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Illustration of the structures of the human lung

UB pharmacologist awarded $400,000 grant to improve antibody delivery in lungs


Published June 9, 2017

Javier G. Blanco
“Inhalation may be a more practical way of delivering these drugs.”
Javier G. Blanco, associate professor
School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

With the support of a $400,000 grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), a UB researcher will investigate how therapeutic antibodies are handled in the human lung.

The study, led by Javier G. Blanco, associate professor in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, will examine FcRn, a receptor in the lungs that is key to transporting antibodies in and out of various tissues.

Understanding this receptor and the epigenetic factors that control its expression may help pharmacologists improve delivery of medications used to treat pulmonary diseases, particularly monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), a group of drugs that have revolutionized treatment for a variety of diseases.

There are 47 mAbs in the U.S. and Europe, the vast majority of which are delivered by injection, a method that may be uncomfortable for some patients or problematic for ensuring appropriate mAbs levels in tissues, Blanco says.

His research is a small step toward initial development of “inhaled mAbs,” which may be more effective at treating lung cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other pulmonary diseases.

“Inhalation may be a more practical way of delivering these drugs,” he says. “Inhalation can potentially deliver high concentrations of therapeutic antibodies into the bloodstream or help to concentrate these drugs directly into the lungs. Understanding how to manipulate the expression of FcRn in the lungs is crucial to control the trafficking of mAbs and making them more effective.”

The two-year pilot study will use donated lung-tissue samples to examine if variables such as age, gender or ethnicity alter the expression of FcRn. All samples will contain no evidence of lung disease.

In addition to variability in expression, Blanco will measure the abundance of these receptors and their location in different types of lung cells.

Future research will study FcRn expression in the lung tissue of individuals affected by lung cancer, COPD and other prevalent pulmonary diseases.