The first patient, funded by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), has received treatment with Chiesi’s stem-cell-based therapy Holoclar for limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD) caused by chemical eye burns.

The patient received treatment at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

LSCD is a rare eye disorder, which could result in chronic pain, photophobia, burning, inflammation, stromal scarring, corneal neovascularisation and even blindness.

Chiesi’s Holoclar is a form of advanced therapy called a tissue-engineered product, made of cells obtained from the patient’s healthy limbus during a biopsy.

The extracted cells are sent to the manufacturing facility at Holostem Terapie Avanzate in Italy to be prepared and grown in a culture to generate a layer of healthy tissue.

After a minimum of 50 days, the healthy tissue layer is transported back to the treating hospital for implantation into the damaged eye to repair the damaged corneal surface.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK recommended the drug in 2017 for the treatment of adults with moderate-to-severe LSCD after eye burns.

However, the recommendation covers treatment of one eye and patients who have already received a conjunctival limbal autograft.

Chiesi UK managing director Tom Delahoyde said: “We are delighted that the first patient outside of a clinical trial has received this innovative and breakthrough medicine.

“This first NHS treatment marks a major milestone for those people with LSCD due to physical or chemical burns and we look forward to many more eligible patients benefiting from such a ground-breaking therapy.”