Phelix Therapeutics has received a $201,665 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to continue studying Calpain-based treatments for tissue-scarring diseases like idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and the liver condition nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.
Doctors need better treatments for scarring — or fibrosis — diseases, Phelix said. Current therapies address some of the inflammation that occurs in these disorders, but fail to prevent or reduce scarring.
Phelix is developing therapies that can block cell processes underlying the diseases. It believes that inhibiting a single player in the mix could be a way to treat connected processes like fibrosis and cell injury and death.
Calpains are a family of enzymes called proteases that regulate a wide variety of cell processes. They include inflammation, cell migration and cells sticking to other cells. Calpains break apart structural proteins and are thought to play an important role in protein degradation.
Inhibiting calpains has reduced organ damage in animal models of various diseases, decreased production of inflammation-promoting collagen protein and reduced wound scarring. Calpain inhibitors can actually block the generation of myofibroblasts, cells involved in inflammatory response to injury that play a critical role in fibrosis.
These qualities have prompted Phelix’s team to believe that Calpain inhibitors hold great promise for treating IPF and other tissue-scarring diseases.
“We are grateful to the NIH for this important funding, and their continued support,” Doron Greenbaum, Phelix’s CEO, said in a press release. “It will enable us to carry on our important research and animal studies dedicated with the aim of converting our research findings into innovative treatment applications which will save the lives of people diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and other fibrotic diseases.”
The NIH awards grants for projects that are unique, innovative, relevant to public health needs, and in line with the agency’s priorities. All projects receiving grants go through a competitive application and review process.