New UK Cystic Fibrosis Innovation Hub to Speed Research in Treatment

Janet Stewart, MSc avatar

by Janet Stewart, MSc |

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The new Cystic Fibrosis Innovation Hub at the University of Cambridge in the U.K. will encompass exciting new research about treatments and approaches for battling the disease, and take a “moon shot” at finding a cure.

The hub is located at the University of Cambridge in the U.K. The Cystic Fibrosis Trust recently committed £5 million (about $7 million U.S.) and that sum will be matched by the University of Cambridge.

Along with the funding support it receives, the hub is expected to bolster existing collaborations at the university and with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. New collaborative research networks around the U.K. are expected to be created from this effort.

“We have an opportunity to uplift U.K. CF research in general by providing knowhow, training and reagents in a number of areas including genomics, bioinformatics, stem cells and clinical trials technology,” Andres Floto, PhD, professor at the Department of Medicine at Cambridge and director of the CF Innovation Hub, said in a press release.

A large part of the Hub’s activities will focus on developing new medications that target chronic inflammation in CF, in collaboration with the pharmaceutical company GSK.

Another goal is to develop new antibiotic therapies for the main causes of lung infection in CF, particularly those caused by multi-drug resistant bacteria, an accomplishment that also would benefit people who do not have CF.

The Royal Papworth Hospital, which includes an adult CF center with an international reputation for care and research, will move to the Biomedical Campus where the CF Innovation Hub is located, later this year. The new CF wards will have state-of-the-art air flow systems, designed to limit the spread of multi-drug-resistant CF pathogens, a design based on Floto’s work.

John Winn at Microsoft Research, who has CF, is working in collaboration with Papworth Hospital on an app that allows CF patients to monitor their condition by themselves, and potentially could warn them of deterioration and alerting them to the need to see a physician.

“The overarching principle is about giving people control over their own health data and making it work for them,” said Winn. “There’s some informal feedback that just participating in the study and taking these readings has already improved health outcomes for some individuals: for example, it’s helped with adherence with taking their medications as they noticed that if they missed taking certain medicines, their readings got worse,” he said.

Floto himself is taking what he describes as a “moon shot” by developing new cellular therapies with Ludovic Vallier, a professor in the Department of Surgery. The therapies would involve taking cells from a CF patient, re-programming them — including a correction of the genetic defect that causes CF — and then re-injecting them into patients.

“This could provide a way to regenerate damaged lungs,” Floto said.

Floto believes it is time to take this “shot” at CF, since it has been almost 30 years since the genetic defect that causes the disease was discovered and there is still no cure.