Funding call launched for projects seeking to repurpose therapies
LifeArc and DEBRA Austria will grant £2.5M to research centers globally
Treatment repurposing consists of identifying new therapeutic use for approved medicines. It is an alternative approach to the traditional process of developing a new treatment for a disease, and one that may accelerate the development of new treatments for EB.
Applications will be accepted from research groups at academic institutions or hospitals globally and should focus mainly on treatment to prevent disease progression of chronic inflammation, fibrosis (scarring), and cancer initiation.
“We hope this funding will help unlock the potential of existing therapies that can be repurposed or repositioned to accelerate the development of new treatments for young people living with EB,” Catriona Crombie, associate director of technology transfer at LifeArc, said in a press release.
Significant unmet medical need exists for people with epidermolysis bullosa
EB is a group of rare disorders where the integrity of the skin is severely disrupted, leading to fragile skin that easily blisters and tears, as well as potential blistering within the body.
“Children born with EB are often called ‘butterfly children’ because their skin seems as fragile as a butterfly wing, leaving them susceptible to infection and disease that can severely reduce their quality of life,” said Rainer Riedl, managing director at DEBRA Austria. “In all our research funding efforts the patient has to be at the centre.”
Despite recent advances in EB treatment development, which include the U.S. approval of Vyjuvek (beremagene geperpavec) — a gene therapy gel for people with dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa — there remains a significant unmet medical need for people with this condition.
“While there has been encouraging progress in the development of gene and cell therapies targeting the underlying defects causing EB, there remain a number of serious consequences of the disease such as chronic inflammation and non-healing wounds that can lead to fibrosis and skin cancer,” Crombie said.
The funding call seeks projects aiming to repurpose therapies with potential for treating EB, particularly to resolve non-healing wounds, prevent or reduce chronic inflammation, lower fibrosis, or decrease the risk of skin cancer.
Using available data on therapy safety and dosing, as well as their mechanism of action, projects should be based on strong non-clinical data with a clear strategy for clinical development.
Repurposing may unlock new opportunities to advance treatments
“Our primary goal in driving DEBRA Austria’s research agenda is to support new therapeutic approaches and push their clinical translation,” said Gaston Sendin, PhD, research manager at DEBRA Austria. “We believe that repurposing may unlock new opportunities and help us bring new treatments to patients as quickly as possible.”
The application process will be organized in two stages. Submissions that express interest will be accepted until Sept. 10. Selected applicants will then be invited to submit full applications between Oct. 4 and Dec. 4.
Successful applicants will be notified in March next year. Projects are expected to start soon after.
This joint initiative is part of LifeArc’s rare disease translational challenge, where more than £100 million (around $131 million) in funding are meant to help address major challenges in developing therapies for rare diseases.
“Our translational challenges are long-term, collaborative research programmes shaped by what patients tell us they need and designed to tackle complex health issues by taking the best scientific ideas out of the lab and helping to turn them into medical breakthroughs that can be life-changing,” Crombie said.