Gates Foundation backs VCU aerosols team

Two VCU researchers who have collaborated for years to address challenges found in the field of medical aerosols have received a $3.2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The global nonprofit fighting poverty, disease, and inequity awarded the grant to P. Worth Longest, Ph.D. and Michael Hindle, Ph.D. The funds will expand their work at VCU on development of an inhaled lung surfactant for premature neonates. 

Longest leads the Aerosols in Medicine (AIM) Lab on the Monroe Park Campus at VCU and is the Louis S. and Ruth S. Harris Exceptional Scholar Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at the VCU College of Engineering. Hindle leads the Aerosol Research Group on the MCV Campus and holds the Peter R. Byron Distinguished Professorship in the VCU School of Pharmacy. 

“This could offer a simple treatment option for neonates with respiratory distress syndrome in low and middle-income countries,” Hindle said. He and Longest have collaborated for the past 15 years, and said they are pursuing patent protection and licensing for the IP and moving towards clinical testing.

While smaller particles are more effective in delivering drugs into the lungs and airways, tiny particles are often exhaled immediately when taking a dose. Traditional aerosol delivery systems — think asthma inhalers — effectively deliver just 10% of an aerosolized dose. While acceptable for most asthma and COPD sufferers who use standard inhalers, more efficient devices are needed to effectively use inhaled drugs for complex medical conditions and in challenging patient populations such as neonates. 

The Longest-Hindle team have developed new technologies to formulate and deliver these very small particles to the lungs with much higher efficiency.