Associate Professor Kathleen Rodgers has been awarded a grant of more than $1 million from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to explore the potential of a novel drug her laboratory developed for treating Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
DMD is a genetic disorder caused by the lack of dystrophin, a protein that helps keep muscle cells intact. The loss of this important protein results in progressive muscle degeneration and weakness that worsens more rapidly than other types of muscular dystrophy. DMD typically strikes boys, with symptoms usually manifesting before age 6, and occurs in approximately one out of every 3,500 male infants worldwide.
The financial costs of treating DMD patients is estimated to be more than $362 million annually in the U.S. alone, but the toll on quality of life is even more staggering as few people afflicted with DMD survive beyond their 30s and many die in their early 20s. Current treatments for the disease are not capable of arresting or reversing the progression of the disease, intensifying the need for new therapies.
The drug under development in the Rodgers lab offers these patients new hope. In a pilot project she conducted, injections of the therapeutic not only reduced muscle inflammation and fibrosis, but also increased muscle strength. This DoD grant will fund further development of this experimental drug.
Based on the study results, Rodgers plans to hold a pre-investigational new drug application meeting with the FDA. The grant was awarded through the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity.
Rodgers is an associate professor in the Titus Family Department of Clinical Pharmacy. Over the past few decades, her research has focused on the ability of angiotensin peptides to regenerate injured tissue with implications for many diseases including diabetes and various cancers.