Trimunocor – protecting babies from neonatal lung disease
Fifteen million premature babies are born around the globe every year and statistics from the World Health Organization indicate that this number is rising.
Advances in care have led to a higher rate of survival, however half of babies born before the 26th week develop neonatal chronic lung disease. These infants may suffer with lung inflammation and require long-term home oxygen therapy for up to five years, potentially leading to complications including impeded neurological development. There are no current effective treatments to prevent this disease.
“We breathe in 10,000 litres of air every day,” Professor of Child Health Howard Clark explains. “Our expansive lung surface, the area of around half a tennis court, is therefore exposed to a vast amount of infectious viruses, bacteria and other pathogens, alongside allergens and nanoparticles. It is essential that the lungs remain free from infection and inflammation to allow efficient breathing.
“SP-D is a natural defence protein which neutralises viruses and bacteria and stops lung infection, whilst clearing allergens and nanoparticulates and preventing inflammation. It is an essential part of the lung defence system against infection and inflammation. Unfortunately, SP-D is known to be deficient in lungs of patients developing neonatal chronic lung disease, in those with severe asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).”
Replacement of this deficient natural protein could restore the lungs of patients to a non-inflamed state, restore lung function and prevent the progression of disease.
Professor Clark, through pioneering research at the University of Southampton and the Medical Research Council, has invented a novel way to produce this natural protein synthetically in large quantities. He and colleagues have launched the Trimunocor spinout to develop this patented technology into a treatment for preterm babies.
“Replacement of the natural anti-inflammatory SP-D with our recombinant fragment, known as rfhSP-D, could decrease the incidence of neonatal chronic lung disease,” he adds. “This debilitating disease is a huge burden to the NHS and has large socioeconomic costs. For instance, neonatal intensive care days cost up to £1,800 per day for high dependency, with current treatment lacking the anti-inflammatory SP-D costing thousands of pounds per course.”
The rfhSP-D fragment boasts many advantages over the native protein, including being easier to manufacture in high yields, easier to handle as it is soluble and able to be lyophilised, frozen and thawed.
The market for the current surfactant treatment is estimated at around £250 million per annum and the inclusion of the additional rfhSP-D treatment could potentially expand the market to double that. Development of a successful product for the preterm neonate market could then allow Trimunocor to also enter the larger asthma and COPD markets worth over £30 billion per annum.
Trimunocor is currently looking for investment as it plans an effective route to bring its innovation to market. You can get in touch with Howard and the Trimunocor team through the contact form on this page.
The spinout is currently in an advanced preclinical stage, undertaking the development of a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) process. It will then begin clinical studies in pre-term infants.
Read more about Trimunocor and its targeted immunotherapy at trimunocor.com.