Rensselaer, New York-based biopharmaceutical company Pulmokine recently made a major announcement regarding the company’s efforts in developing a novel therapy for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). In a press release from late March, Pulmokine indicated that that the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a division of the federally run National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a Stage B Vascular Interventions and Therapeutic Advances (VITA) contract to the company. The award is a major funding channel for Pulmokine, who in turn will now be able to use the proceeds from the contract to further develop an inhaled PDGF receptor kinase inhibitor for the treatment of PAH that the company believes shows promise in controlling pulmonary pressures in patients.
The VITA contract is reported to be worth $1.5 million dollars over three years, and will specifically will fund upcoming clinical trials in humans in the Investigational New Drug (IND) category, which will need to be submitted to and approved by the FDA.
Pulmokine’s pulmonary arterial hypertension therapy is still in its early stages and has yet to go through the rigorous FDA testing process in order to determine if the drug is both safe for humans and effective in treating the disease. However, early signs in animal studies are encouraging. Dr. Zisman, the CEO of Pulmokine, notes that, “Preclinical results of our novel, inhaled PDGF receptor inhibitor are quite compelling, showing a meaningful decrease in pulmonary pressures in animal models of PAH. Importantly, by interfering with the PDGF receptor pathway, our candidates have the potential to address an underlying cause of PAH, not merely to alleviate its symptoms.” Zisman goes on to explain that, “the VITA contract will allow us to complete additional studies required to advance our lead candidate into Phase 1 clinical trials in patients with PAH.”
The award is part of a new effort by federally funded research organizations to place much-needed funding behind research and development efforts to solve unmet needs in healthcare. The critical nature of developing viable treatments for pulmonary arterial hypertension, together with Pulmokine’s early results, was the onus for the VITA contract. “The new NHLBI VITA Program was designed to provide support for early stage development of meritorious product concepts that address unmet medical needs in the fields of vascular disorders, thrombotic diseases, and PAH. We are pleased to enable academic inventors and small life science companies like Pulmokine in their efforts to develop promising new disease-modifying therapeutic interventions for important, yet neglected medical conditions,” said Dr. Zorina Galis, Chief of the Vascular Biology and Hypertension Branch, NHLBI Division of Cardiovascular Sciences. “While research into PAH treatments has progressed in recent years, more work is needed to better understand the pathways involved and translate this knowledge into new treatments to halt progression of the disease.”