BARDA is partnering with Inversa to develop a treatment for eye problems associated with DNA damage, particularly those caused by chemical agents like sulfur mustard gas.
Ingrained in the public mind since its widespread use in WWI, sulfur mustard is a means of chemical warfare that causes the skin and mucous membranes to blister, harming skin, eyes, and respiratory tracts through its high toxicity. Irritation, pain, swelling, and tearing can occur hours after exposure, followed by more drastic effects, like permanent blindness.
Even though the threat has been around for more than a century, there are currently no Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drugs to treat sulfur mustard ocular damage. BARDA and Invirsa hope to change this through a product known as INV-102, derived from a naturally occurring molecule that modulates the protein responsible for regulating DNA damage response. It comes in an eye drop capable of treating delayed, long-term eye injuries and blindness that follow sulfur mustard exposure.
There are hopes for wider application as well. The common eye condition, acute infectious conjunctivitis, also causes DNA damage but is largely untreated. A treatment effective enough to counter sulfur mustard damage could likewise prove useful there.
BARDA will fund the effort to reach FDA approval eventually. Before that happens, however, nonclinical studies and clinical trials must proceed to demonstrate safety and efficacy.