Cystic Fibrosis is one of the UK's most common life-threatening inherited diseases.
Cliff Taggart says, "The inflammatory response goes into hyperdrive in diseases like Cystic Fibrosis. One of the big problems is getting drugs delivered in such a way that they are effective. Infection takes hold at a very early stage in life and constant treatment with antibiotics through the years will inevitably lead to antibiotic resistance. Combined with the very hostile inflammatory environment of the Cystic Fibrosis lung, which includes a build-up of mucus and other secretions, achieving optimal delivery of antibiotics or any other drugs is very difficult."
To try to find a strategy to deal with this, Cliff and several colleagues, Stuart Elborn, Marie Migaud and Chris Scott, came up with the idea of devising compounds that combine antibiotic and anti-inflammatory entities.
"I am working with Chris on the development of small delivery vehicles (nanoparticles) that may be used to penetrate the very hostile environment of the Cystic Fibrosis lung."
A drug discovery grant from EPSRC is allowing this work to progress. "The chemistry involved is quite tricky. We will test to make sure that the compounds, once we make them, are effective. We're joining them up and then we have to take them apart in such a way that we know they still work and that putting them together hasn't abolished the activity of the drugs."
The three-year project itself is a compound, "an interface between chemistry and biology, something that was a very important element of securing this grant. And it's important for the whole aspect of drug development. Increasingly we realise that there must be collaboration, chemists, biologists, pharmacists, clinicians. That may not always have been the case. We've been in our silos but now we're being encouraged to come out of them and collaborate.
"The life expectancy of someone born with Cystic Fibrosis used to be six months. Now people are living until their thirties, although they need huge numbers of drugs to keep them alive. Our aim is to develop a drug that will dampen the bacterial load and inflammation much more dramatically and allow individuals to have a lifespan that goes beyond what it currently is."
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