ORBITAL: Ocular Research By Integrated Training And Learning

Prof. Laurence Fitzhenry, Waterford Institute of Technology  (WIT)

Funded through the Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie European Training Network, ORBITAL is an innovative EU funded programme that will recruit and train early stage researchers (PhD students) in the area of drug delivery.

Left-Right: A patient living with AMD, Dr Laurence Fitzhenry, Dr David Kent and Dr Laura Brady

The consortium brings together academia, industry, clinicians, patient advocacy groups and hospitals from across Europe, Canada and the US. It will be led by researchers in Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) but Irish members also include University College Dublin, Queen’s University Belfast, Fighting Blindness, and a Kilkenny-based consultant eye surgeon, Mr David Kent of The Vision Clinic.

The objectives of ORBITAL is to develop novel, non-invasive drug delivery technologies that can help with diseases most commonly associated with the back of the eye, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy. To achieve this, researchers will combine a number of sciences including material and drug formulation science. Engagement with patients, patient groups and clinicians throughout the entirety of the training programme will ensure that patient-oriented solutions are at the centre of all research activity.

Complimentary to their time in the lab, Fighting Blindness will support the early stage researchers (ESRs) in developing meaningful research goals, and providing support by delivering talks and workshops on Public and Patient Involvement (PPI).

According to WIT researcher, Dr Laurence Fitzhenry, who heads up the project

“There is a clear need for efficient, safe, less-invasive and more patient-friendly strategies for the treatment of AMD and diabetic eye disease”.“These diseases represent a considerable and growing burden on patients and healthcare systems throughout the world. Given the statistics, there is a lack of researchers being trained with the necessary interdisciplinary skills needed to combat such increasing burdens.”

A dedicated website provides further details on consortium members and project objectives.