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King's-led consortium awarded £1million to develop drug inhalation technology

A consortium of researchers and industrial partners led by Dr Ben Forbes, Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, has been awarded £1million to deliver the second phase of a ‘CRACK IT Challenge’ posed by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3R).  

CRACK IT Challenges is a two-phase competition that funds collaborations between industry, academics and SMEs to solve problems related to the 3Rs, leading to new products or improved business processes. Large pharmaceutical and chemical industries act as ‘Sponsors’, defining relevant Challenges and providing in-kind contributions, such as access to data, compounds or equipment. In Phase 1 several teams are selected to carry out proof-of-concept studies for each Challenge, but only one team for each Challenge will receive the funding to deliver the full Challenge in Phase 2.

Recently, the Phase 1 CRACK IT Challenge teams from 2013, including the King’s-led consortium, went head-to-head in ‘Dragons’ Den-style’ interviews. The winner of each Challenge was awarded up to a possible £1 million investment to complete Phase 2. The Challenges that the winning teams are tackling cover a wide range of scientific and business problems across different therapeutic areas, each with significant potential to replace, refine or reduce the use of animals in research.

The project led by Dr Forbes is looking at ways to expedite the development of inhaled medicines for the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases of the airways, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which remain areas of considerable unmet medical need. The consortium includes King’s College London, the National Physical Laboratory, University of Hertfordshire and sponsors from the Pharmaceutical Industry (GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Huntington life Sciences).  

Induced alveolar macrophage responses are a major challenge to the discovery and development of new inhaled medicines*. This issue is relevant to all inhaled pharmaceuticals from simple to advanced delivery systems, with ‘difficult-to-interpret’ pre-clinical findings presenting a challenge to drug development.  The project will assess foamy macrophage modulation and inflammation in a longitudinal manner in pre-clinical studies, and generate insights into foamy macrophage status and functionality as a response to drug inhalation.  

*Forbes et al., Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews 71: 15–33, 2014

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