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activity of these proteases,” Schmid-Shönbein says, by using a nasal tube to deliver protease inhibitors directly into the stomach. “We don’t give it intravenously, because you can’t reach high enough concentrations quickly enough” to change the outcome as the digestive enzymes go on their rampage. Scientists have identified four compounds that bind to such enzymes, blocking their activity. Schmid-Shönbein says InflammaGen’s strategy is simple: conduct clinical tests that show how these compounds can safely and effectively block the enzymes. “We have a specific way of administering the drug, but we are not married to any particular drug,” he says.
AnoZyme is working on a different aspect of this auto-digestion mechanism that can be triggered as part of an inflammatory response. It came to light after Schmid-Shönbein’s lab discovered that rats going into hemorrhagic shock had a characteristic and distinctive breath. He says certain well-known volatile compounds arise when meat starts to break down in the presence of these digestive enzymes. So the Leading Ventures team formed AnoZyme as a separate company to develop a handheld diagnostic breathalyzer that ER physicians could use to tell if a patient is going into shock.
“As far as I know, Leading Ventures is very unique and the only one at UCSD that works so closely with faculty,” says Ochoa of the von Liebig center. “We think that Dr. Schmid Schönbein’s R&D is absolutely first-class and potentially groundbreaking in the field of medicine. [It] could have significant implications in the way patients are treated.”
Leading Ventures’ Rodenrys says the work at InflammaGen has reached the point where the group is ready to move from the laboratory to clinical trials. The startup now has an Institutional Review Board application pending, which means that InflammaGen is still at an early stage in proving its concept. It also helps explain why Leading Ventures plans to raise its first fund.