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NIH Grant Funds Synthetic Peptide for Severe Asthma

Girl with inhaler

(Longevity Biotech)

2 January 2018. A synthetic peptide, a short chain of amino acids, is being developed as a treatment for severe cases of asthma that do not respond to conventional drugs. The $225,000 funding for the peptide to Longevity Biotech in Philadelphia is provided by a Small Business Innovation Research grant from National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of National Institutes of Health.

Longevity Biotech is a developer of synthetic peptides it calls Hybritides that provide a framework for its therapies. These peptides are based on research by Samuel Gellman, an organic and biological chemist at University of Wisconsin in Madison and company co-founder. Longevity’s technology platform enables the design of synthetic peptides with enough stability and absorption for formulation into oral drugs, for which the company is developing into treatments for neuroinflammation and diabetes.

For an asthma treatment, the company is extending its technology into an inhaled form. Asthma is chronic condition, where the airways become inflamed and narrow, causing wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and coughing for periods of time. Among asthma’s underlying causes are infections, pollutants in the air, and allergies to pollen, molds, or dust mites that trigger airway inflammation. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 2010 some 18.7 million adults had asthma, along with 7 million children.

In this case, the Longevity peptide is addressing severe cases of asthma that result from a special type of immune reaction encouraging inflammation in the airways that does not respond to conventional anti-inflammatory drugs, such as steroids. The new peptide will be designed to act like the natural peptide 5A apolipoprotein A-I, or 5A apo A-I, that encourages release of a high-density form of lipoprotein similar to cholesterol that controls immune reactions, like inflammation. Tests with lab mice induced with asthma show synthetic 5A apo A-I peptides reduce inflammation in the airways, and can also protect against airway inflammation.

The project calls for Longevity to develop an inhaled form of 5A apo A-I peptide and test the peptide in lab mice, with the goal of submitting the therapy for FDA review to conduct clinical trials. Those trials are expected to be conducted by NIH staff and Longevity Biotech. The project also requires Longevity to create a manufacturing process for the peptide.

Pavan Puligujja, the lead scientist for Longevity Biotech on the project says in a company statement the peptide “represents a new strategy to target fundamental pathways involved in the allergic response associated with the development of asthma. Specifically, by modulating the recruitment of specific inflammatory cells to the pulmonary system, the 5A peptide could provide dramatic improvement in clinical outcomes for severe asthmatics.”

The Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs set aside research funds for smaller U.S. companies to stimulate technological innovations and encourage their commercialization. In the 2017 fiscal year, NIH distributed some $980 million to health care and life science enterprises through these programs.

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