This post is sponsored by CincyTech.
Cincinnati-based startup company Airway Therapeutics is creating a new drug candidate that should dramatically improve the lives of thousands of very premature babies.
The company was formed to develop recombinant human surfactant protein D (rhSP-D), which evolved from 10 years of research by Jeffrey Whitsett, M.D., chief of the Section of Neonatology and Perinatal and Pulmonary Biology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Surfactant is a substance that lines the surface of the lungs, allows babies to take their first breath and prevents the air sacs in the lungs from collapsing. Very premature babies are born without sufficient surfactant, and the most premature have to be given a surfactant at birth to save their lives.
rhSP-D is a protein normally contained in surfactant but is missing in the marketed surfactants. A consequence of very premature delivery and the life-saving treatment that is required for these babies is that some will go on to develop the lung condition called bronchopulmonary dysplasia, or BPD. The company’s initial focus will be on using rhSP-D in the prevention of BPD.
Airway’s rhSP-D, licensed from Cincinnati Children’s, would be added to an existing surfactant prior to treating a premature newborn, and has been shown in the lab of Dr. Whitsett to be useful in reducing lung inflammation, a condition associated with BPD.
Bringing this research to the market is Airway CEO Steven Linberg, Ph.D., who has more than 30 years of clinical research, drug and biologic development experience.
Airway received a seed-stage investment from CincyTech, a public-private partnership whose mission is to invest in high-growth startups in Southwest Ohio, and the Cincinnati Children’s Tomorrow Fund. Each has invested $250,000 as part of a projected $1.2 million seed-stage funding round led by CincyTech.
Airway met with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a Pre-IND Meeting in October 2011 to confirm its plans to begin developing rhSP-D in combination with an already-available surfactant and then file an Investigational New Drug (IND) application in approximately 18 months.