Roche says that progress is being made in developing a device that would release its eye drug Lucentis over a period of months rather than monthly at the moment.

The Swiss giant's Genentech unit has made its first milestone payment to ForSight Vision4. The firms entered into an agreement in December 2010 in a deal which gave Roche exclusive worldwide rights to an implantable ocular device for anti-VEGF-A targeted ophthalmic therapies. Genentech can also apply the device to other select targets for eye diseases.

The payment, the size of which has not been disclosed, has been triggered by Genentech's decision to submit an Investigational New Drug application for testing of the device in combination with Lucentis (ranibizumab). The latter is currently approved to treat wet age-related macular degeneration  and macular oedema following retinal vein occlusion.

Hal Barron, Roche's chief medical officer, said work on the device  "reflects Genentech's commitment to ophthalmology and investigating new technologies that may potentially provide sustained delivery of Lucentis and reduce the frequency of injections". Eugene de Juan, founder of ForSight Vision4, said the firm's technology "has the potential to revolutionise the way we treat ophthalmic disease".