Stony Brook, NYU in Deal with Drug Firm
The medical schools of Stony Brook University and New York University have struck an agreement with a New Jersey pharmaceutical company to develop an experimental treatment for a fatal lung disease.
The schools plan to announce the licensing agreement today with Nostrum Pharmaceuticals. It calls for the New Brunswick, N.J., company to work with researchers from the schools on an inhalable treatment for the condition, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
The disease affects about 200,000 Americans each year. It's caused by scar tissue in the lungs, which hardens air passages and makes breathing increasingly difficult. Pulmonary fibrosis has no cure and can be fatal within three years of diagnosis.
"The only approved treatment in this country is a lung transplant," said Gerald Smaldone, a professor of medicine at Stony Brook.
The deal with Nostrum fits into a larger effort by Stony Brook, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and other Long Island research institutions to help local scientists turn research into commercial products. Ultimately, officials hope Long Island will become a launchpad for biotechnical companies that will boost job growth and fuel the region's economy.
The treatment being developed by Stony Brook and NYU calls for patients with pulmonary fibrosis to inhale a synthetic version of a substance normally produced by the body's immune system. Some researchers believe the substance, interferon gamma, can significantly reduce the levels of proteins that cause the scarring.
The treatment has passed a first-stage 80-week clinical trial, which showed the substance is safe to inhale. But researchers have not proven the method treats the disease successfully.
"The major thing we found out in this study is that the drug is very safe," Smaldone said.
Scientists have debated the effectiveness of interferon gamma in combating pulmonary fibrosis. In earlier studies researchers injected the substance into patients. But that approach proved ineffective during clinical trials. It also led to uncomfortable side effects, leaving patients with flulike symptoms.
Researchers at Stony Brook and NYU believe that by having patients inhale the substance directly into their lungs, it will effectively thwart the disease.