Tech Transfer eNews Blog

New investment vehicle proposed to fund early-stage research on blindness

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: May 15th, 2019

A finance analyst and her husband are seeking help from the private sector to support potential cures for blindness and create a funding model that could be applied to other research efforts.

Karen and Basil Petrou have created a plan, which two members of Congress recently introduced as legislation, in which up to $1 billion in loans, or “Eye Bonds,” would be made available to organizations doing early-stage research on blindness.

While the government already provides funding for basic research, and big pharma pays for clinical trials, there are few resources to help bridge those two phases.

“What we’re really looking at is Eye Bonds as a pilot to create a new class of investments,” says Karen Petrou. “Bonds would provide funding for exciting therapies such as eye transplants that could restore vision for blinded wounded warriors, prevent and cure age-related macular degeneration and other inherited retinal diseases, address diabetes retinopathy, cover glaucoma, and otherwise hold out hope for vision for millions of Americans.”

Under the plan, financial institutions would package and sell the loans to investors in the form of 10-year bonds. For projects deemed especially promising by the National Eye Institute, the federal government would partially repay investors if the labs couldn’t.

The idea has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, with many Republicans in Congress agreeing that medical research should be funded more generously.

“For far too long, we have federally funded research sitting on the shelf, waiting for private investors to put it into practice,” says Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA), who introduced a bill to create Eye Bonds with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) as a co-sponsor. “When it comes to turning research into cures, we must seek new ways to tackle old problems.”

Source: The Washington Post

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