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Eye Health Hero: Raquel Sofia Freitas Boia


Raquel Boia is a young researcher at Coimbra Institute for Clinical and Biomedical Research (iCBR), from Faculty of Medicine of University of Coimbra, Portugal. During the last 10 years, Raquel has been working in the field of Vision Sciences, aiming to identify new therapeutic targets and strategies to treat ocular diseases, like glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness that present a tremendous impact in normal lifestyle of people. Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is an important risk factor in glaucoma and the only that is modifiable. Indeed, current treatments are directed towards IOP lowering, however many patients continue to lose vision despite successful IOP control. Therefore, new and more effective treatments are necessary, and targeting neuroprotection of retinal ganglion cells (RGC), the main affected cells in glaucoma, is considered to be an additional therapy. Raquel Boia has been focused on the development of an additional therapeutic strategy for glaucoma, focused on RGC neuroprotection. She recently finished her PhD in which she developed a new intraocular biodegradable implant as a promising therapeutic strategy for long time drug release. Moreover, she identified a new therapeutic target (adenosine A3 receptor, A3R) whose activation with a selective agonist demonstrated to improve the survival of RGC contributing to the maintenance of the RGC function, in a preclinical model of glaucoma. She gathered crucial evidence on the therapeutic value of A3R activation, and the use a novel delivery system for A3R agonist will fill the gap in clinics bypassing the treatment burden of multiple intravitreal injections.

“Glaucoma is the third leading cause of blindness and the fourth leading cause of all vision loss worldwide. Figures get worse in Central Sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa and Middle East, and in elderly people (above 60 years old).
Poverty is both a cause and a consequence of poor eye health. In low- and middle-income countries the access to eye heath care services is very limited. The implant developed by Raquel Boia will represent a cost-effective strategy for reduce the glaucoma burden, particularly critical in low- and middle- income countries, where most people who have vision impairment could have been prevented. Actually, Raquel Boia designed this innovative strategy for the treatment of glaucoma in order to make it clinically effective and, more importantly, industrially and globally affordable. Making eye health care reasonably priced will help to rebalance the inequity in those countries, as defined in the Agenda 2030 SDG #10 (Reduced Inequalities).”

– Raquel Sofia Freitas Boia