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Strengthening lungs of premature infants
President John F. Kennedy would have had another heir had not his second son died from respiratory distress syndrome, which doomed many premature babies before the development of drugs to replace the lung surfactant they lacked at birth.
Since 1999, nearly 500,000 premature infants have been rescued with the use of Infasurf lung surfactant administered to assist their breathing in the first critical hours after birth.
Infasurf was developed by Edmund A. Egan and the late Bruce A. Holm, researchers in UB’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences who began their work in the 1980s. Egan is professor of pediatrics and also president and chief executive officer of ONY, Inc., manufacturer of the drug. ONY, located in UB’s Technology Incubator in Amherst, has 29 employees. Holm, a SUNY Distinguished Professor, had served as UB senior vice provost and executive director of UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.
An adult form of the drug, Pneumasurf, is being developed by a new company involving Egan and Holm called Pneuma Pharmaceuticals Inc. and is in phase three clinical trials involving an international collaboration of health science centers. Pneumasurf is targeted at patients requiring mechanical ventilators as the result of Direct Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, which affects some 100,000 previously healthy adults annually in the U.S. and has a 35 percent mortality rate.