LifeArc commits £10m to fund repurposed chronic respiratory infection therapies


Following the launch of LifeArc’s £100 million programme, Chronic Respiratory Infection Translational Challenge (CRI TC) – for the acceleration of the development of new clinical solutions to tackle chronic lung conditions – the medical research charity has now announced that it is committing £10 million to fund up to five collaborative projects to repurpose existing therapies as new treatments for bronchiectasis and cystic fibrosis.

This collaboration call is the first major funding under the CRI TC and the charity is looking for proposed scientific innovation solutions that target infection, inflammation, and lung-damage. The opportunity is open to academic, government, and industry organisations anywhere in the world, with a lead partner based in the UK. Submitted proposals must be received by 15 February 2023. Following a two-stage selection process, the successful five projects will be announced in July 2023 (with a maximum award of £2.5 million), and the projects must commence by December next year.

It is estimated that some 300,000 people in the UK have bronchiectasis, a devastating chronic lung condition that causes excess mucus to build up in the lungs, resulting in frequent coughing and breathing difficulties, and which leaves sufferers vulnerable to infection, flare-ups, and permanent lung damage. Currently, there is no licensed treatment for the condition.

Meanwhile, in the UK alone there are over 10,000 people living with cystic fibrosis (CF). Despite significant advances in treatment in recent years, those living with the condition on average spend several weeks in hospital each year, receiving emergency treatment. Travel to hospital for regular check-ups is frequently needed.

Dr Catherine Kettleborough, lead of the LifeArc Chronic Respiratory Infection Translational Challenge, said: “Repurposing an existing drug or compound is a faster way of getting new treatments to patients. With their safety profile already established, repurposed drugs can be available within years, instead of the decades it can take to develop entirely new therapies.”

She continued: “We’re looking for proposed solutions that target the vicious cycle of infection, inflammation, and lung-damage, which ideally have broad potential benefits for people with bronchiectasis and cystic fibrosis. We particularly welcome novel approaches and innovative models that will ensure patients benefit from new treatments quickly.”

In 2021, LifeArc held a workshop (PDF) to explore the opportunities and challenges of repurposing drugs, developing a toolkit with the Medical Research Council (MRC).

In 2019, the charity received a windfall of nearly $1.3 billion after selling a portion of its royalty interest in Merck & Co’s blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda to a pension fund.