Funding boost to develop lung treatment for premature babies

Associate Professor Rebecca Lim has been awarded $300,000 from the Victorian Medical Research Acceleration Fund to progress her laboratory’s research into a new regenerative medicine, to treat an incurable chronic lung disease affecting very and extremely premature babies. The therapy could also be used for other respiratory conditions, including COVID-19.

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) affects babies born between 28  and 32 weeks, or less than 28 weeks’ gestation. A/Prof Lim’s team is at the forefront of therapies using human amnion epithelial cells—cells from the amniotic sac—for BPD. However, bioactive nanoparticles released by these amniotic cells, called amniotic exosomes, are equally as effective but cheaper to manufacture, store, transport and use. “We now propose to develop this disruptive technology, namely amniotic exosome therapeutics,” A/Prof Lim said.

A/Prof Lim said her laboratory recently completed a study demonstrating that amniotic exosomes restore lung architecture and function in experimental BPD. She said her team is developing cell lines for scalable production of amniotic exosomes for BPD and other respiratory conditions, including COVID-19.

What are amniotic epithelial cells?

Amniotic epithelial cells (amnion cells) are from the amniotic sac which surrounds a baby during pregnancy. They have stem cell-like properties and can grow into many cell types. Most importantly, they have potent effects on inflammation and tissue damage.

Read more about A/Prof Lim’s research on page 18 of the 2019 Annual Report.

About the Victorian Medical Research Acceleration Fund

A/Prof Lim’s project was one of 12 across a range of fields awarded a share in $3 million from the Victorian Medical Research Acceleration Fund.

The VMRAF aims to

  • Support early stage research including discovery research, clinical research and health practice
  • Provide up to $3 million in research grants available per round to help address current market research gaps.
  • Develop collaborative partnerships between health services, industry, medical research institutes and universities, both nationally and internationally to provide a collective impact for research projects.

A/Prof Lim’s research was also referenced in this media release from the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews as an integral part of the Centre for Commercialisation of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM).

Victorian Medical Research Acceleration Fund

Associate Professor Rebecca Lim from the Amnion Cell Biology Research Group at Hudson Institute

Developing a low-cost, regenerative medicine for extremely premature babies at high risk of developing severe and chronic respiratory disease

Associate Professor Rebecca Lim

Grant: 2020 – 2021

Amount: $300,000

Co-investigators: Dr Dandan Zhu MD (Hudson Institute), Professor Euan Wallace AM (Monash University), Dr Atul Malhotra MD (Monash Children's Hospital, Monash Health), Mr Robert Merriel (Hudson Institute), Dr Janet Macpherson PhD (Cytiva), Sandra Kuligowski PhD (Thermo Fisher)

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is an incurable chronic lung disease that commonly affects babies born very (28 – 32 weeks) or extremely (<28 weeks) premature.

Associate Professor Rebecca Lim’s research group is at the forefront of human amnion epithelial cell (hAEC) therapies for BPD and completed the world’s first clinical trial using allogeneic hAECs for BPD.

However, bioactive nanoparticles released by hAECs called amniotic exosomes are equally effective as hAECs but cheaper to manufacture, store, transport and use. The research group now propose to develop this disruptive technology, namely amniotic exosome therapeutics, into a new modality of regenerative medicine.

 

Research Group leading this work