WARF: P100038US02

Treating Pulmonary Disorders with Artificial Lung Surfactant


Samuel Gellman, Shannon Stahl, Brendan Mowery, Annelise Barron, Michelle Dohm

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing methods of treating respiratory distress syndromes using synthetic nylon-3 copolymers.
OVERVIEWLung surfactant (LS) is a lipid-protein mixture that coats the internal surface of the lungs. It reduces the work of breathing by helping to keep air sacs open and stable. Deficient or dysfunctional LS results in infant or acute respiratory distress syndromes (IRDS or ARDS, respectively).

IRDS syndrome can be treated with pig- or bovine-derived surfactant replacements. But these substances are not ideal because they carry the risk of animal infection and are expensive to extract and process on a large scale. No such treatment exists for ARDS, which afflicts 190,000 people in the U.S. every year from different causes, including lung injury.

A fresh approach is to chemically mimic two important LS proteins, SP-B and SP-C, from artificial sources. Attempts have focused on step-by-step, sequence-specific synthesis. Yet this is challenging given the complexity of both proteins. Easier methods would enable large-scale pharmaceutical development.
THE INVENTIONUW–Madison researchers and others have developed new artificial lung surfactants that mimic the SP-B protein. The materials are based on sequence-random copolymers that contain cationic and lipophilic subunits and are members of the nylon-3 family. They are prepared by ring-opening polymerization of beta-lactams. Also, N-terminal units can be attached to the copolymers to mimic surface tension properties exhibited by the SP-C protein.
  • Development of therapeutic lung surfactants
  • Production is cheaper and more efficient.
  • Effectively mimics natural proteins
  • Beta-peptides are more biostable.
STAGE OF DEVELOPMENTPromising in vitro surfactant activity has been demonstrated in a mixed lipid film. Pulsating bubble surfactometry (PBS) data indicate superior adsorptive and dynamic-cycling properties.
Contact Information
For current licensing status, please contact Rafael Diaz at or 608-960-9847.
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