A strategy to promote active lung tissue repair in degenerative lung diseases using innovative technology has won The Big Idea 2018, an initiative of Sydney Research.
Associate Professor Wojtek Chrzanowski and PhD candidate Sally Kim from the University of Sydney were awarded $45,000 in pre-seed funding to support the commercialisation of their idea, called AeroEV.
Associate Professor Chrzanowski is a biomedical engineer who has assembled a multidisciplinary team of experts to find new interventions capable of preventing or reversing lung degeneration. He is the Health and Medicine Theme Leader at University of Sydney Nano Institute and head of the Nanomedicine and Nanoprobe laboratory in the Pharmacy School.
Degenerative lung diseases are reaching epidemic levels in Australia and worldwide and current interventions are merely symptom-relieving.
One in seven Australians over 40 have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a chronic lung syndrome caused by long-term inhalation exposure to pollutants and noxious particles, most commonly cigarette smoke and air contaminations, including those generated during bushfires.
COPD is the second leading cause of avoidable hospital admissions and the fourth leading cause of death and disease burden.
Associate Professor Chrzanowski and his team are working on a technology for pulmonary delivery of extracellular vesicles (EVs) to promote and accelerate functional tissue repair in degenerative lung diseases.
His team is a global leader in extracellular vesicles.
EVs are highly specialised, biological nanoscale messengers that orchestrate physiological processes in cells.
EV-based therapy aims to provide a new treatment with better therapeutic outcomes for millions of patients worldwide
The AeroEV team has designed and created a device prototype from which personalised EVs from placenta stem cells can be delivered to the lungs.
In presenting the case for AeroEV to The Big Idea’s expert judging panel, Associate Professor Chrzanowski said: “We cannot afford not to invest in new technologies to prevent COPD and save lives.
“This translational EV-platform will allow us to devise a new class of emergent, effective personalised therapies for degenerative lung diseases which otherwise will continue undermining modern medicine,” Sally Kim said.
The AeroEV team has already generated strong preliminary data on a pivotal role of stem cell-derived EVs in tissue regeneration. Associate Professor Chrzanowski said the $45,000 would be used to progress this promising work towards rapid clinical translation by funding three pivotal pre-clinical experiments.
A critical challenge, which curbs the translation of EVs to clinical applications, is the capability of scientists to “program” their cargo and deliver them in targeted way.
The AeroEV team plans to develop a stem cell programming methodology to produce tissue repairing EVs, which will be delivered to lungs using their technology.
This will provide pre-clinical validation of AeroEV technology in an in vivo COPD model, which is a critical prerequisite for future translational work.
The Big Idea is an innovation challenge providing pre-seed funding to recognise and progress very early stage ideas with commercial potential and to improve the commercial opportunities available within the Sydney Research precinct.
The goal of The Big Idea is to support researchers in launching or progressing ideas that have commercial value in healthcare. The Big Idea also provides the opportunity for researchers to gain exposure, support and mentoring through sponsors, industry and participating venture capitalists and investors.
The standard of finalists in The Big Idea 2018 was extremely high and their ideas spanned the whole of life - from a new device to prevent dose medication errors in neonates and young children - to a computerised platform to promote personalised exercise training programs for the frail aged.
The expert judging panel consisted of Adjunct Associate Professor Vicki Taylor from Sydney Research, Professor Paul Young from Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Dr Marlene Kanga, Board Member of Innovation Science Australia, Sydney Local Health District Director of Operations Dr Tim Sinclair and patent attorney Gavin Recchia from Davies Collison Cave.