David Schwartz, MD

By Mark Couch | School of Medicine

AURORA, Colo. – A team of researchers led by David Schwartz, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine, has been awarded a $7.9 million grant from the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute (NHLBI) to search for better treatments for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

The researchers at the University of Colorado will partner with Parion Sciences, a Durham, N.C.-based biotech company to create molecules called “mucolytic agents” that are designed to help patients with lung diseases clear mucus from their lungs. These agents could become drugs aimed at dramatically improving the lives of millions of people who suffer from some lung diseases, such as IPF.

“The studies we propose have the potential to improve early diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary fibrosis, and thus could have a highly significant overall impact on what is now essentially an incurable disease,” said Schwartz.

“As a science-driven company, it is gratifying to partner with such premier academic institutions like the University of Colorado to successfully secure competitive NIH Awards,” said Paul Boucher, president of Parion Sciences. “The NIH support and the combined expertise of the collaborations boost our innovative mucolytic program as we advance through the pre-clinical stages.”

Recently, Schwartz published two research papers in the New England Journal of Medicine and one in Nature Genetics that found a particular genetic variation in a gene that produces mucous identifies individuals at risk of developing pulmonary fibrosis, a chronic progressive disease with a median survival of three years. Those studies suggested that future drug trials should consider targeting mucous in early stages of this incurable disease. While two drugs (Pirfenidone and Nintedanib) have been approved recently by the FDA for treating IPF, those drugs do not prevent disease progression.

Parion Sciences is designing and testing novel mucolytic agents that specifically target mucus structure to facilitate mucus clearance from the lungs. There is a need for agents that clear adherent secretions from the lungs in acute and chronic pulmonary disorders. If approved by the FDA, the agents will become drugs aimed at dramatically improving the lives of millions of people who suffer from COPD, CF, and IPF.

Part of the National Institutes of Health, the NHLBI plans, conducts, and supports research related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; and sleep disorders. The Institute also administers national health education campaigns on women and heart disease, healthy weight for children, and other topics. NHLBI press releases and other materials are available online at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov.

Contact: Mark.Couch@ucdenver.edu

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