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Industry News

Collaboration Between Ophthalmologists and Industry Leads to Innovation

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By Zaiba Malik ,MD
June 2023

Traditionally the pharmaceutical industry was defined as the discovery, development, and manufacturing of drugs and medications. Today, biotech and pharma are almost synonymous and include devices and artificial technologies to further research and development in advancing disease detection and cures.

During residency training, most physicians were often limited in their interactions with industry, which was considered the “dark side,” but since making the leap to industry 4 years ago, I have realized the incredible partnership between industry and clinical ophthalmologists as we both work towards the same goal of finding improved therapeutic and surgical solutions to ophthalmic diseases.

Innovation is at the heart of ophthalmology. I have personally seen anti-VEGF drugs, OCT instrumentation, and intravitreal drug sustained-release technologies revolutionized after my residency. Ophthalmology has a strong legacy of firsts in clinical trials and continues to be at the forefront of innovation and technology.

Collaborations between ophthalmologists and industry can take many forms, but they generally involve the sharing of expertise and resources to advance research and development efforts related to ophthalmology. Some examples of collaborations include:

  1. Clinical trials: Ophthalmologists can collaborate with industry/biotech/pharmaceutical companies to conduct clinical trials of new treatments or therapies for various eye diseases. Ophthalmologists can serve as principal investigators or study coordinators, and the companies can provide funding, drugs or devices, and other resources to support the trials.
  2. Research partnerships: Ophthalmologists can collaborate with companies to conduct basic or translational research related to ophthalmology. Companies can provide funding, equipment, and other resources to support the research, and ophthalmologists can provide their clinical expertise and knowledge of the field.
  3. Consulting: Ophthalmologists can serve as consultants to industry/biotech/pharmaceutical companies to provide clinical input and expertise on the development of new treatments or therapies. Ophthalmologists can advise companies on clinical trial design, safety considerations, and other issues related to ophthalmology.
  4. Product development: Ophthalmologists can work with companies to develop new drugs or devices for the treatment of eye diseases. Ophthalmologists can provide input on the clinical needs and requirements of patients, and companies can develop products to meet those needs.

Overall, collaborations between ophthalmologists and industry/biotech/pharmaceutical companies can help to accelerate the development of new treatments and therapies for eye diseases, and can lead to better outcomes for patients.

However, it is important to ensure that these collaborations are conducted in an ethical and transparent manner, and that conflicts of interest are properly managed. For those interested in making a larger or more sustainable impact, there are opportunities in industry in clinical development, medical affairs, and even CMO roles.

Ophthalmologists have a range of opportunities to contribute to the industry beyond traditional clinical practice. Many of these roles can be explored while still maintaining clinical practice. Some of these roles which allow one to dip their toes in include:

  1. Consultants: A broad term that encompasses often short-term advising from key opinion leaders (KOL) involving strategy, clinical development, or post-market education. Relationships from here can form more defined roles in advising and medical monitoring.
  2. Scientific Advisory Board: Often composed of KOLs, or PIs already involved in clinical trials in the space. Their scientific and clinical insight drive clinical development of new pipelines.
  3. Medical Monitors: Physician who is responsible for ensuring research subject safety and providing medical oversight of the clinical studies from the Sponsor side. The medical monitor will act as the point of reference for study team, provide input on clinical development plans, protocol design, and data/ safety review.
  4. Medical Director: Medical Directors are a more formalized position from medical monitors. They are responsible for overseeing the medical aspects of a company’s products or services. They provide medical expertise to support the development, launch, and marketing of products, and work closely with cross-functional teams such as research and development, marketing, and regulatory affairs.
  5. Chief Medical Officer (CMO): The CMO will be responsible for the strategy, direction, and execution of the company’s clinical development plans including providing strategic direction. They represent the company and its programs to external stakeholders, including the investment, medical and regulatory communities, as well as pharmaceutical or biotechnology industry collaborators.

Overall, there are various opportunities for ophthalmologists to work in industry while still maintaining their clinical practice. A crucial step in finding opportunities is networking and making your interests known to your colleagues and industry representatives. These roles can provide opportunities for professional growth, as well as the chance to make a broader impact in the field of ophthalmology.

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Zaiba Malik MD is a board- certified Ophthalmologist, specializing in comprehensive, cataract, and global
ophthalmology. She also serves a as a medical director for Medpace, a global CRO, as well consulting and advisory board roles for other biotechs.

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