Award Supports Quest for New Medicines to Treat Lung Infections

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by Mary Chapman |

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Funding totaling £750,000 ($1,028,550) for a Strategic Research Centre (SRC) in the United Kingdom is expected to speed development of antibiotics to battle the lung infections that most cystic fibrosis (CF) patients experience.

The four-year award from the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will enable the SRC to develop a new set of lab methods crafted specifically to test new CF treatments. The goal is to make it faster and easier for scientists to develop new medicines.

The international team led by Jo Fothergill, PhD, of the University of Liverpool will combine that development with expert understanding of the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM), and Burkholderia cenocepacia, which often lead to lung infections. The team is comprised of investigators from the U.K., Canada, and the United States, and is supported by a broad range of collaborators.

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“We want colleagues to feel that our tests are useful and valid to support the development of new CF antibiotics. Most of all, we want people to use them,” Fothergill said in a press release. “To achieve this we have the support of over 30 different collaborators, ranging from university professors, biotech companies, research funders, and regulators, to ensure these tests are the best they can be.”

Germs that cause infections in people with CF can be notably difficult to treat once they adapt to the environment of the lungs. If treatment fails, such infections can cause permanent damage, reducing lung function and lowering patients’ energy for do day-to-day activities. As such, “more effective treatments with fewer side effects are urgently needed,” the Cystic Fibrosis Trust states.

Despite the availability of specific therapies for CF, scientists globally are working on new medicines to treat CF lung infections. The rub, however, is that there are disparities and gaps in how such treatments are tested, which can slow new therapy production. Problems also ensue if evaluation tools aren’t developed specifically for cystic fibrosis.

Relatedly, the CF Antimicrobial Resistance Syndicate, which aims to get more antimicrobial medications to CF patients faster, is a partnership between the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the U.K. government-funded Medicines Discovery Catapult. It recently commissioned a survey of industry colleagues that found  the lack of a single set of tests hamstrings therapeutic development efforts.

“This SRC aligns well with the CF AMR Syndicate goals and they have agreed to support it,” said Paula Sommer, PhD, head of research at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust who leads the organization’s work for the syndicate. “This is a great illustration of the power of collaboration in working to solve problems in CF infection drug development.”

The Strategic Research Centres are virtual centers of research excellence that seek to create multidisciplinary teams to tackle questions relevant to people with cystic fibrosis.