Purdue Secures $3.2m to Fight Deadly Bacterial Lung Infections & Seeks Commercialization Partner

Mar 10, 2020 | Acinetobacter baumannii, Antibiotics, Commercialization, Drug Delivery, Investor Watch, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Lung Infection, Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, Pulmonary, Superbugs

Purdue Secures $3.2m to Fight Deadly Bacterial Lung Infections & Seeks Commercialization Partner

Purdue University has received a $.32 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for its work to treat antibiotic-resistant lower respiratory infections—the fourth leading cause of death worldwide. Dangerous “superbugs” such as Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baumannii have been identified by the Infectious Diseases Society of America among the top six dangerous multidrug-resistant microorganisms. Led by Qi (Tony) Zhou, assistant professor in Purdue’s College of Pharmacy, the team will center their investigatory attention on alternative treatment strategies to combat the antimicrobial crisis.  Zhou’s Purdue team centers the study on advancing drug delivery technology that can benefit the treatment of other lung infections such as from tuberculosis and from viruses such as coronavirus. The University has patented the technology.

PI4D and Partners

This research grant is overseen by the Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology, and Infectious Disease (PI4D) and led by Zhou who is a leading investigator in the area of global antimicrobial resistance crisis and advancement of antibiotic drug delivery strategies and technologies.

PI4D will continue ongoing research involving the advancement of delivery of antibiotics to the lung. Partners involved in this endeavor include Australia’s Monash University, the University of North Carolina and the University of Michigan.

Polymyxins Need Help

Polymyxins as polypeptide antibiotics have been used increasingly as the last resort against Gram-negative “superbugs” reported Purdue in their press release. However, intravenous polymyxins are typically not effective for treatment of lung infections in many patients, due to the very limited exposure at the infection site and nephrotoxicity. Hence, lung infections caused by such resistant-bacteria are extremely difficult to treat. Overcoming this hurdle is  Zhou and team’s core mission.

New Treatment Strategies

Purdue will use the grant money to focus on alternative strategies for treating pulmonary infection caused by these bacteria. New rational combinations are needed to “rescue” this last-line class of antibiotics.

Advancing Drug Delivery in Lungs to Attack Bacteria

Zhou noted for Purdue’s press release by Chris Adam: “The first NIH grant awarded three years ago enabled us to reinvent the old injectable drug, polymyxins, into a new inhalation therapy.” He continued, “We incorporated two synergistic antibiotics into a single microparticle and deliver them directly to the deep lungs, which not only maximizes its therapeutic efficacy but also reduces the systemic side effects.” Now the Purdue team will upgrade this system by incorporating synergistic antibodies into a nano-sized liposome. A spherical vesicle formed from two or more lipid bilayers. The Purdue team articulates that they will introduce new benefits from using liposomes for inhalation therapy such as controlled release of the drugs and minimized local irritation in the airways.

Inhaling polymyxins can lead to local irritation which clinical trials reveal can compromise patients’ compliance.  Hence incorporating drugs into liposomes evidences improvements to local side effects in the airways based on some clinical studies. 

Zhou notes, “Our research not only develops new inhalation therapies, but also examines the mechanisms of drug-induced pulmonary side effects and tries to find out how liposomes protect the airway from side effects. In addition, such platform may also be applied for the treatment of other lung infections including tuberculosis and viral lung infections by loading different drugs.”

Commercializing the Technology with Partner

Zhou and team collaborate with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) to patent their technologies. The researchers are seeking a partner to continue testing and developing their technology.  Lead contact is Joseph Kasper at OTC.

Lead Research/Investigator

Qi (Tony) Zhou, assistant professor in Purdue’s College of Pharmacy

Call to Action: Purdue’s Office of Technology Commercialization, one of the nation’s most sophisticated such operations, seeks to partner to commercialize this drug delivery technology. For interest, contact Joseph Kasper at jrkasper@prf.org (reference track code 2018-ZHOU-68184).


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