Two research teams based at the University of Chicago have received prestigious grants from the National Institutes of Health to develop novel medications to treat sleep apnea and asthma. The grants are designed to accelerate discovery of effective pharmaceutical treatments during the critical second stage of a drug’s development, the period between the discovery of a potential new medication and the first round of human clinical trials. The sought-after Centers for Advanced Diagnostics and Experimental Therapeutics in Lung Diseases Stage II grants (known as CADET II grants) were awarded to ten teams nationwide.
Both sleep apnea and severe asthma affect millions of people, but each has limited treatment options. In sleep apnea, the body fails to regulate breathing when someone sleeps, causing oxygen levels to drop precipitously.

With support from a previous CADET I grant, Solway’s team has already identified a small molecule that interferes with the formation of airway smooth muscle myosin filaments -- a key component in muscle performance.
As in the sleep apnea study, the next step is to optimize the potency and safety of the lead compound derivatives and learn the best ways to deliver them by inhalation.
They will also partner with cell physiologists at Harvard, drug development experts at Purdue, Minnesota and Iowa, as well as medicinal chemists at the NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.
For people with apnea, oxygen levels in the blood drop precipitously during sleep, sometimes by half. Chronic sleep apnea disrupts sleep, causing constant sleepiness, poor concentration and increased risk of accidents.

As a result, people with severe apneas briefly -- or sometimes not so briefly -- stop breathing, often hundreds of times a night. Early tests found that it could normalize sleep-disordered breathing in a rodent model of sleep apnea -- also developed by the Prabhakar laboratory.

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