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LA BioMed receives Grand Challenges Explorations grant

LOS ANGELES (May 15, 2012) The Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed) announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Frans J. Walther, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, LA BioMed lead investigator and Professor of Pediatrics at UCLA, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled "Aerosol Delivery of Synthetic Lung Surfactant."

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Dr. Walther's project is one of over 100 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"Grand Challenges Explorations encourages individuals worldwide to expand the pipeline of ideas where creative, unorthodox thinking is most urgently needed," said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "We're excited to provide additional funding for select grantees so that they can continue to advance their idea towards global impact."

To receive funding, Dr. Walther and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and nutrition. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9, will be accepted through May 15, 2012.

Seven percent of all infants are born prematurely. Half of them develop breathing problems because their lungs are immature and lack surfactant, a substance consisting of lipids and proteins that reduces surface tension in the lungs and is pivotal in keeping lungs open during expiration. The application of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) via the nose throughout the respiratory cycle during spontaneous breathing has revolutionized the treatment of respiratory failure in premature infants.

Nasal CPAP assists in opening and keeping open the lungs from birth onwards and is applicable in both high and low technical settings. If this noninvasive approach fails, the next step is to insert a breathing tube, start mechanical ventilation, and instill a clinical lung surfactant into the airways. This approach is not only invasive, but may damage the lungs and requires advanced skills and equipment. Delivery of an advanced synthetic lung surfactant as an aerosol will open up the possibility to use this rescue treatment in a non-invasive way. The combination of nasal CPAP and aerosolized synthetic lung surfactant will first be tested in a laboratory setting. If successful , this new approach will be further developed for clinical use.


Contact: Diana Soltesz
Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed)

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