Nearsightedness has become an epidemic, but a new three-year partnership among global leaders in myopia research and innovation is poised to help children have a brighter future.
All over the world, we are raising an indoor generation of children.
In America, kids spend, on average, more than 90% of their time indoors; in Singapore, one study showed children spend just three hours a week playing outside. Recent studies have also suggested that as many as 90% of high school graduates in China and other East Asian countries may currently be myopic.
And that’s no small thing: This lack of sun exposure may be one of the leading causes for the explosion in global rates of myopia, also known as nearsightedness. Researchers suspect nearsightedness may be a response to too much time spent in dim light indoors, focusing on “near work,” like looking at computer and smartphone screens.
And while myopia might seem like a fixable inconvenience, rather than a global health concern, over time, it can lead to such serious complications as blindness, glaucoma and cataracts.
Tackling a Growing Health Challenge Together
So this week Johnson & Johnson Vision announced a new research collaboration with the Singapore National Eye Center (SNEC) and the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI). This powerful trifecta of world leaders in eye health will share resources, data and trial results to help halt myopia’s alarming progression.
Helping guide the partnership is Noel Brennan, O.D., Ph.D.Noel Brennan, O.D., Ph.D.,Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. Myopia Control Research Fellow, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. Myopia Control Research Fellow. “We wanted to do something positive to counteract the threat myopia presents to vision problems,” Dr. Brennan says.
And that means teaming up with experts in the field to maximize impact.
“SERI and SNEC have a long track record in myopia research, and Johnson & Johnson Vision brings deep expertise in optometry and ophthalmology,” says Professor Wong Tien Yin, medical director of the Singapore National Eye Center and chairman, vice-office of academic and clinical development at the Singapore Eye Research Institute.
The more than $26 million initiative includes funding and in-kind contributions from Johnson & Johnson Vision and SERI, and a grant from the Singapore government.
The partnership highlights four categories of research, explains Wong: identifying who will get myopia; figuring out the underlying mechanisms that contribute to the disease’s progression; progressing novel therapies that can prevent, slow or stop myopia; and discovering new methods to prevent the onset and progression of myopia-associated disease and vision loss.
To that end, the researchers will build from their existing knowledge base in corrective contact lenses, orthokeratology (specially designed contact lenses worn overnight) and medication to help identify and ultimately develop next-generation therapies. The joint venture will also emphasize the importance of early intervention, and the need for patient-centric models of care.
The long-term vision? Creating a healthier generation of kids.
“The common perception that myopia is no big deal is the very thing we are fighting,” Dr. Brennan says. “There is no ‘safe’ level when it comes to increased risk of disease.”