A clot-busting drug that already has been approved for use in treating strokes and heart attacks could find a new use as a lifesaving treatment for inhaled sulfur mustard.
The drug is under advanced development at the University of Colorado – Pediatric Airway Research Center, a Center of Excellence within the National Institutes of Health CounterACT program for Countermeasures Against Chemical Agents.
Sulfur mustard, also known as mustard gas, has been used as a chemical warfare agent in conflicts over the past hundred years. Mustard exposure can cause serious damage to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract, and can lead to death.
The work is backed with an 18-month, $4.9 million funding contract recently awarded by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). The contract can be extended up to a total of $10.7 million over a five-year period.
“Chemical threats are of grave concern because of how quickly they can produce lethal injury,” said BARDA Director Dr. Robin Robinson. “That we may be able to adapt a drug that doctors have used for years in other settings to treat victims of mustard gas exposure testifies to the value of our repurposing efforts.”
Through this agreement, the university will design and conduct nonclinical tests of Genentech’s clot-busting drug Alteplase administered directly to the lungs via the airway as a treatment for acute respiratory distress resulting from inhaled sulfur mustard. This development work will support Genentech’s potential submission of an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seeking approval of the drug for this new treatment indication.
In addition to Alteplase’s common use against strokes, heart attacks, and blood clots, doctors at the University of Colorado’s Pediatric Airway Research Center successfully used airway-delivered Alteplase to treat plastic bronchitis, a severe respiratory issue some children experience after surgery to repair congenital heart defects or as a rare result of allergies or infection.
For chemical threats, this new project is part of BARDA’s integrated portfolio approach to the advanced research and development, innovation, acquisition, and manufacturing of medical countermeasures for public health emergency threats. These threats include chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agents, pandemic influenza, and emerging infectious diseases.