A project that aims to develop a new system to deliver therapies specifically to the lungs of patients with pulmonary fibrosis (PF) was awarded a research grant by the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Medical Innovation.
The funding was part of the center’s 2017 Round 2 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. Five grants were awarded for a total investment of $115,000.
The successful projects presented solutions to problems for a range of conditions, including PF and peripheral artery disease. Other projects awarded grants included a biomedical device to improve auditory pathology detection, better wound healing and repair, and an improved method of root canal surgery.
The project focusing on pulmonary fibrosis, titled “FibroKine: CXCL10 Biomimetic Peptides for Treatment of Pulmonary Fibrosis,” is based on previous research showing the CXCL10 chemokine, a signaling molecule also known as IP-10, has antifibrotic properties.
A study from 1999 showed that CXCL10 inhibited fibrosis. Another study showed that mice lacking enough CXCL10 had increased pulmonary fibrosis after induction of the disease with bleomycin. These results suggest that CXCL10 limits the development of fibrosis in mouse models.
In the FibroKine project, researchers will test CXCL10 biomimetic peptides (BPs) – artificially designed peptides that imitate the action of proteins, in this case CXCL10 – as potential therapeutic agents for pulmonary fibrosis. These BPs will be given through an inhaled aerosol delivery system to specifically target the lungs and provide a more efficient delivery of the compounds.
“We have an extremely strong cohort from our 2017 Round 2 funding,” Alan D. Hirschman, PhD, executive director of Pitt’s Center for Medical Innovation, said in a press release. “The collaboration between engineering and medicine at Pitt provides a fertile setting for novel medical technology, and so we’re proud to give these researchers funding to take their ideas to the next level.”
The funds work to kick-start early-stage technology projects and help advance their transition into clinical applications. Proposals are evaluated according to a variety of parameters, from the quality and feasibility of the scientific proposal, to researchers’ experience and the project’s clinical relevance and potential to significantly enhance healthcare. Projects are also evaluated for their potential to attract other sources of financing to ensure their feasible transition into the clinic.