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Aerovid: a unique drug-device combination to treat respiratory disorders induced by infections

Two years ago, the Walloon region allocated a budget of 2.3 million euros as part of a call for projects initiated by BioWin. The Aerovid project. Or how to develop a marketable drug-device combination suitable for treating patients with infection-induced respiratory disorders. That was the challenge which the Liège-based company Aquilon Pharma, specialised in improving the efficacy of inhaled drugs, agreed to take on by becoming the coordinator of a consortium composed of Radiomics, ULiège, ULB-CMMI, and UMONS-CMMI. Together, they are focusing on developing cyclodextrin-based inhaled therapies. These therapies will be administered with an innovative soft-mist inhaler device for the management of infection-induced respiratory disorders. We caught up with Natacha Rocks, AEROVID Project coordinator of Aquilon Pharma to get an update on the project’s progress.

Sandrine Bekaert, PhD, Non-Clinical & Translational Lead and Natacha Rocks, Chief Scientific Officer, Aquilon Pharma

What are the objectives of the project?

Aquilon Pharma aims to improve inhaled therapies by combining Innovative Drug Formulation Technology with Innovative Pulmonary Delivery Device Technology. The drug-device combination product that will be developed in the context of AEROVID will be designed to treat respiratory disorders induced by infections and to be used by homecare patients, outpatients, and the working population. is focused on developing an artificial intelligence (AI) tool designed to identify and quantify pulmonary abnormalities in specific patient categories. This innovative tool will propose a personalized medicine approach to meet individual needs and orientate treatments depending on patient categories.

Academic entities involved in the project aim to gain comprehensive insights into the cellular and molecular factors driving inflammation and chronic alterations in infection-induced respiratory disorders. Additionally, they seek to understand the mechanisms of action of proposed treatments for such respiratory disorders.

What advantages does your solution have in regard to standard of care solutions?

For any inhalation treatment, drug efficacy is mainly based on drug deposition in the deep lung, the main site of action of the drug, which strongly depends on both the drug characteristics (i.e. the formulation composition) and the inhaler device performance.

Despite these well-known notions, the drug lung deposition rates of currently marketed products are very low and heterogenous (often due to poor patient coordination, poor compliance or low device efficiency). This leads to poor drug efficacy and increases local and systemic side effects.

The drug-device combination that will be developed in the context of AEROVID, has great potential because the technology within the soft-mist device enables the medication to be delivered deeper in the patient’s lungs, where the inflammation is greatest. In addition, the anti-inflammatory action provided by the drug product developed by Aquilon is also up to 3 times more effective than current marketed medication, thus providing relief for patients at lower drug doses. Therefore, the new drug-device combination will have a twofold benefit. Another advantage provided by the soft-mist device is that it does not use propellant gas, and therefore provides a more environment-friendly alternative to pressurized metered dose inhalers that are currently being used.

What milestones did the consortium achieve 22 months after the start of the project and what is your next milestone?

After 22 months, significant progress has been achieved by the consortium from both a technological and scientific perspective. The project continues to be aligned with the company’s business strategies. The ultimate goal will be to ensure the development of a marketable drug-device combination suitable for treating patients with infection-induced respiratory disorders. Aquilon’s inhaled therapy effectively reduce the burden of viral infections through its unique drug-device combination product, global market remains the ultimate target. Indeed, our product stands as the only one contender to secure indication for this specific pathology.

How many patients suffering from infection-induced respiratory diseases could be helped with your disease management solution?

As reported by the World Health Organization (WHO), chronic respiratory diseases are among the leading causes of mortality and morbidity worldwide, and their prevalence continues to rise.

Around 25% of the total population have pulmonary disease antecedents, among which people with asthma (30%), COPD (50%) and other serious respiratory diseases (20%) should be distinguished.

For instance, in April 2022, according to the data conducted by the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), 42.7% of children aged 18 or younger and 52.9% of children under the age of 5 had asthma in the United States in 2020. Therefore, the increasing number of asthmatic disorders leads to an increase in the development of novel drugs, which will further drive the asthma drug market.

How is the collaboration with the other members of the consortium and what was the added value of BioWin?

The combination of expertise and know-how from partners, including the industrial partners Aquilon and and academic collaborators from ULiège, ULB, and UMONS plays a pivotal role in comprehending the mechanisms of infection-induced respiratory disorders and developing efficient therapies to target these respiratory pathologies and related disease exacerbations.

As such, the cyclodextrin-based formulation technology, the advanced image analysis and the development of experimental models depicting the mechanisms of infection-induced respiratory diseases will be of great value to reach the deliverables of the project and to propose a personalized medicine approach to reduce the burden of these respiratory diseases. All future developments will therefore benefit from this experience.

Working in partnership with BioWin added value to the project regarding:

  • The outside view, from experts in project set-up and follow up, which gives rise to very constructive exchanges that certainly help to improve the quality of the project.
  • An easy and present contact, who guided us on several practical and strategic points and allows different Walloon companies to work together in a mutual direction.

What is your hope for the future?

The goal is to build a strong team, enabling the Wallonia-based biotech consortium to play a significant role in the future, ultimately becoming a leading entity in the worldwide treatment of severe respiratory diseases and bring to market a new generation of high-performance inhalation therapies as well as artificial intelligence tools which will drive patient’s treatments to reach optimal efficiency.

“Discovering a technology capable of changing the daily lives of millions of people around the world is AQUILON’s goal”.

More about Aerovid
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