image which is how humans are able to see. This process is facilitated by a series of chemical reactions known collectively as the “visual cycle.”

One of the natural byproducts of the visual cycle is the production of bisretinoids. Bisretinoids are toxic to cells in the retina, and their buildup over time can threaten a person’s vision. Through this grant, Drs. Cioffi and Petrukhin will examine new therapeutic treatments to curb the buildup of bisretinoids and subsequent degeneration of photoreceptor cells within the retina by modulating the visual cycle. If the investigators are successful, they may be able to help slow the progression of dry AMD in patients suffering from the disease or who are at risk of developing it.

Quote from Dr. Cioffi

“The National Institutes of Health have described AMD as ‘an oncoming epidemic,’ and it is easy to understand why. Despite recent gains in treating wet AMD, we still have not identified an effective therapy to help patients suffering from dry AMD, the far more common form of the disease. Our hope is that this research will eventually lead to the development of a pill that can be prescribed to help treat these patients and postpone the symptoms of AMD.”

Dr. Cioffi is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Basic and Clinical Sciences who also holds a joint appointment in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. He joined the College in 2016 after working for 16 years at Albany Molecular Research Inc. where he led teams of medicinal chemists in support of large pharma, biotech, academic, and NIH collaborations.      

Research reported in this press release was supported by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award number 1R01EY028549-01. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

About Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Founded in 1881, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is a private, independent institution with a long tradition of academic and research excellence. The College is committed to educating the next generation of leaders in the health care professions and translating scientific discoveries into therapies that benefit humankind. In a study conducted by the Brookings Institution, ACPHS was named the #1 value-added college or university in the country. The College has campuses in Albany, NY and Colchester, VT.