Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a progressive condition that is characterised by chronic bronchitis (inflammation and narrowing of the airways) and emphysema (weakening of the structure of the lung). It is still unknown how the damage to the airways and lungs can be reversed. Current therapy is therefore aimed solely at relieving symptoms and preventing acute exacerbations of the disease. This leaves a huge unmet medical need for a therapy that would restore lung function capacity (through regeneration of lung tissue) and reduce COPD-associated mortality. In 2020, COPD will be the underlying cause of almost 7% of all deaths worldwide. Hence, a continued growth of the pharmaceutical market for COPD is expected, reaching 11.6 billion USD by 2017.
Using a functional genomics approach, the AEOLOS team discovered two novel proteins. The identified proteins are tightly co-expressed with the transcriptional programme responsible for the production and regeneration of differentiated airway cells. These findings can be translated to the lack of regenerative capacity in the lungs of COPD patients.
In a first stage, AEOLOS aims to further validate the concept that these novel target proteins hold the promise to re- induce lung cell regeneration. Next, AEOLOS aims to develop lead compounds that can be taken into clinical drug development by pharmaceutical companies. Moreover, structural protein analysis suggests that these novel target proteins offer a unique opportunity to cure chronic lung diseases through drug therapy.