A coalition of companies and research groups, heavily based in Galway, have been awarded more than €11 million to develop a new aerosol treatment for a respiratory disease linked to COVID-19.
NUI Galway, the Galway based biotech company Aerogen Limited, and Tipperary’s Omnispirant Limited are working together on a project to create a new treatment for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).
ARDS has been heavily linked to many of the worst cases, and deaths, from COVID-19, with one study JAMA Internal Medicine from showing that 40% of people hospitalised with COVID-19 developed ARDS, and half of those died.
This partnership have received €11.6 million from the Disruptive Technologies Fund to create a new exosome based inhaled treatment, which will make use of their different specialities.
Aerogen, based at Galway Business Park, is a pioneer in the field of aerosol delivery systems for new drug therapies.
Dr Ronan MacLoughlin, Head of Respiratory Science at Aerogen, said that they are pleased to be involved in this “potentially transformative” project that involves a combination of disruptive technologies.
“We look forward to bringing to bear Aerogen’s unique expertise in this field and working with OmniSpirant and the Centre for Cell Manufacturing Ireland at NUI Galway over the coming years in bringing this technology to patients worldwide.”
Tipperary based OmniSpirant will provide the technological expertise to produce exosomes from genetically modified stem cells, as well as improved methods of delivering exosomes to lung tissues.
The Centre for Cell Manufacturing Ireland (CCMI) at NUI Galway is the first and only approved cell manufacturing facility in Ireland.
It produces Advanced Therapeutic Medicinal Products, such as stem cells, for use in human clinical trials.
“The Centre is ideally placed, with experience and expertise in bringing treatments such as this from bench to pre-clinical stage to early clinical trials,” said Dr Janusz Krawczyk, Clinical Director of the CCMI.
“The programme is also aligned with NUI Galway’s ambition to partner with national and multinational industry to ensure that research discoveries have a beneficial impact on patient care.”
Professor John Laffey, Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at NUIG said, “Current pharmacologic therapies are of marginal benefit for COVID-19 patients suffering with ARDS.”
“Advanced support of respiratory function in Intensive Care Units remains the main therapeutic approach,” he added.
An aerosol treatment that targets the inflammatory response to COVID-19 could be “game-changing” in terms of reducing mortality from COVID-19 Prof Laffey said.
This treatment also has the potential to treat Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which affects over a quarter of a billion people around the world each year.
The three-year grant funded programme aims to complete Phase 1 clinical trial studies in ARDS patients and to complete the preclinical development needed to support clinical studies in COPD patients.