Ocular Drug Delivery

Ocular diseases affect millions worldwide and cause significant impacts on quality of life, particularly in the elderly. The delicate tissues and small volume of the eye represent unique challenges and require particular care when developing novel therapies. Topical eye drops and intraocular injections have been employed for decades to deliver ocular therapeutics; however, either method has well-recognized limitations including frequently repeated administration, limited therapeutic bioavailability, discomfort, risk of infection, and inconvenience.

There is an urgent need in clinical ophthalmology for a syringe-deployable intraocular sustained drug delivery device that is highly efficacious for biologically-derived therapeutics. A sustained release device for biologic therapeutics that releases over several months can maintain effective therapeutic concentrations and reduce injection frequency, reducing patient burden, and improving standard-of-care. One attractive platform for continuous delivery of biologic therapeutics is the use of nanoporous biodegradable materials.

We are developing miniaturized injectable nanoporous devices for the long-term delivery of biologics to the eye. Current efforts are directed toward tuning our devices for constant drug release, stable drug formulation, and timely degradation.

Recent Publications: Schlesinger EB, Barnards DA, et al. (2018) Bioeng Transl Med; Samy KE, Cao Y, et al. (2019) J Ocul Pharmacol Ther

Current/Future Works:

  1. Translation-focused efforts to further miniaturize ocular devices and formulate biologic payloads for long-term stability (≥ 4 months).

Point(s) of contact: Dr. Dan Bernards, Tannia Rodriguez 

(Left) SEM image of an engineered PCL drug delivery membrane (Right) example of a syringe deployable biodegradable sustained delivery device.

cross-section of an eyeball

A drawing of a section through the human eye with a schematic enlargement of the retina.

drug delivery device

A polycaprolactone drug delivery device implanted into rabbit vitreous.


Scanning electron microscope (SEM) cross-section of a nanoporous polycaprolactone film.

retinal progenitor cells

Retinal progenitor cells attaching themselves to a well in a PCL membrane

In collaboration with Bob Bhisitkul, MD, PhD

Advancing the Treatment of Retinal Diseases Video