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Who Is BEPF?

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Perry Rosenthal, MD, founder of the nonprofit Boston EyePain Foundation, specialized in ophthalmology through the residency program of Harvard’s Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. As a resident, he founded the Infirmary’s first Contact Lens Service at the “suggestion” of Professor Edwin P Dunphy, then chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and a visionary who understood the potential of hard contact lenses to improve vision impaired by corneal diseases. Dr. Rosenthal quickly discovered that the usefulness of first generation commercial contact lenses was severely limited by blocking corneal access to oxygen needed to support their metabolism. In effect, these devices asphyxiated the corneas while they were worn. The solution was obvious and Rosenthal co-founded Polymer Technology to develop rigid contact lens plastics that ‘breathed” and compatible solutions known as the Boston Lens™ products. The company was subsequently acquired by Bausch & Lomb.

In 1986 Rosenthal was referred a patient whose only potentially seeing eye was blinded by an injury that created massive astigmatism uncorrectable with glasses. Surgery was not an option. The only possibility for improving his vision was a rigid contact lens. Nevertheless, his cornea was too distorted to tolerate them. So Rosenthal resurrected a long-abandoned huge contact lens designed to rest entirely on the sclera (the tough white surface tissue of our eyes) and vault the diseased corneas creating a space between the cornea and lens that was filled with artificial tears. And by manufacturing them out of a new, highly gas-permeable plastic developed by his team, Dr. Rosenthal solved the corneal asphyxiation problem enabling him to exploit their unique advantages of avoiding all contact with the cornea thereby overcoming the obstacles of corneal shape and fragility. The results for this patient was 20/30 vision and comfortable, safe all day wearing. In 1992 after developing a unique (patented) process of custom-designing these devices, he created the nonprofit Boston Foundation for Sight to make them accessible to all whom they can help—regardless of ability to pay.

However, what caught his attention were the effects of their liquid bandage on patients with severe dry eye symptoms. Not surprisingly, he found that the corneal liquid bandage created by this device suppresses the intractable pain and light sensitivity caused by severely dry eyes within moments of their insertion, as well as rapidly healing the corneal damage caused by the lack of tears. Nevertheless, he was especially intrigued by responses of patients whose eyes felt dry but weren’t dry. For example, although many of these patients experienced the same relief while wearing these devices as those whose corneas were damaged by the lack of tears, in some this effect was incomplete or temporary while others experienced no relief at all. This led to his focus on many observations that were not explained by the traditional tear deficiency model on which research programs and the development of treatments are based on.

Dr. Rosenthal decided that it was important to share his experiences with colleagues to bring their attention to the desperate need of these patients to have their eye pain validated as the first step in their treatment.