Inflammation research gets funding boost
Efforts to establish a specialist Scottish biotechnology company, developing treatments for inflammatory diseases and fibrosis, have taken off following a funding award.
Efforts to establish a specialist Scottish biotechnology company, developing treatments for chronic inflammatory diseases and fibrosis, have taken off following a funding award.
“Groundbreaking” research from Heriot-watt University and the University of Texas Medical Branch in the field is set to be commercialised after the funding award to the Edinburgh organisation from Scottish Enterprise’s High Growth Spinout Programme.
They explained that inflammation is the body’s normal healing response to damaging stimuli, including infections, injuries, and toxins, but chronic and untreated inflammatory disease can have serious consequences.
It has been calculated that three in every five people die as a result of such a disease, with examples including respiratory, cardiac, vascular, Covid-19 and related viral infections, which are extremely difficult to treat due to the complex nature of inflammatory processes, resulting in continual demand for new medications.
However, the new research has identified a way of targeting an enzyme called EPAC1, which is involved in the inflammationprocess and is responsible for many of the most serious yet common chronic diseases.
The team said it has already developed several potential treatment options that show effectiveness in tack ling inflammation at its source. Such medications, once on the market, are expected to offer advantages over existing options in both efficacy and safety.
Dr Stephen Yarwood from the Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering at Heriotwatt, said: “By activating our newly identified enzyme, we can essentially ‘switch off’ inflammation. By doing so, we believe we can stop the harm chronic inflammation can do and hope to improve outcomes for patients when these treatments come to market.
“This funding will allow us to commercialise the breakthrough, bringing the research out of the lab to create a biotechnology business focused exclusivelyon developing treatments to target inflammatory diseases ... we intend to build a biotechnology company of significant scale and ambition.”
Victoria Carmichael, director of strategic investment sat scottish Enterprise, said: “Our High Growth Spinout Programme was established specifically to help commercialise groundbreaking research conducted by Scotland’s universities.
“The development of EPAC1 has the potential to alleviate the suffering caused to millions of people around the world and highlights the important innovation-led approach the country’s academic institutions continue to apply to the management of chronic diseases.”
The funding will be used for further development of the treatments and has allowed the team to recruit commercial expertise from industry veteran Chris Wardhaugh, who will act as chief executive-designate for the project. The team, which includes Dr Graeme Barker, is working with Heriot-watt’s Global Research Innovation and Discovery (Grid) facility.
Mr Wardhaugh said: “This funding is the first step in a long road to bringing important new options to clinicians and patients. The whole team recognises the support of Scottish Enterprise and we are excited about laying the foundations for another Scottish biotechnology success story.”