School of Medicine

Translational Vision Research in the Department of Ophthalmology

Connexin Biology - Professor Colin Green

green Team Leader - Professor Colin Green

The Connexin Biology team is led by Professor Colin Green who holds the W & B Hadden Chair of Ophthalmology and Translational Vision Research. The Connexin Biology Team has a primary focus on wound healing and tissue regeneration. Research is conducted on gap junction channel modulation for corneal repair, spinal cord and optic nerve injury, glaucoma, macular degeneration, neurodegenerative diseases and epilepsy.

Two platforms, connexin specific antisense oligodeoxynucleotides and connexin mimetic peptides have proven effective in the treatment of wounds, providing reduced inflammation and oedema, less scarring and faster wound closure. As the treatments limit lesion spread they are especially effective is nerve sparing after injury to the central nervous system, including the retina and optic nerve. They have proven effective in clinical trials for chronic wounds and in compassionate use in patients with severe non-healing ocular burns.


connexin1 CERPIS Team (CEllular Reprogramming In Situ) - (from left) Jane McGhee, Associate Professor Trevor Sherwin, Dr Ally Chang, Professor Colin Green

The involvement of connexins in ischaemic optic neuropathy (ION), retinal ischemia and glaucoma is a major focus with Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer’s Optic Nerve and Glaucoma team. The group is using connexin mimetic peptides that when delivered systemically are able to provide significant retinal ganglion cell sparing after retinal ischemia. The team is also using connexin specific antisense oligodeoxynucleotides which are proving beneficial after glaucoma surgery to decrease inflammation and scar formation at the surgical site, and consequently improve surgical outcomes. The delivery of these wound healing products in the ocular environment is the basis of the team’s collaboration with Dr Ilva Rupenthal who is heading up the Department of Ophthalmology’s ocular pharmaceutics team. This work focuses on the retention and stability of the active agent in different delivery systems and efficacy of delivery. This work extends to Macular Degeneration and collaborations with Dr Monica Acosta (Optometry) and Dr Philip Polkinghorne (Ophthalmology).

connexin2 Connexin Biology Team at the Grand Canyon - (back row) Joanne Davidson, Professor Colin Green, Dr Jinny Yoon, (front row) Professor Louise Nicholson, Jie Zhang, Dr Simon O'Carroll, Carthur Won

In the central nervous system the team works on spinal cord injury, investigating nerve treatments and repair strategies with connexin knockdown or connexon channel block agents, and peripheral nerve grafts or nanofibre technologies for lesion repair. The possibility of using autologous ocular pluripotent cells to help repopulate spinal cord neurons is also being investigated with Associate Professor Trevor Sherwin. Perinatal brain ischemia studies are being carried out with Professor Alistair Gunn and Professor Laura Bennet’s fetal physiology group (Physiology), and Professor Louise Nicholson’s group in the Centre for Brain Research. Work with Professor Louise Nicholson’s team and Associate Professor Bronwen Conner (Centre for Brain Research) is investigating gap junction roles, and regulation of gap junctions, for neurodegenerative diseases of the brain, stroke, as well as central nervous system regeneration and CNS repair strategies.

Corneal stem cells and cell reprogramming is a research interest with Associate Professor Trevor Sherwin’s CORnEa laboratory group. The team is investigating how the supposed corneal stem cell is regulated and how cells repopulate a wound to the front of the eye. The group has discovered that corneal fibroblastic cells can be directly reprogrammed into nerves opening new possibilities for tissue engineering and regeneration in a range of tissues. Wound healing and corneal disease work is also carried out with Cornea and Anterior Segment Research Group led by Professor Charles McGhee, Dr Dipika Patel, Dr Sue Ormonde, Associate Professor Trevor Sherwin and Professor Green.

connexin3 Dr Ally Chang

The Connexin Biology Group maintains active international collaborations including with colleagues at the University of New South Wales, University College London, University of Technology Sydney, University of Queensland, University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey, Northwestern University Chicago, and Kingston University UK.

The Connexin Biology Team acknowledges financial support from the RSNZ Marsden Fund, The School of Medicine Foundation, New Zealand Health Research Council, Save Sight Society of New Zealand, Glaucoma New Zealand, Maurice & Phyllis Paykel Trust, Auckland Medical Research Foundation, the CatWalk Trust and an endowment from W&B Hadden.

CoDa Therapeutics

connexin4 CoDa Therapeutics - Professors David Becker and Colin Green

CoDa Therapeutics (NZ) Ltd is a biotechnology company formed in 2004 by Professor Colin Green and Professor David Becker. Professor Green is the W & B Hadden Chair of Ophthalmology and Translational Vision Science in the Department of Ophthalmology, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Auckland and Dr Becker is Professor in Cell and Developmental biology at University College, London, England. CoDa Therapeutics (NZ) Ltd evolved from research into gap junction proteins and cell to cell communication and the potential to interrupt the cell to cell communication when an injury/insult is sustained by an organ/tissue.

At the inception of CoDa Therapeutics (NZ) Ltd Mr Aki von Roy, an ex-president of the major pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb, was appointed as the Chief Executive. The company subsequently expanded in 2006 with the establishment of CoDa Therapeutics Inc., (USA) in Diego, USA. and CoDa appointed Mr Brad Duff, a biotechnology industry veteran, as CEO of CoDa Therapeutics Inc. (USA). CoDa has subsequently raised funding for clinical trials exceeding US$73 million (NZ$90 million). CoDa has obtained approval from the USA Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to launch Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials which started in 2007, for the testing of Nexagon in both eye and skin indications.

NZBio Deal of the Year

On 12th March 2007 CoDa Therapeutics (NZ) received the inaugural NZBio Deal of the Year award in recognition for the outstanding success of the company in the past 12 months. Nominations for the NZBio Deal of the year were received from a variety of biotechnology companies including human health and nutrition, cancer therapy, and mergers and fundraising. Entries were judged on five criteria; financial impact of the deal, strategic importance to New Zealand, barriers/obstacles overcome, teamwork required to achieve end result and finally persistence! NZ Bio’s then CEO Brian Ward stated that “CoDa stood out because of several factors, including; the persistence of Dr Colin Green over a number of years to take this technology forward, the first round fundraising of US$20 million, which is substantial even by US standards, and the company’s plans to run the first clinical trials in New Zealand”. This award is a result of the hard work of Professor Green and his team over several years and recognition of their achievements makes them deserved winners of the New Zealand biotech sector’s award.