New Glaucoma Drug Begins Clinical Trials

Minneapolis, Minn.
May. 25, 2021

Glaucoma is a vision impairment that affects 3 million Americans and is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thanks to the research collaboration of Peter Dosa, PhD, associate program director of the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy’s Institute for Therapeutics Discovery & Development (ITDD) and research associate professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry; and professor Michael Fautsch of the Mayo Clinic, there is some new hope on the horizon.

The team has developed the drug QLS-101, a novel prodrug of the KATP channel opener levcromakalim that is designed to lower episcleral venous pressure in patients with glaucoma. Phase I/II clinical trials have begun for QLS-101, which was licensed to Qlaris Bio in 2019.

Dosa says the novel mechanism of action shows particular potential for existing glaucoma patients. “Our compound works by a completely different pathway than existing therapeutics. We think this drug could really help patients who aren’t responding well or responding enough to existing medications.”

The research received its initial funding through a grant from the University of Minnesota’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s Office of Discovery and Translation. Additional funding was provided through the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics, a partnership between Mayo Clinic and the University.

The collaboration began with an inquiry from Fautsch to Dosa’s team to help convert an existing drug to a more water soluble form that could be delivered more easily. Dosa says that’s the essence of the ITDD’s work. “Everything we do is collaborative. We work with people to solve their drug discovery problems.”

In this case, the collaboration has potential to better the lives of many individuals dealing with glaucoma.


College of Pharmacy,

Founded in 1892, the University of Minnesota, College of Pharmacy is the only pharmacy school in Minnesota, with campuses in the Twin Cities and in Duluth. The College of Pharmacy improves health through innovative education, pioneering research and interdisciplinary practice development that attends to the diverse needs of the people of Minnesota and the world.