The Vision of an Eye Researcher

Phillip Vanlandingham

Cell Biologist and eye researcher Phillip Vanlandingham is on the brink of a potentially industry-changing development. With 36 million adults in the U.S. facing visual impairments or diseases, Vanlandingham and his co-workers at EyeCRO in Oklahoma City are on a mission to find easier, less invasive ways to help people see. In his latest ‘passion project,’ Vanlandingham is preparing to present a new formulary for Dry Eye Disease to the Federal Drug Administration. “This could be one of those few big success stories,” he says. “It’s a really big deal for our company and for biotechnology in Oklahoma.” 

At EyeCRO, the fastest-growing eye research company in the world, the primary function is to test new therapeutic drugs for pharmaceutical companies. “We test compounds in fancy machines with eye cells or eye tissues. The machines then tell us if the tissue is affected under certain situations. After testing, we notify the requesting company if their idea did or didn’t work,” Vanlandingham explains.

According to Vanlandingham, it’s actually rare for something to work–but the few successes make it worth all the work. “We researched a promising gene therapy for a rare disease that caused children to lose their vision. During clinical testing, a majority of the children who received this therapeutic actually regained their vision. When the finding was reported, people in the audience started crying when they saw the results. It’s those successes that drive and motivate us to keep trying.”

Much of today’s current research focuses on diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Vanlandingham is personally driven to find therapies that can be used in place of risky surgeries. “Besides testing the ideas of other companies, our chemistry team is developing patented formulations, which basically means that instead of taking a pill and putting drugs into the whole body, we’ve developed an eye drop that can administer an active agent straight into the eye,” he says.

“People who’ve never had an eye issue don’t realize how frustrating and debilitating eye problems are,” Vanlandingham remarks. “A lot of progress has been made, but so much more needs to be done.”

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