Photo of David Leyton

Biotechnology & medicine

David Leyton

His non invasive eye drops could substitute the eye injections needed to treat diabetic retinopathy

Year Honored

EIA University

Latin America

Hails From

About 400,000 people are going blind due to diabetes and another 140 million will become blind because of diabetic retinopathy, according to the Colombian biomedical engineer, David Leyton.

While David was doing his internship at Harvard School of Medicine, USA, the young doctor was shocked to find out that the current treatment for diabetic retinopathy was various injections straight into the eye, which ensures that the medicine goes directly in the retina of the patient. This drastic method (that must applied 12 times in a year), causes discomfort and rejection, so Leyton came up with a way to change the administration method of the drug: switch the injections to simple eye drops.

The Colombian discovered a new active substance and was able to encapsulate it and apply it in eye drop form. Thanks to this medical advancement, Leyton has become one of the Latin American Innovators Under 35 from the MIT Technology Review LATAM edition winners.

The disease known as diabetic retinopathy manifests itself as an abnormal growth in the eye's blood vessels due to high levels of sugar in the blood of diabetic patients. This growth reduces the range of vision of all people diagnosed with this medical condition. The active ingredient of the drug identified by Leyton manages to stop the progression of this disease effectively. 

Although at this point the medical development has only been tested on endothelial cells of human retina and animal models, the treatment could very well substitute a very frustrating and dangerous process for easy and simple eye drops. Among the risks associated with intraocular shots are retinal detachment and a series of ocular related infections. Leyton ́s new method promises to reduce dangerous infections and appalling side effects.

David explains, “If I could do something to change the lives of all these people it would be magnificent. This is what motivates me, not only to improve the way in which patients are treated, but to achieve what one can to avoid a person losing his or her sight as well. It ́s all very exhilarating.”

The injections cause a large percentage of patients to turn down treatment and therefore end up blind. It ́s expected that if Leyton's application method is approved, the outreach and acceptance of treatment by people infected with disease will greatly increase and consequently, the cases of diabetic retinopathy will decrease.

According to Amadeo Cellino, a member of the jury for the 2019 Latin American Innovators Under 35 and General Manager for the “Center Coastal Technological Park” (S.A.P.E.M.) in Argentina, David Leyton has submitted an “interesting project with a very positive social impact that deserves to be endorsed.”