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Heather Sheardown

Heather Sheardown

Canada Research Chair in Ophthalmic Biomaterials and Drug Delivery Systems

Tier 1: 2014-10-01


Department of Chemical Engineering Profile | Canada Research Chair Profile

Research involves

The development of new technologies and drug formulations to improve the delivery of medication to both the front and back of the eye.

Research relevance

This research will greatly improve the quality of life for millions of people afflicted with various ocular conditions.

Creating a Brighter Future for Sufferers of Eye Disease

More than a million Canadians live with vision loss, a number that’s expected to double over the next 25 years as the population ages.

New drugs are revolutionizing treatment, but their effectiveness is limited by complications and patient compliance. Less than 5% of those who can wear contact lenses don’t because of discomfort. Implanted lenses, used to restore sight after cataract surgery, cause secondary cataracts in 4 out of 10 patients. Topical eye drops, even when used as directed, shed their active ingredients within seconds.

Heather Sheardown, a chemical engineering professor and world-renowned expert in ophthalmic biomaterials, uses the tools of chemical biology (high-throughput synthesis and screening) to improve the odds for those afflicted with a host of ocular conditions.

Her research is focused on developing new drug-containing formulations that can be delivered as topical drops to provide long lasting and efficacious delivery of drugs to the front of the eye, as well as the next generation of smart materials that interact with the ocular tissues to promote the long term delivery of drugs to the back of the eye.

The founding director of the 20/20 NSERC Ophthalmic Materials Research Network has already made significant contributions. Her research group has designed special contact lenses and better eye drops to assist in drug delivery, and developed a microneedle system that spares patients the excruciating routine of having drugs injected into their eyes by syringe every six to eight weeks.

Sheardown’s work holds enormous potential for delivering personalized drug formulations that could brighten the outlook for millions of people afflicted with ophthalmic diseases.