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Helleday group awarded ERC Proof of Concept for new treatment for severe pneumonia and fibrosis

Published: 2020-04-30


SciLifeLab researcher Thomas Helleday (Karolinska Institutet) and his group have been awarded the prestigious ERC Proof of Concept Grant, awarded by the European Research Council (ERC), for the fourth time. The grant will be used to develop new anti-inflammatory drugs for lung diseases such as pneumonia and fibrosis.

The researchers now plan to further develop an OGG1 inhibitor which inhibits the OGG1 enzyme, capable of repairing oxidant damage to DNA and trigger inflammation. In a study, published in Science in 2018, the group demonstrated that OGG1 inhibitors can reduce signals that can be related to both inflammation and fibrosis, such as TNF-α.

Since the researchers now believe they are looking at a more general anti-inflammatory mechanism they have teamed up with other groups.

“We will now be teaming up with Lund University to investigate if it also works on severe pneumonia and fibrosis, areas in which no treatments are currently available. We have started collaborating with other research groups specialising in rheumatoid arthritis, liver fibrosis and psoriasis”, says Thomas Helleday (SciLifeLab/KI), in a press release from KI.

The group has already received three ERC Proof of Concept Grants and two ERC Advanced Grants, which is a record for ERC grants in Sweden.

“The key has been to create a multidisciplinary group with expertise in a range of fields, like cell biology, biochemistry, pharmaceutical chemistry and pharmacology from both academia and industry. For this, the ERC grants have been absolutely essential”, says Thomas Helleday.

The OGG1 discovery is the result of years of hard work that the group has spent studying how the body repairs DNA. They now hope, amongst other things, to use their findings to fight cancer by targeting the DNA of tumour cells.

Photo: KI, Ulf Sirborn