Fresh funding gives hope to a new generation of asthma and allergy treatmentScientists at St George’s, University of London and the University of Manchester have receivedan additional Seeding Drug Discovery award of £390,000 from the Wellcome Trust to explore anew class of experimental drugs that block the trigger of allergic reactions before symptomsshow.The team is developing a series of drugs based on novel chemical compounds known as AllergenDelivery Inhibitors (ADIs). Unlike existing medicines, these compounds target the substances thatcan trigger allergies and asthma attacks directly. This means that they have the potential toprovide relief to people already suffering with allergies, as well as reducing the risk of minorallergies escalating into more serious conditions.In 2009, the researchers were awarded a £4.3 million Seeding Drug Discovery award toinvestigate ADIs as a potential treatment for asthma and allergy. In the course of that project,they have identified a novel chemical series that shows promise as a preventative treatment. Thenew funding will be used to explore this further with a view to identifying a lead compound thatcould be developed into a drug.Asthma and allergic conditions such as rhinitis, conjunctivitis and dermatitis are escalatingproblems expected to affect more than 100 million people globally by 2011. In the UK, 5.2 millionadults and 1.1 million children currently receive treatment for asthma, creating a significant socialand healthcare burden for the NHS.The first ADI drug being developed by the team – in collaboration with the expert medicinalchemistry partner Domainex – targets house dust mites, globally one of the commonest causes ofdomestic allergy and a key trigger of asthma attacks.Dust mites excrete particles, amongst which are powerful enzymes that, when inhaled, can causean inappropriate immune reaction in people who are prone to allergy, causing damage to thelining of the airways. These allergenic enzymes are abundant in the environment, so they cannotbe avoided and susceptible people are constantly at risk.The team has developed ADIs that bind to the dust mite particles and block their enzymaticactivity. Experimentally, these inhibitors reduce the intensity of reactions in established allergyand can even prevent allergy from occurring.“A compelling feature of the ADI approach is its attack on the pinnacle of the cascade of eventsthat leads to an allergic reaction,” explains lead researcher Professor Clive Robinson from StGeorge’s, University of London. “Existing medicines target the allergy cascade at a lower, morecomplex level where success in the discovery of new drugs that modify allergic diseases isnotoriously hard to achieve. At present, patients have to rely on therapeutic approaches whichhave seen no fundamental advances in the past 20 years.“Used alone or in combination with existing treatments, our investigations indicate that theyshould improve the quality of life for many patients with allergic disease and may enable some tomanage without any other form of treatment,” continues Professor Robinson. “Additionally, ADIsmay provide relief for some patients who do not respond well to existing medicines.”“We have made outstanding progress in refining these molecules into a drug that will be safe andeffective in humans. However, much work remains before a medicine will be available,”concludes Professor Robinson.
Dr Rick Davis, Business Development Manager at the Wellcome Trust, commented on the award:“Allergy is a source of misery for millions worldwide and represents an area of huge unmetmedical need. The St George’s-Manchester collaboration has made excellent progress in thisarea and we are pleased to provide continued support for this project.”Once a lead compound has been identified, the next phase of work will be to refine the drugcandidate to take forward into human clinical trials to assess its safety, tolerability and efficacy. -ends-For further information, please contact Helena Clay in the St George’s, University of Londonpress office on 020 8266 6831 or email firstname.lastname@example.orgNotes to editors: • St George’s, University of London provides education and training to a wide range of more than 4,000 medical and healthcare students. As well as providing courses in medicine and biomedical sciences, the College also offers courses in midwifery, nursing, paramedic science, physiotherapy, radiography and social work in conjunction with Kingston University. St George’s is dedicated to promoting the prevention, treatment and understanding of disease through excellence in teaching, clinical practice and research. It has a strong reputation for research in areas such as infection and immunity, diseases of the heart and circulation, cell signalling and epidemiology. Other areas of expertise include genetics, health and social care sciences and mental health. • The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust’s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests. www.wellcome.ac.uk • Domainex Ltd. is a UK located Contract Research Organisation committed to excellence in drug discovery. It provides its clients with a range of services, from drug target expression through in-silico hit finding and medicinal chemistry, resulting in eventual candidate drug. It has one of the best track records in the drug discovery CRO industry and has supported a number of Wellcome Trust funded drug discovery programmes. For more information see: www.domainex.co.uk