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Professor Peter Barnes (NHLI) joined the College in 1985, becoming Head of Thoracic Medicine two years later. He is a co-founder of RespiVert, an Imperial spin-out company developing a novel treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) using inhalable drugs.
COPD refers to chronic bronchitis and emphysema, a pair of commonly coexisting diseases of the lungs in which the airways become narrowed. COPD affects 10 per cent of the UK population aged over 40, is the most common cause of hospital admission in the UK and is the only frequent cause of death to have increased in prevalence over the last 40 years.
Peter explains that a key issue with the current treatments is that they cannot relieve the inflammation caused by the disease, which is resistant to steroids. Those treatments which have some impact on the inflammation, are relatively toxic so can only be taken in very small doses, limiting their usefulness.
The drugs RespiVert is developing are different from current treatments for COPD in a number of ways. They’re effective against steroidresistant inflammation, tests to date have shown no dangerous levels of toxicity in Respivert’s drugs and they have functional benefits in that they are inhalable and site specific. Finally, some of the drugs under development have other ‘bonus’ effects, such as the ability to limit viral infections in COPD patients, so they can treat one of the exacerbations of prolonged inflammation as well as treating the inflammation itself.
RespiVert was founded in 2007 with help from Imperial Innovations, and the company has labs in the Imperial Bioincubator on the South Kensington Campus. Peter says “working in the bioincubator has been a real boost: being so close to other startups has meant we’re all able to offer each other advice and assistance”.
Gavin Reed, Imperial Innovations