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CIMIT Names Leaders, Outlines Goals of New Inhalation Technology Program
Presentation at Forum is Feb. 3, Funding Proposals To Be Sought
CIMIT has announced the leaders and direction of its new Inhalation Technology Program, which has the goal of becoming the world’s leading resource in the research and treatment of serious respiratory conditions and in the use of the respiratory tract for administration of therapeutic agents throughout the body. This ambitious program is made possible by a $1.5 million gift from France’s Air Liquide, a world leader in industrial and medical gases.
CIMIT Executive Director John Parrish, MD, said that the co-leaders are Augustine Choi, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and José G. Venegas, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Associate leader is Jussi Saukkonen, MD, of Boston Medical Center and the West Roxbury Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC).
The Inhalation Technology program will be introduced at the CIMIT Forum, on Tuesday, Feb. 3, from 4 to 6 PM. The event will be at Simches Research Center, 185 Cambridge St., Boston. Admission is free, and registration is not required.
Dr. Choi will be the point person for the Program. He is Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Previously, he was at University of Pittsburgh, Yale University and Johns Hopkins University. His lab has made seminal observations that inhaled carbon monoxide can confer protection of cells in pre-clinical models of lung disease and severe infections. He will provide outstanding leadership and enthusiasm to this initiative.
Dr. Venegas brings the bioengineering and pulmonary physiology perspectives to the program. He currently is an Associate Professor of Anesthesia (Bioengineering), Harvard Medical School, and at Massachusetts General Hospital in the Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care. His research career has been devoted to studying underlying physiologic mechanisms in ARDS, COPD and asthma and developing imaging methods for quantitative assessment of pulmonary inflammation, ventilation, perfusion, intrapulmonary shunts, gas trapping and aerosol deposition. These capabilities will be critical in assessing effectiveness and optimizing the new technologies developed in the Inhalation Technology Program.
Dr. Saukkonen is the Director of the Pulmonary Clinics at the West Roxbury VAMC, is on staff at Boston Medical Center in the Department of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Allergy, with an academic appointment at Boston University. His background includes both basic immunology, and translational and clinical trials research. His experience will help the program when focusing on clinical applications of inhalation technology and in planning of clinical trials.
The Inhalation Technology Program will be seeking funding proposals from doctors and researchers with innovative ideas for improving patient care in this area. Sectors that have been identified of particular interest include sedation in the critical care setting, organ protection from tissue hypoxia, oncologic therapy, and respiratory tract disease (such as obstructive lung disease, adult respiratory distress syndrome, pulmonary hypertension, and others), as well as innovative approaches to delivery and therapy in lung regeneration, transplant medicine, infectious diseases and inflammatory conditions.
Respiratory infections are widespread
Acute respiratory infections rank as the third largest cause of death worldwide. Many of these diseases require chronic or lifelong treatment. Inhalation therapy utilizes the concept of the pulmonary “highway” as a rapid and highly effective route of drug delivery, maximizing dose to the diseased tissue while minimizing side effects in other parts of the body. Many conditions can benefit from the introduction of novel inhaled drugs for faster recovery and fewer side effects.
“The ultimate goal is to use innovative inhalation technology to advance treatment of human diseases,” said Dr. Choi. “The new Inhalation Technology Program will foster interactions and collaborations among investigators at CIMIT sites focused on patient care, education and training and research related to inhalation technology."
"The program will support strategies to apply inhalation technology in the diagnosis and treatment of both acute and chronic respiratory ailments, including systemic diseases where the respiratory system could be used as a conduit to either deliver therapeutic agents or monitor biomarkers of non-respiratory disease states.”
Dr. Venegas commented, “Inhalation therapy involves the delivery of medications and therapeutic gases via the respiratory tract. This non-invasive drug delivery route is highly promising as it can directly deposit potent molecules to affected pulmonary tissues with minimal systemic effects, or rapidly deliver them to the bloodstream across a thin membrane. The long-term goal of the program is to promote and facilitate research and development of devices and methodologies to optimize and monitor a safe and targeted delivery of inhalation agents.”
Dr. Saukkonen views “inhalation therapy as a platform to address major medical problems, harnessing creative and innovative technologies, cutting across traditional lines of medical and scientific disciplines. The ultimate objective of this program would be to innovate patient care and relieve suffering from respiratory and non-respiratory diseases and critical illnesses.”
Dr. Martha Heitzmann, director of Research and Development for the Air Liquide group stated: “The ultimate goal of the Inhalation Technology Program is to establish inhaled therapy as a medical discipline bringing new diagnosis- and treatment- opportunities. Our objective is to help link medical and pharmaceutical expertise with technological innovations, and thus to develop new customized-to-patient respiratory treatments.”
With more than 40,000 employees in 75 countries, Air Liquide is a world leader in industrial and medical gases and related services. The group offers innovative solutions based on constantly enhanced technologies and produces air gases (oxygen, nitrogen, argon, rare gases) and many other gases including hydrogen.
Air Liquide contributes to the manufacturing of many everyday products: bubbles in sparkling beverages, protective atmosphere for packed foods, oxygen for hospitals and homecare patients, ultra-pure gases for the semiconductor industry, hydrogen to desulfurize fuels and other goods. Founded in 1902, Air Liquide had sales in 2007 of about $16 billion, with commerce outside France accounting for almost 80 percent.
CIMIT is the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology. A non-profit consortium of Boston-area teaching hospitals and engineering schools, CIMIT provides innovators with resources to explore, develop and implement novel technological solutions for today’s most urgent healthcare problems.
Participants in the consortium are Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Medical Center, Boston University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Partners HealthCare and VA Boston Healthcare System.
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