Scientists to combat dry eyes

Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis in the European consortium in search of new treatment for Dry Eye Disease

More and more people are suffering from dry eyes, partly because of our intensive screen usage. Scientists at the University of Antwerp are joining the search for new treatments for this condition under the aegis of a European consortium.

In the past, it was mainly older women who struggled with Dry Eye Disease (DED). Estimates of the number of patients vary, but it is assumed that between 5% and 35% of adults worldwide suffer from it. Three times more women than men have DED. The condition, caused by enzymes that bring about pain and inflammation, can lead to loss of vision.

“Experts expect the number of patients to rise dramatically in the future”, says Prof. Koen Augustyns, medicinal chemist at UAntwerp. “This is partly because people keep getting older, but frequent screen usage, environmental pollution and contact lenses also play a role.”

Doctors currently prescribe tear substitutes, such as drops or a gel, to treat DED. Anti-inflammatory therapy is also used. But there is a need for new and better treatments. With that in mind, an international consortium has been launched with the financial support of the EU (Marie Curie Innovative Training Network): Integrated Training in Dry Eye Disease Drug Development, or IT-DED3 for short.

Lengthy process

The consortium is coordinated by UAntwerp, which has accumulated years of experience with harmful enzymes in the Medicinal Chemistry and Medical Biochemistry research units and the Microbiology, Parasitology and Hygiene laboratory. In addition to Antwerp’s university, the consortium also includes the Sorbonne Université (France), the University of Valladolid (Spain), the Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis (Latvia), the University of Eastern Finland (Finland), the University Hospital Cologne (Germany) and the Institute of Experimental Biology and Technology (Portugal).

“Drug research is a lengthy process”, Augustyns explains. “In Antwerp, we have compiled a large ‘library’ of interesting enzyme inhibitors. These must now be tested further, for efficacy and safety for example. IT-DED3 is offering 12 young, enterprising and innovative researchers the opportunity to work on new therapies under expert guidance. The aim, of course, is to find more effective treatments.”

The IT-DED3 project runs until the end of 2021 and will be launched officially during a kick-off meeting at Hof van Liere, at UAntwerp’s city-centre campus, on Thursday 11 and Friday 12 January.

An article on palmitoylcarnitine induced muscle-specific insulin resistance is highlighted on the front cover of journal BioFactors

An article by our scientists Edgars Liepinsh, Marina Makrecka-Kuka, Elina Makarova, Kristine Volska, Karlis Vilks, Eduards Sevostjanovs, Unigunde Antone, Janis Kuka, Reinis Vilskersts, Daina Lola, Einars Loza, Solveiga Grinberga and Maija Dambrova Acute and long-term administration of palmitoylcarnitine induces muscle-specific insulin resistance in mice  is highlighted on the front cover of the journal BioFactors.
Cover Biofactors

Achievements in Electrochemical Synthesis

Our researchers Olesja Koleda and prof. Edgars Suna in collaboration with colleagues from Rostock University, Ruhr-University Bochum and Max-Planck Institute have discovered electrosynthesis of benzoxazoles.

Method is published in Journal of Organic Chemistry  (Impact Factor 4.849, 2016):
Synthesis of Benzoxazoles Using Electrochemically Generated Hypervalent Iodine.









This article is also August 25th ACS Editors’ Choice (

Angewandte Chemie accepted article from LIOS

Angewandte Chemie, one of the leading general chemistry journals (Impact Factor 11.994 (2016)),  accepted article:

Martins Otikovs, Marlene Andersson, Qiupin Jia, Kerstin Nordling, Qing Meng, Loren B. Andreas, Guido Pintacuda, Jan Johansson, Anna Rising, Kristaps Jaudzems. Biomimicry of artificial spider silk spinning assessed by NMR. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 10.1002/anie.201706649




On February 1st, 2017 ESFRI EU-OPENSCREEN ( Coordinator Phil Gribbon and Scientific Manager Bahne Stechmann presented the goals and objectives of the European infrastructure for chemical biology, supporting life science research. The possibilities for Latvia to join EU-OPENSCREEN were discussed. Representatives from the Ministry of Education and Science, the Latvian Academy of Sciences, the State Education Development Agency, University of Latvia, Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre, Riga Stradiņš University and Riga Technical University participated in the seminar. The seminar was organized as a feedback to the InnovaBalt project external evaluation recommendation for better exploitation of the LIOS experience and capacities and proactive international integration.



Photo: E. Liepiņš