Cordlife Group Limited and together with its subsidiaries announced that the Ministry of Health has issued a license permitting the company to launch OptiQ, a corneal lenticule banking service in Singapore. Cordlife is the first company in Asia to let patients undergoing certain refractive eye surgery using lenticule extraction method (e.g. SMILE) for myopia or astigmatism, cryopreserve their corneal lenticules for potential treatment of presbyopia and other ocular conditions in the future.
Although yet to be accepted as the standard of clinical care currently, early studies have shown that corneal lenticules may help correct presbyopia, hyperopia and certain ocular conditions. The technology behind OptiQ was invented by Professors Donald Tan and Jodhbir Mehta from Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI) and patented by Singapore Health Services Pte Ltd (Singhealth) and Cordlife is the exclusive license holder of this patent.
Ms Tan Poh Lan, Cordlife’s Group Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, said: “Cordlife has accumulated 20 years of experience in the baking of biological materials so offering the storage of corneal lenticules is a natural extension of our services. Our partnership with SERI fits perfectly with our commitment to providing innovative healthcare services.”
“We are pleased to leverage Cordlife’s technical and marketing expertise in biological tissue and stem cell storage as we anticipate significant utility of cryopreserved corneal lenticules,” said Professor Tan at SERI.
Myopia is an extremely common refractive error in Singapore with 82% of the 20-year-olds suffering from this condition – one of the highest in East Asia. According to a systematic review conducted by researchers from Sydney-based Brien Holden Vision Institute, nearly half of the world is expected to be affected by 2050, a drastic increase from the 28% in 2010. This phenomenon is driven by modern lifestyle changes such as lesser time spent outdoors and the consistent use of mobile devices and computers. In the last 20 years alone, SNEC has performed over 73,000 laser refractive surgery procedures.
There are several refractive surgery options available for the treatment of myopia, including newer flapless refractive surgical procedures, such as SMILE. Unlike LASIK, which requires the creation of a flap to enable the laser to reshape the cornea, SMILE can correct myopia or astigmatism by extracting a tiny lenticule from each eye of the patient using a femtosecond laser. Presently, corneal lenticules extracted during such surgeries are routinely thrown away. Early animal and human studies have shown that corneal lenticules may help to correct presbyopia and hyperopia (long-sightedness) as well as certain ocular conditions.
Presbyopia in particular, is an age-related condition in which the eyes gradually lose the ability to focus on objects clearly at close range. Currently, this condition is corrected with the use of reading glasses or contact lenses. Patients can also opt for artificial inlay implantation but this method carries risks such as corneal inflammation, scarring and haze. By implanting biological materials such as corneal lenticule, such risks can be reduced and the rate of rejection will also be marginal due to inherent superior biocompatibility. Once lenticule implantation is approved as a standard of care, patients who have stored their own lenticules will have additional vision correction options.
“Almost every one of us will have presbyopia after the age of 40. We believe this advancement in ophthalmology can help a lot of people and even bring healthcare in Singapore to the next level,” Professor Mehta of SERI added.
Ms Audrey Lok, Director, Healthcare & Biomedical at ESG, said: “Singapore’s sustained investments in research and development over the years has made it an ideal location in Asia for companies to innovate and develop new product and service offerings. The partnership between SERI and Cordlife is an example of how enterprises and research institutions can collaborate to commercialise greenfield technologies, and make it more accessible to the wider region.”
Ms Tan added, “Along with the rising prevalence of myopia, we believe rising disposable income as well as increasing health consciousness among the general population, will help drive the demand for OptiQ. We are excited to be a part of this medical revolution to help patients preserve their corneal lenticules for potential use in the future.”
OptiQ is now available at SNEC and some eye clinics offering refractive eye surgery using lenticule extraction method in Singapore.