Derek Duan is a Principal Investigator at Eyegenix, a small biotech in Hawaii that is creating a unique way to cure corneal blindness.
How are they doing it? By creating a synthetic, transplantable cornea that promotes tissue regeneration.
I spoke with Derek about their novel approach to curing blindness, the biotech scene in Hawaii, and his experience using Science Exchange. Check out our conversation below.
Q: Tell me about Eyegenix.
Derek: We’re a biotech company located in Honolulu, Hawaii. We’re doing research and development on the most advanced artificial cornea in the world. This is a biosynthetic polymer based product.
We’re very excited to put our artificial corneas into the market as soon as possible, because there are millions of people globally that could be cured with this product.
Q: How did the company start?
Derek: Dr. Hank C.K. Wuh, who was born in Hawaii and educated in the mainland, founded the company in 2012. He wanted to come back and serve Hawaii. He’s making use of the island as an intersection of Asia, Australia and America to be a center for biotech research. That’s why he decided to come back and fund his company.
Q: What is it like doing research in Hawaii?
Derek: Sometimes the resources are limited, because we’re in the middle of the Pacific. For example, shipping is expensive. But, other than that, the weather is nice and the people are nice; it’s quite a friendly environment. We’re a small company, but we’re doing very well here.
Q: What’s the progress?
Derek: The class of polymers, which is being developed by Eyegenix, has also been used in a physician sponsored first-in-human clinical trial conducted at a Swedish university. We’re in the process of animal studies on the new improved materials. As soon as we finish that we will be moving forward to multi-center pilot human trials.
Q: What was your experiment on Science Exchange?
Derek: The Keck Biophysics facility did CD Spectroscopy for three of our collagen samples to verify the triple helical conformation. The results of this work are important for characterizing/selecting a major raw material for our products to ensure the final product quality.
Q: How was your experience using Science Exchange?
Derek: We’re a small startup company, so we have limited resources, especially because we’re located in Hawaii. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to purchase equipment for just one task, so we look for outside services. We often use the University of Hawaii, but more sophisticated or specialized services aren’t available in Hawaii, so we search on the mainland. I found Science Exchange to be really helpful, because it puts all those tools in one place so you can browse through the services and choose the one that works best for you. It’s like a bridge connecting us to all the services available on the mainland.