After a while, the son of the mistress of the house fell sick, and his illness grew worse, until he had no breath left in him. (1 Kings, 17:17)
Diseases that cause the airways in the lungs to constrict and to be blocked by mucous – such as bronchiolitis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis (CF) can be not only disabling but also fatal in children, as well as in adults.
Now, a novel technology for unblocking and removing secretions from airways for the treatment of patients suffering from diseases affecting the respiratory tract has been announced by BGN Technologies, the technology-transfer company of Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev in Beersheba. The technique was developed at BGU, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the University of Cincinnati (UC), and Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba.
The technology introduces air pressure and acoustic pulses into the airway and lungs over a low-pressure airstream aimed to treat the core of obstructive airways pathophysiology diseases and buildup of mucus in the small airways. The idea is to apply simultaneously a combination of low-frequency flow oscillations and high-frequency acoustic waves to facilitate detachment of the mucus from the airway wall and removal of mucus by breaking down or agglomerating mucus chunks.
The technology is being developed through a collaboration between Prof. David Katoshevski of the unit of environmental engineering at BGU and Dr. Yuval Cavari from Soroka, along with Prof. Ephraim Gutmark at UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and College of Medicine and Assistant Prof. Iris Little, a veteran endocrinologist at Cincinnati Children’s.
“Finding treatments for small airways diseases is of special interest to us since children’s airways are more susceptible to airway obstruction due to secretion because of smaller airways cross-sectional area,” said Little. “Cincinnati Children’s is a world leader in treating patients with CF and airway clearance is an integral part of their clinical care practice.”
“The combination of air pulsation and acoustic waves was shown to be effective in a series of lab tests that simulated human airway and lungs. Our collaboration with Cincinnati Children’s and BGU laid the foundation for developing this novel technique. In light of these studies, we are now in the process of further developing a device based on a unique clinical protocol that will offer treatment superior to existing solutions,” added Gutmark.
“Even though airway secretions are a major component in the pathophysiology of numerous serious diseases affecting the respiratory tract, there is currently no effective therapeutic modality that directly or indirectly treats the small airways,” stated Prof. David Katoshevski, of BGU. “Our colleagues at Soroka and Cincinnati Children’s brought the medical knowledge and unmet need that was coupled with our technical and engineering capabilities, and together we developed this innovative solution in order to allow bronchiolitis, COPD and CF patients to breathe freely.”
Seven years ago, BGU and Cincinnati Children’s entered into a multi-year collaboration to address the lack of medical devices designed specifically for children. The goal of the collaboration is to improve health outcomes for children by ensuring device design that is customized to meet children’s unique physiology and medical needs.
The collaboration pairs BGU’s technical and engineering capabilities with the medical expertise of Cincinnati Children’s physicians. To date, hundreds of projects have been reviewed under the collaboration, out of which selected ones have received the first round of funding, with all funding contingent upon achieving project-specific developmental milestones. The funds are contributed by both BGU and Cincinnati Children’s.
“This is another example of a potentially effective therapeutic device that emerged from our fruitful research collaboration with Cincinnati Children,” commented Netta Cohen, CEO of BGN Technologies. “We are advancing the development of this technology that is applicable for a wide range of indications while seeking a strategic partner for further development and commercialization of this breakthrough invention.”
COPD is a common respiratory condition characterized by airflow limitation caused by a combination of small airways disease, alveolar septa destruction and impaired secretions clearance. The condition affects more than 5% of the population and is associated with high morbidity and death rates. It is the third most common cause of death in the US, killing more than 120,000 people – mostly chronic smokers – each year. Patients with chronic bronchitis can benefit considerably from a device for secretion removal. To date, there has been no effective therapeutic method that directly or indirectly treats the small airways secretions.
BGN Technologies brings technological innovations from the lab to the market and fosters research collaborations and entrepreneurship among researchers and students. So far, BGN Technologies has established over 100 startup companies in the fields of biotech, hi-tech and cleantech as well as initiating leading technology hubs, incubators, and accelerators.