Irish researcher awarded €8.8m to develop inhaler for lung disease

11 Nov 2016

AMBER investigator Prof Anne Marie Healy. Image: Naoise Culhane Photography

Irish researcher Prof Anne Marie Healy has been awarded €8.8m to develop a brand new device to be used for the treatment of cystic fibrosis.

Cystic fibrosis is one of the most prevalent lung disease conditions, affecting millions of people across the globe. It results in thick mucus blocking the airways of a patient, causing difficulties with breathing and infections in the lungs.

As it stands, treatments used to break up this mucus are limited in number, efficacy and tolerability, with only one mucolytic drug introduced in the past 50 years.

Future Human

Ireland is considered one of the most affected by the condition, with nearly one in every 19 people in the country believed to carry at least one copy of the altered gene that leads to the condition.

Healy will collaborate with the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the US to develop a first-of-its-kind dry powder inhaler for the treatment of lung disease.

While potentially capable of treating cystic fibrosis, it could also help millions of other patients living with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Part of five-year programme

As an investigator with the AMBER materials science centre in Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Healy will receive an initial €600,000 to develop the inhaler as part of a five-year research project, estimated to be worth €8.8m.

In total, this funding will cover two NIH projects and will see the AMBER centre also partner with Prof Stefan Oscarson from University College Dublin’s School of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

Having now received the funding, Healy – who is also head of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at TCD – said it offers great hope to those with the condition.

“I am delighted to be part of a translational NIH project, which aims to take the research from bench to bedside,” she said.

“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.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic