A Durable, Low-Cost Exogenous Pulmonary Surfactant
The availability of a durable, low-cost surfactant is one key to the surfactant therapy's adoption in resource-limited healthcare settings.
Pulmonary surfactant is a surface-tension lowering fluid that coats the inside of our lungs, and makes it easier for the alveoli to stay open and permit efficient gas exchange. Many premature infants suffer from respiratory distress and require respiratory support or mechanical ventilation because their lungs are underdeveloped and collapse due to the lack of adequate surfactant.
In countries like the United States, it is common to give premature infants suffering from respiratory distress replacement pulmonary surfactant. This surfactant is typically formulated from the processed lungs of pigs, cows or other animals and is administered directly into an infant's lungs. This biological surfactant is difficult to process, is extremely expensive, needs to be kept at cool temperatures and requires personnel skilled at administration. These factors place surfactant therapy beyond the reach of many healthcare facilities in resource-limited healthcare settings.
Supported by a Grand Challenges Exploration Grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and led by Dr. Charles "Skip" Smith, the NeoRest team is pursuing the development of an affordable, appropriate, artificial surfactant called GenExSurf. GenExSurf is based on an existing, off-patent surfactant product called Exosurf and shows great promise for use in developing countries, as it can be produced at a very low cost and may not require a cold chain for transportation. The NeoRest team is currently studying various GenExSurf formulations and will conduct pre-clinical trials in the near future.