HomeNews & MediaPress ReleasesPress Release 
2 May 2000
For Immediate Release

APL Licenses Innovative Retinal Treatment Technology to Akorn, Inc.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., has licensed a technology to Akorn, Inc., designed to fight a leading cause of vision loss in the United States.

The licensing agreement grants Akorn, a specialty pharmaceutical company based in Buffalo Grove, Ill., exclusive worldwide rights to a patented method for treating a type of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The patents cover a process and technology known as dye-enhanced photocoagulation, invented by a former APL employee. Negotiated through APL's Office of Technology Transfer, the multimillion-dollar deal includes up-front license fees, milestone payments, and royalties on sales of the product and procedure when they are approved. It's the largest licensing agreement ever for an APL-developed technology.

"The Laboratory is dedicated to solving complex problems that impact our nation and its citizens' welfare," says APL Director Rich Roca. "This agreement presents a tremendous opportunity to apply advanced technology to help many people who struggle with this potentially blinding disease."

Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, affects millions of people around the world and is the leading cause of significant vision loss in Americans aged 50 and older. Dye-enhanced photocoagulation addresses the "wet" form of AMD, which occurs when tiny blood vessels begin to grow under the central part of the retina, called the fovea. These new, abnormal vessels can leak and distort a person's central vision.

Dye-enhanced photocoagulation combines diagnostic and treatment equipment in one device designed to help doctors find and seal off these abnormal vessels. A doctor injects a small amount of fluorescent indocyanine green (ICG) dye into the patient's arm. A laser scans the back of the eye beneath the retina, causing the circulating dye to fluoresce, allowing the doctor to identify the source of the blood feeding the leaking vessels on a high-resolution computer screen. The doctor then focuses a second laser directly on the feeder vessel and gives the patient a second injection of concentrated ICG. The treatment laser is fired at the precise moment the dye passes through the feeder vessel, destroying it without harming the overlying retinal area.

"We are very excited about the opportunity presented for the treatment of both the occult and classic versions of age-related macular degeneration through dye-enhanced photocoagulation," says Floyd Benjamin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Akorn. "The signing of this licensing agreement marks the first milestone in our development of the process. We expect to file an Investigational New Drug application by the end of June."

Akorn, Inc. manufactures and markets sterile specialty pharmaceuticals, and markets and distributes an extensive line of pharmaceuticals and ophthalmic products including surgical instruments, surgical supplies and related products.

The Applied Physics Laboratory is a not-for-profit laboratory and division of The Johns Hopkins University. APL conducts research and development primarily for national security and for nondefense projects of national and global significance. APL established its Office of Technology Transfer in July 1999 to facilitate the transfer of APL-developed technology to business and industry to benefit the public.

Media contacts:
        JHU Applied Physics Laboratory:
Michael Buckley
Laurel, MD 20723
Phone: 240-228-7536