Moving the development of new antibiotics for CF lung infections closer to the clinic

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We are excited to announce research funding for a Strategic Research Centre that will accelerate the development of much needed antibiotics for CF lung infections. The four-year £750,000 programme is co-funded by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the CF Foundation in the United States.

Most people with CF will develop lung infections throughout their lifetimes. Once the bugs that cause the infections adapt to the environment of the CF lungs they can be extremely difficult to treat. In some cases, the bugs are becoming resistant to the strongest medicines that are available. Left untreated, these infections can trigger permanent lung damage, meaning people are more breathless and have less energy to do day-to-day activities. More effective treatments with fewer side effects are urgently needed.

Developing new medicines

Researchers at universities; biopharmaceutical and the biotechnology companies around the world are currently working on the development of new medicines to treat CF lung infections. Many different laboratory (lab) tests are required, to have a complete understanding of a new medicine. The results of all of the tests together will tell the scientists and medicine regulators whether or not a potential new medicine is likely to be safe and effective in people with CF.

However, there are differences and gaps in how different researchers test new CF medicines in the lab. If researchers are using slightly different tests then the results from different labs are not comparable, and this slows down progress in developing new medicines.

In addition, the tests that are used were not originally designed specifically to test CF medicines. For example, the tests don’t mimic the effects of the thick sticky mucus found in the lungs of people with CF. This makes it hard to assess whether a potential medicine will work.

Improving how to test new CF medicines in the laboratory

 A new four-year Strategic Research Centre (SRC) led by Dr Jo Fothergill at the University of Liverpool, will develop a new set of lab methods specifically designed for testing new medicines for CF. The aim of the international team working within the SRC is to make it quicker and easier for researchers to develop new CF medicines.

The SRC will combine expertise in understanding the infection-causing bugs Pseudomonas aeruginosa, NTM and Burkholderia cepacia complex, with expertise in developing new lab methods. Alongside researchers from across the UK, Canada and USA, the SRC will be supported by a wide range of collaborators. Dr Fothergill said “We want colleagues to feel that our tests are useful and valid to support the development of new CF antibiotics. Most of all, we want people to use them”.

 “To achieve this we have the support of over 30 different collaborators, ranging from university professors, biotech companies, research funders and regulators, to ensure these tests are the best they can be.”

The CF AMR Syndicate, a partnership between the Trust and Medicines Discovery Catapult, was created to find ways to speed up the development of new therapies for CF infections. A survey of industry colleagues commissioned by the Syndicate showed that the lack of a defined set of tests makes it harder for companies to develop new medicines for CF infections.

“This SRC aligns well with the CF AMR Syndicate goals and they have agreed to support it. This is a great illustration of the power of collaboration in working to solve problems in CF infection drug development” explained Dr Paula Sommer, Head of Research at the Trust who leads our work on the Syndicate.

Read a more detailed summary of the aims of the SRC.

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