LA BioMed Receives Phase II Grand Challenges Explorations Funding

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) announced today that it will receive Phase II funding through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that enables individuals worldwide to test bold ideas to address persistent health and development challenges. Frans J. Walther, MD, PhD, an LA BioMed lead researcher, will continue to pursue an innovative global health research project, titled “Aerosol Delivery of Synthetic Lung Surfactant.”

“Surfactant is a complex substance in the lung that allows effortless breathing. Premature babies often lack this substance or have inadequate supplies secondary to lung immaturity,” said Dr. Walther.

“Our research seeks to reduce complications and ensure healthier outcomes for premature babies whose lungs are not fully developed at birth by making it possible to deliver synthetic lung surfactant as an aerosol that can be inhaled. Currently, surfactants are delivered through a tube inserted into the baby’s windpipe. By creating an aerosol form, we can avoid the need to insert a tube into the lungs and the complications that may occur. Aerosol delivery of synthetic lung surfactant also provides a delivery technique that can be more easily used in the developing world where medical services are more limited.”

In 2012, Dr. Walther was awarded a Phase I grant for 2012-13 program. Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) Phase I recognizes individuals worldwide who are taking innovative approaches to some of the world’s toughest and persistent global health and development challenges. GCE invests in the early stages of bold ideas that have real potential to solve the problems people in the developing world face every day. Phase II recognizes those ideas that have made significant progress toward implementation.

Dr. Walther’s project is one of the Phase II Grand Challenges Explorations grants announced today.

Applications for the current open round Grand Challenges Explorations will be accepted through November 12, 2014.

With the $100,000 Phase I grant, Dr. Walther was able to convert synthetic lung surfactant into an aerosol and administer it safely and effectively during breathing support via the nose. The new grant of more than $828,000 will make it possible for him to develop a more advanced and effective synthetic lung surfactant in aerosol form and administer it safely and effectively.

In the womb, the lungs are one of the last organs to develop. Babies born at 32 weeks of gestation or younger usually need surfactant therapy. These premature babies receive breathing support, and an aerosol surfactant could be administered along with the oxygen they’re receiving. In the developing world, where providing medication to the lungs via a tube in the windpipe is less likely to be done, an aerosol surfactant could ensure premature babies would receive this vital therapy.