The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $3 million grant to the Texas A&M spin-off company Pulmotect, Inc.. The three-year funding will be used to support the safety and effectiveness evaluation of PUL-042, an inhaled therapy to prevent and treat respiratory infections in cancer patients who have a compromised immune system.
The $3 million grant was awarded under the NIH’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, making this the sixth time the company has received this kind of funding, following a $7.1 million award from the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas in 2012.
“The lungs are the point of entry for many viruses and bacteria. Our multi-institutional research team hypothesized that activating the innate immune defense of the lungs might provide effective protection against a wide range of deadly pathogens,” explained the co-founder of Pumotect, Magnus Höök, PhD, who serves as professor at the Texas A&M Institute for Biosciences and Technology in Houston’s Texas Medical Center.
PUL-042 has the capacity to stimulate lungs’ immune system, protecting oncologic patients against a series of life-threatening inhaled pathogens. Last October, the Houston-based company announced encouraging results from its completed phase I clinical trial that evaluated the safety and tolerability of PUL-042. The trial was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, single ascending dose clinical study conducted on healthy individuals.
“With the successful results of our Phase 1 study, we are really pleased to be moving into these next stages of development,” stated the other co-founder and president of Pulmotect, Brenton Scott, PhD. “Our priority and focus has always been to show the effectiveness of this drug in helping those most at risk for developing potentially deadly respiratory infections.”
The company is now planning to initiate phase 1b/2a clinical studies later this year at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, to assess PUL-042’s tolerability in patients with leukemia who have been submitted to stem-cell transplants and are more likely to develop pneumonia, a common consequence of oncologic therapies.
“Pulmotect is a great example of the kind of new company spin-out that shows great potential to impact the world. The funding received will help take this technology to the next critical stage in its development,” added the associate vice chancellor for commercialization with Texas A&M System Technology Commercialization, Brett Cornwell.
Pulmotect is currently backed by a $15 million grant and equity funding and was awarded $7.1 million from the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) in 2012. Pulmotect is currently investigating additional applications of PUL-042, such as the treatment of emerging inhaled pathogens, prevention and treatment of seasonal and pandemic influenza, and prevention of other respiratory infections, such as those associated with asthma, COPD or cystic fibrosis.