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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 29, 2008

Optherion, UI ophthalmology department open new facility at UI Research Park

Optherion, Inc. and the University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences have opened a new corporate and academic research facility at the University of Iowa Research Park in Coralville. Researchers and employees are developing products to diagnose and treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness in developed countries.

The facility is a renovated building located in the Myriad Technology Plaza at 2660 Crosspark Road in Coralville, and provides 11,412 square feet of working laboratory space for the team's highly specialized research activities.

Optherion is a UI Research Foundation licensee and an early-stage biotechnology company founded on scientific discoveries by Gregory Hageman, Ph.D., Iowa Entrepreneurial Endowed Professor and professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, and Josephine Hoh, Ph.D., at Yale University, and their colleagues. Optherion, headed by President and CEO Colin Foster, is headquartered in New Haven, Conn.; the UI Research Park facility serves its discovery research functions.

While the UI and Optherion share some common areas in the Myriad building on the park, each has separate laboratory facilities. A sponsored research agreement allows the two entities to interact on some fronts. The UI and Optherion currently employ approximately 20 people at the park; they expect to add more scientists in the near future.

"The UI-Optherion partnership is the result of progressive thinking and belief in translational research by the Iowa legislature, the Board of Regents, the State of Iowa, the university, and the UI Research Foundation," said Hageman, who is Optherion's scientific founder and serves as its chief scientific officer.

"It's a wonderful story, both in terms of economic development and as a response to the National Institute of Health's commitment to support translational research programs. There's much work to be done, but we have the potential to make a difference in the lives of individuals with this devastating condition," he added.

AMD is a blinding eye disease that affects more than 50 million people worldwide, including nearly 20 million people in the United States. It is the leading cause of blindness in people age 60 and older in developed countries. Under Hageman's leadership, the UI/Optherion research uses an interdisciplinary, "integrated systems" approach to study AMD that involves coordinated clinical, morphological, molecular and biochemical studies.

"We're thrilled that Optherion, Inc. has chosen Iowa and the UI Research Park as the home for their research program," said Thomas R. Sharpe, UI associate vice president for research/economic development and executive director of the UI Research Park. "The Research Park is committed to the success of this exciting venture," Sharpe said.

The recently renovated Myriad Technology Plaza Building was purchased by the UI in 2006 using an allocation from the State of Iowa's Grow Iowa Value Fund. The original building was completed in 1995, the first of four buildings in the Myriad Technology Plaza complex that was developed by Central Iowa Power Cooperative.

The UI Research Park ( was established in 1989 to encourage sustained research relationships between the UI and industry. The park offers leased building sites and space to corporations engaged in research and development activities and related services, production and marketing. With the completion of the new BioVentures Center and the new LMS North America facilities in November, there will be 14 buildings at the park totaling 432,000 square feet. Companies and UI anchor labs on the park or affiliated with the BioVentures Center and Technology Innovation Center incubators have nearly 2,000 employees who live in 91 communities in 29 counties in Iowa.

The UI Research Park is one of six centers of the IOWA Centers for Enterprise -- which integrates existing economic development activities at the UI, offers a comprehensive program that promotes economic development and technology transfer, provides assistance to Iowa startups and existing Iowa businesses and communities, and helps the state of Iowa develop a creative, entrepreneurial workforce. IOWA Centers for Enterprise optimizes the flow of university intellectual property into opportunities for licensing, commercialization and business development. For more information visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Tom Bauer, University of Iowa Research Park, 319-335-4063,; George McCrory, 319-384-0012,; Becky Soglin, 319-335-6660,