FDA Awarding Grants for Research into Rare Diseases

SEPTEMBER 25, 2018
Officials with the US FDA this week announced that they have awarded 12 new clinical trial research grants totaling more than $18 million over the next 4 years to enhance the development of medical products for patients with rare diseases. These new grants were awarded to principal investigators from academia and industry across the country.

The FDA awarded the grants through the Orphan Products Clinical Trials Grants Program. The grants are intended for academic and industry investigators on clinical studies that evaluate the safety and effectiveness of products that could either result in, or substantially contribute to, the FDA approval of products targeted to the treatment of rare diseases. Grant applications were reviewed and evaluated for scientific and technical merit by more than 100 rare disease experts, which included representatives from academia, the National Institutes of Health and the FDA.

The grant recipients, principal investigators and approximate funding amounts, listed alphabetically, are: 
  • Alkeus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Cambridge, Massachusetts), Leonide Saad, phase 2 study of ALK-001 for the treatment of Stargardt disease – $1.75 million over 4  years
  • Arizona State University-Tempe Campus (Tempe, Arizona), Keith Lindor, phase 2 study of oral vancomycin for the treatment of primary sclerosing cholangitis – $2 million over 4 years
  • Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles), Shlomo Melmed, phase 2 study of seliciclib for the treatment of Cushing disease – $2 million over 4 years
  • Columbia University of New York (New York), Yvonne Saenger, phase 1 study of talimogene laherparepvec for the treatment for advanced pancreatic cancer –  $750,000 over 3 years
  • Emory University (Atlanta), Eric Sorscher, phase 1/ 2 study of Ad/PNP fludarabine for the treatment of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma – $1.5 million over 3 years
  • Fibrocell Technologies, Inc. (Exton, Pennsylvania), John Maslowski, phase 1/2 study of gene-modified ex-vivo autologous fibroblasts for the treatment of dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa – $1.5 million over 4 years
  • Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore), Amy Dezern, phase 1/2 study of CD8-reduced T cells for the treatment of myelodysplastic syndrome or acute myeloid leukemia – $750,000 over 3 years
  • Oncolmmune, Inc. (Rockville, Maryland) Yang Liu, phase 2b study of CD24Fc for the prevention of graft versus host disease – $2 million over 4 years
  • Patagonia Pharmaceuticals, LLC (Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey), Zachary Rome, phase 2 study of PAT-001 (isotretinoin) for the treatment of congenital ichthyosis – $1.5 million over 3 years
  • The General Hospital Corporation (Boston), Stephanie Seminara, phase 2 study of kisspeptin for the treatment of dopamine agonist intolerant hyperprolactinemia – $1.4 million over 4 years
  • University of Minnesota (Minneapolis), Kyriakie Sarafoglou, phase 2a study of subcutaneous hydrocortisone infusion pump for the treatment of congenital adrenal hyperplasia – $1.4 million over 3 years
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), Matthew Laughon, phase 2 study of sildenafil for the prevention of bronchopulmonary dysplasia – $2 million over 4 years
“Since its creation in 1983, the Orphan Products Grants Program has provided more than $400 million to fund more than 600 new clinical studies,” said Debra Lewis, O.D., acting director of the FDA’s Office of Orphan Products Development. “We are encouraged to see so much interest in our grants program and are pleased to support research for a variety of rare diseases that have little, or no, treatment options for patients.”

One-third (33 percent) of the new awards aim to accelerate cancer research by enrolling patients with rare forms of cancer, including advanced pancreatic cancer, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, myelodysplastic syndrome and acute myeloid leukemia. Another 25 percent of the new awards fund studies evaluating drug products for rare endocrine disorders, including Cushing disease, dopamine agonist intolerant hyperprolactinemia and congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Another study addresses an unmet need in primary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare, chronic and potentially serious bile duct disease. 

About 42% of the grants fund studies that enroll children and adolescents, targeting a variety of rare diseases in children. 
 
To date, the program’s grants have supported research that led to the marketing approval of more than 60 orphan products. Among the recent product approvals which were supported by studies funded by this grants program are a marketing approval for a much-needed treatment of HIV-1 infection in adults with multidrug resistant HIV-1 infection and another approval to reduce the acute complications of sickle cell disease in adult and pediatric patients.

The FDA is also currently supporting 6 natural history studies for rare diseases to further advance the mission of bringing new therapies to market.

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