Cairns-based asthma cure drug trial receives US funding
CAIRNS scientists who created a ground-breaking drug that cures asthma in mice have received financial backing from a US pharmaceutical giant to further develop it for human trials.
James Cook University Prof Alex Loukas said the drug – derived from hookworm proteins – has the potential to transform treatment of asthma, which is estimated to drain more than $1 billion a year from the Australian economy in health care costs and lost productivity.
The Queensland Tropical Health Alliance researcher said the parasitic proteins could also hold the key to developing drugs to treat Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis, coeliac disease and inflammatory bowel disease.
“If we can develop new therapies that are therapeutic for asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and a whole suite of other diseases then you’re potentially putting a new product out there that could help hundreds of thousands of Australians and many millions around the world,” Prof Loukas said.
The 100 per cent cure rate of asthma and inflammatory bowel disease in JCU lab mice in experimental trials caught the attention of Dr Will Loging, director of knowledge discovery at US-based Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceutical Inc.
The pharmaceutical company will fund further research to springboard the drug to the clinical trial stage as early as 2015, but the dollar figure is yet to be confirmed.
“(We) will provide funding over three years to Prof Loukas’ team to kickstart the collaboration and accelerate the development of these molecules towards clinical trials,” Dr Loging said.
Boehringer Ingelheim is a leading manufacturer of prescription drugs for diabetes, hypertension and Parkinson’s Disease, among other conditions.
Prof Ian Wronski, pro-vice-chancellor of health and molecular science at JCU, said the international ‘‘private-public partnership’’ highlights the globally important research undertaken at the QTHA.
“This work will contribute to the health and wellbeing of people all over the world,” he said.
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