Money raised to push forward development of lung scarring reversal drugs

TYLER, Texas (KETK) - Doctors at UT Health Northeast in Tyler created a new drug to help patients with lung scarring breathe a little easier. Dr. Steven Idell and Dr. Sreerama Shetty are working to find a cure for Pulmonary Fibrosis and Pleural Disease, but the drugs they've discovered aren't cheap. Thanks to new funding, their development can be moved forward.

Austin biotech company Lung Therapeutics raised $14.3 million to help push forward these drugs to target scarring of the lungs. Dr. Idell said that money will get their peptide that targets scarring inside of the lung to clinical trial phase. However, it won't carry it through. They're working to partner with a pharmaceutical firm for additional funding. 

"We just received in the lab itself another $7 million of NIH (National Institutes of Health) funding to continue these projects and develop the next identified targets for use," said Dr. Idell. "To do a clinical trial, that probably cost $50 million dollars by itself."

They also work off philanthropic support. He said there is hope for patients as there are about 20 different drugs in clinical trial testing phase one for safety and another 20 drugs in phase two testing to see if it actually works.

"IPF (Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis) is a progressive disease, it keeps continuing until majority of the lungs just become useless," said Dr. Shetty. 

They said there are about 200,000 cases of IPF in the U.S. every year.

"You multiply that worldwide, there's a million cases perhaps, but it's still an orphan drug indication," said Dr. Idell. 

The big question they've been posed: can you do something about this disease pharmaceutically rather than surgically? They're hopeful that answer will be yes. 

Dr. Idell said the drug targeting scarring outside of the lungs is in clinical trial testing in Australia and New Zealand and so far, four out of the five patients have seen drainage with no complications. He said the peptide targeting scarring inside of the lungs should head to clinical trial testing within 12 to 18 months. 

To follow the progression of these drugs, click here

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