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Professor Anne Marie Healy, Investigator with AMBER, awarded research funding to develop a new inhaler for the treatment of lung disease.

Professor Anne Marie Healy, Investigator with AMBER,Anne Marie Healy the Science Foundation Ireland funded materials science centre, hosted in Trinity College Dublin, has been awarded €600,000 (as part of NIH funded collaborations worth €8.8million overall) in research funding to develop a new inhaler for the treatment of lung disease. The funding was provided through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of the world’s foremost medical research centres based in the United States.

The funding will be used to develop a new dry powder inhaler for the treatment of lung disease, and could help millions of patients with cystic fibrosis, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This innovative type of inhaler will be the first ever of its kind to treat lung disease.

Patients with cystic fibrosis produce thick sticky mucus instead of the thin, watery kind. This mucus can block the airways, causing difficulties with breathing and infections in the lungs. Mucolytic therapies (medications to break up the mucus) are limited in number, efficacy and tolerability. There have been no new mucolytic drugs introduced to treat lung disease in the past 20 years and only one in the past 50 years. The NIH funded research aims to design, develop and trial novel carbohydrate based compounds within a dry powder inhaler, an easily deliverable format, that could benefit millions of patients with mucus-associated lung disease.

Professor Anne Marie Healy, Head of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Trinity, Investigator in AMBER and SSPC (The Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre, led by the University of Limerick) said, “I am delighted to be part of a translational NIH project, which aims to take the research from bench to bedside. Ireland has the highest incidence of cystic fibrosis in the world, with approximately 1 in 19 Irish people carrying one copy of the altered gene that causes the condition*. In addition, Ireland has the 4th highest prevalence of asthma in the world, with almost 5,000 asthma admissions to hospital on average each year**. Our proposed new treatment has the potential to greatly improve the respiratory function of these patients with lung disease, thus improving overall quality of life and reducing hospital admissions.”

The funding allocated to Professor Anne Marie Healy, is part of 2 large NIH projects, coordinated by Professor John Fahy, Professor of Medicine from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), and valued at $9.9 million (€8.8 million). UCD’s Professor Stefan Oscarson (Professor of Chemical Biology, School of Chemistry and Chemical Biology) is also a partner. Clinical trials of the inhaler will start within the 5 year project framework.

Professor Fahy said, “This NIH funded collaboration between UCSF, TCD and UCD addresses an unmet need for a well-tolerated and easily delivered mucolytic drug, with application to multiple lung diseases, particularly cystic fibrosis, asthma and COPD. I am delighted to be working with Professor Anne Marie Healy who brings expertise in the optimisation of drug formulations for delivery as dry powders”.