Aston University's unique expertise helps Rayner Intraocular Lenses Limited develop new generation of lenses through delivery of mechanical lens stretching device and ex-vivo model that will play a central role in the long-term strategy of the company.


The Company

Rayner Intraocular Lenses Limited (Rayner) is the world's first manufacturer of intraocular lenses (IOLs), which are used primarily for the correction of aphakia (the absence of the eye's natural lens) post-cataract removal. They also design, manufacture and sell 1,000,000 ophthalmic medical devices and delivery systems per year from their state-of-the-art automated manufacturing facility in Worthing.

Rayner’s mission is to provide innovative and clinically superior ophthalmic products that can deliver the best visual outcomes for clinicians and patients. This mission has been the core of Rayner’s growth strategy and over the last five years, Rayner has been developing and launching high technology products every year and growing its presence in new markets, such as in China and the USA as new products are approved by local regulators.

The Challenge

IOLs are primarily used for the correction of aphakia (the absence of the eye's natural lens) post-cataract removal. Although IOLs are very successful at restoring the patient’s sight after cataract surgery, they still cannot restore accommodation (the eye’s ability to change focus to see objects at varying distances, lost by the mid-40s). A lens with the capability of restoring accommodation would provide patients with a nearly natural young vision without the need of using spectacles.

Because it is a huge business opportunity, there has been several previous attempts to develop such a device, but a true accommodating lens, which is safe and effective for patients, is still to be developed.

The main challenge of developing an accommodating IOL is that the lens has to react to the eye’s natural accommodation mechanism to control its optical performance. That means that the interface between the lens and eye inner structures that take part of the accommodation has to be considered during the development of the lens. 

To develop an accommodating IOL, it was critical for Rayner to have available a tool that would allow for mimicking the natural accommodation mechanism of the eye. The company planned to develop a laboratory model for simulating the human ocular environment and physical focusing action of the human eye and allow the iterative development and testing in an ex vivo setting of a new ‘accommodating’ intraocular lens. 

The Solution

Aston University recognised that entering into a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Rayner would allow the company access to Aston’s sector-leading expertise, notably its unique ex-vivo eye model, which enabled surgical implantation of the lenses and created the potential to assess the impact of fibrosis on the implanted IOL. This model was essential for Rayner to develop the new generation of IOLs. 

'The KTP programme is a great opportunity to join forces to explore challenging elements of science-driven developments. We could not be more satisfied with the whole experience with this KTP project and are proud of what we have achieved so far.' Otavio Gomes, Research Programme Manager, Rayner Intraocular Lenses.

Team Aston

Academics from Aston’s College of Health and Life Sciences were instrumental in delivering this KTP. The team included Professor James Wolffsohn, a world-leading expert in ophthalmic research and Professor Leon Davies, a UK-registered optometrist and academic whose research in Physiological Optics has led to better understanding of ocular accommodation (or eye focus) in the young and ageing eye.

The KTP Associate for the project was senior mechanical engineer Dr Huidong Wei, who was shortlisted for a Future Leader prize in the Knowledge Transfer Partnership Best of the Best Awards. He was nominated for demonstrating outstanding leadership skills, above and beyond the extremely high expectations already in place for KTP associates.

“This KTP programme has taken a long-running relationship between Rayner and Aston University and raised it to a new and exciting level of innovative collaboration. The KTP associate has flourished through the developmental opportunities and has been employed by the University to continue the collaboration.” Professor James Wolffsohn, Head of School of Optometry, Aston University.

The results

This partnership has exceeded all expectations and has enabled Rayner to expand its R&D capabilities through a new lab testing system. The development followed agile methodologies and tools, such as 3D printed parts and resulted in a functional system that was constantly evolving, with refinements and addition of new features. 

Key outcomes of the KTP has seen the development of a lens-stretching device that mechanically mimics the focusing mechanism of the human eye and the development of an artificial capsule module, required for testing and operating the new lens.

The KTP has led to the submission of two academic publications and the development of a unique intraocular lens testing rig. The project outcomes will also be integrated into Aston's curriculum, enabling future graduates to be well prepared to thrive in real workplace scenarios and appropriately equipped in software development.

Next steps 

For more information about Knowledge Transfer Partnerships or an informal chat, email or call 0121 204 4242.

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