Astellas Pharma has signed up a Harvard Medical School researcher to investigate the degenerative eye disease Retinitis pigmentosa and help seek out new treatments to combat it.

The research collaboration will focus on discovering the pathologic mechanism behind the condition and identification of new therapeutic targets, with the aim of providing a gene therapy to help patients who have difficulty maintaining good vision.  

The disease is caused by genetic mutations and characterised by loss of peripheral and night vision, followed by loss of colour vision and complete blindness. But pathogenesis of the retinal degeneration is still not fully understood and an effective treatment has yet to be established, the firm noted, highlighting the urgent unmet need.

Astellas said it will conduct further drug discovery on any promising candidates, and that subsequent development and commercialisation would be under an exclusive license from Harvard.

Further details were not revealed.