Scripps Research discoveries lead to newly approved drug for infant respiratory distress syndrome

March 7, 2012
Scripps Research Institute professor emeritus Charles Cochrane, M.D., led work that laid the foundation for the new drug Surfaxin, now approved in the United States for the treatment of infant respiratory distress syndrome. Credit: Courtesy of The Scripps Research Institute.

Scientific advances at The Scripps Research Institute have led to a new drug Surfaxin (lucinactant), approved today by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat infant respiratory distress syndrome.

"I am excited that our scientific findings will help save lives," said Charles Cochrane, MD, professor emeritus at Scripps Research. "Many years of work in our basic research laboratory at The Scripps Research Institute made this landmark development possible."

(also known as neonatal syndrome) is a life-threatening condition affecting pre-term infants. The more premature an infant is, the more likely he or she is to suffer from it and die.

The condition occurs when infants are born prior to the time when natural surfactant is made in their lungs. Surfactant is a liquid that coats the inside of the lungs, helping to keep the air sacs open and making normal breathing possible. Without enough surfactant, the lungs collapse and the body can be starved of oxygen.

In addition to , current treatments for pre-term infants involve using surfactants derived from chopped cow or pig lungs. However, animal-derived surfactants are expensive, contain material that can be injurious to the lungs, and cannot be produced in quantities sufficient to treat pre-term infants worldwide. In addition, animal-derived surfactants can only be used once since they cause an ; in contrast, the new synthetic surfactant is not immunogenic.

The Cochrane lab first created a synthetic version of surfactant in the 1990s, mimicking a natural peptide known as Surfactant Protein B; the inventors of the technology are Cochrane and Susan Revak. After this formative work at Scripps Research, the therapy was developed by Discovery Labs of Warrington, PA, which oversaw the three phases of clinical trials required by the FDA. These clinic trials provided data on the drug's success.

Explore further: Guidelines for ventilator use help premature infants breathe easier

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Monkeys in Asia harbor virus from humans, other species

November 19, 2015

When it comes to spreading viruses, bats are thought to be among the worst. Now a new study of nearly 900 nonhuman primates in Bangladesh and Cambodia shows that macaques harbor more diverse astroviruses, which can cause ...

One-step test for hepatitis C virus infection developed

November 14, 2015

UC Irvine Health researchers have developed a cost-effective one-step test that screens, detects and confirms hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections. Dr. Ke-Qin Hu, director of hepatology services, will present findings at the ...

Computer model reveals deadly route of Ebola outbreak

November 10, 2015

Using a novel statistical model, a research team led by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health mapped the spread of the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, providing the most detailed picture to date ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.