Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is when the blood vessels of the eye do not develop normally in babies born prematurely (before their due date). This can cause serious loss of vision or blindness if it is not diagnosed or treated early. Babies born before 32 weeks old or weighing less that 1501g are screened for ROP in the UK. Most babies who have ROP will have a mild form of the condition which will not require any treatment and will get better on its own. However for babies with more advanced ROP the only available treatments involve surgery or laser treatments.
Ranibizumab is a medicinal product already available for treating a range of visual impairments in adult patients. It is injected directly into the eye and it works by preventing abnormal blood vessels from developing and growing in the eye (one of the causes of ROP) by blocking a protein called VEGF. If ranibizumab is licenced for treatment of ROP, it will be the first anti-VEGF medication to be approved for the treatment of ROP. This will potentially provide an alternative treatment to laser and surgical treatments for ROP.
Ranibizumab as intravitreal injections is in clinical development for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy in both its proliferative and non-proliferative forms. Diabetic retinopathy, is a disease that affect the retinas and other parts of the inner eye. It is a chronic progressive condition of the retinal blood vessels due to prolonged raised blood glucose. When new blood vessels and scar tissue form on the retina causing bleeding within the eye and loss of vision, it is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy.