Discovery Laboratories, a biotechnology company developing a countermeasure for the treatment of acute and chronic, late-phase radiation-induced lung injury, was granted $3.0 million from the Phase II Small Business Innovation Research Grant (SBIR), awarded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The grant is meant to support the development of its product, the aerosolized KL4.
The NIH already granted the company $1.0 million while the remaining $2.0 million will be given during the next three years of product development, which is being led by Melpo Christofidou-Solomidou, Ph.D., an expert in novel antioxidant approaches to acute and chronic lung diseases from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.
“While we remain focused on respiratory distress syndrome in premature infants, we believe that our proprietary KL4 surfactant also has the potential to address a number of other lung diseases and complications, including certain acute lung injuries,” president and chief executive officer of Discover Lab John G. Cooper explained in a company’s press release. “The NIH has previously provided Discovery Labs funding to assess these potential opportunities, and based on the encouraging results of that preliminary work, has provided additional funding to continue research in this area.”
KL4 surfactant is a synthetic, peptide-containing surfactant structurally similar to pulmonary surfactant. It has been designed to simulate the essential characteristics of human lung surfactant, a surface-active lipoprotein complex formed by type II alveolar cells in the lungs.
“Radiation-induced pulmonary injury is a common and complicated manifestation of radiation exposure, and we look forward to developing data that may help define the role of KL4 surfactant in protecting irradiated lungs,” he added. The company expects KL4 surfactant to become a therapy for several radiation-induced lung injuries, damages on the lungs caused by radiological accidents, terrorism threat agent, or as a consequence of radiation treatment for thoracic malignancies. Radiation-induced pneumonitis, for instance, occurs in about 15% of patients who undergo radiation therapy for lung cancer.
Discover Laboratories is currently conducting their Phase 2a clinical trial to evaluate the safety and tolerability of the novel synthetic, peptide-containing surfactant on premature infants receiving nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP) for respiratory distress syndrome (RDS).