The past few months have been especially challenging for lung transplant patients.

With COVID-19 triggering an even greater threat to already fragile immune systems, many lung transplant patients are finding themselves even more isolated than ever as out-patient clinics closed and routine care came to a grinding halt.

At the Lung Transplant Foundation, we know that what has become a necessity for the general population due to COVID-19 is a routine way of life for transplant patients. And we recognize that lung transplant patients are on the front lines of the at-risk population during this public health crisis.

 The Lung Transplant Foundation brings hope to the lung transplant community by supporting research to improve long-term outcomes, helping patients and caregivers navigate the challenges of transplant by offering peer-to-peer mentoring, educating patients and caregivers on the transplant journey, and bridging the gap between the lung transplant population and companies on the forefront of emerging technologies to improve the quality of their lives.

 Despite the setbacks from COVID-19, there are bright spots on the horizon for the lung transplant community thanks to some of our partners who are working on innovative research and treatments to improve outcomes for lung transplant patients.

 A possible treatment for rejection

Altavant Sciences is currently developing treatments for two rare lung disorders: pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) and bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS), a life-threatening complication of lung transplant.

 “While there are currently no effective treatments for BOS, there is strong scientific evidence that a drug like our candidate, ALTA-2530, may quell the innate immune response that drives BOS,” says Altavant CEO William Symonds. “If this is proven success in clinical trials, we would hope to see improved outcomes for transplant patients and improved outlooks for the thousands who count on the lifesaving promise of a lung transplant.”

 Currently conducting preclinical studies for ALTA-2530, Altavant expects to initiate a Phase 1 study in 2021. Following the completion of the Phase 1 study, they will then work with the lung transplant community to test the efficacy and safety of ATLA-2530 in patients with diagnosed BOS.

 Clinical Research

The Clinical Trials in Organ Transplantation (CTOT) program is a network of investigators at five academic lung transplant centers lead by Dr. Scott Palmer, Associate Professor of Medicine and Vice Chair of Research for the Department of Medicine at Duke University Medica Center. CTOT represents one of the largest efforts among leading lung transplant centers to work collaboratively, share data and patient samples and the only one focused directly on understanding the risk factors and mechanisms of CLAD.

“This sort of collaborative work is a major advance in the field and we enrolled over 800 newly transplant patients in less than three years,” says Dr. Palmer. “This level of patient engagement in research is wonderful credit to our patients and our lung transplant community who want to contribute to helping others. Our ongoing studies and analysis of those patient’s outcomes after transplant will shed new light on how lung infections and lung injury impact the risk for development of CLAD and will suggest new ways to prevent and treat CLAD.”

As research has experienced a temporary shut down due to COVID-19, doctors increasingly are finding ways to remotely consent and collect data from patients for studies to minimize risk to them but also allow us to continue to move forward research despite COVID-19.

Lung Imaging Technology

4DMedical has developed XV Technology Lung Ventilation Analysis Software (LVAS), a unique imaging process which produces valuable reports that illustrate lung health in an intuitive and engaging manner. LVAS is now FDA-cleared for use in the U.S. This is good news for all lung disease patients and especially the lung transplant community, their families and healthcare providers.

“The good news is all adult patients with lung disease, both acute and chronic can benefit for our XV Technology,” says Andreas Fouras, CEO of 4D Medical. “This includes those with Asthma, COPD, Cystic Fibrosis, Lung infections, Pulmonary Hypertension through to patients considering Lung transplant or indeed post-transplant monitoring can potentially benefit. We are confident that XV Technology will lead to better lung transplant patient outcomes.”

Knowing COVID-19 involves a potential life-threatening virus affecting predominately the lungs, it is encouraging to know that XV Technology LVAS can potentially help patients in this pandemic. This includes providing better information on a patient’s lung health status to healthcare professionals. This can help manage limited resources especially in the advent of spikes.

Lung Preservation System

Every year, doctors perform more than 5,000 lung transplants around the world—yet the number of people in need of this life-saving procedure is several magnitudes greater. Meanwhile lung transplantation technology and delivery systems have remained unchanged for 50 years. There aren’t enough donor lungs for the patients who need them, and even when they do get them, they are often transported improperly and arrive injured as current ice cooler methods provide no temperature or pressure control. The Paragonix Team set out to design a more intuitive, safer product and user experience that would give the clinical teams, transplant recipient, and donor lungs every possible advantage to succeed and thrive.

This first-of-its-kind device developed by Paragonix incorporates clinically-proven and medically-trusted cold preservation techniques in an intuitive, sterile suspension system that provides unprecedented physical and thermal protection. The product is designed to function with ease in extremely stressful, fast-paced environments where there is no room for mistakes. Paragonix’s LUNGguard has received FDA-premarket notification in February 2020 and the company will shortly announce U.S. and European product availability of this novel lung preservation device.

“There is no other organ preservation system on the market that provides this level of transparency and consistency—and it is also the only commercially-available, FDA-cleared and CE-marked medical device for lung transportation, says Lisa Anderson, Paragonix President and COO. “We take responsibility in supporting transplant patients and their physicians as being of paramount importance and we are prepared and able to provide support 24/7.”

Advances in telemedicine for lung transplant patients

The team at patientMpower has been working with people who have had lung transplants, and their clinical teams, for nearly three years. Their digital platform enables people who’ve had a lung transplant to monitor all of their vital signs at home, including lung function, temperature, oxygen saturation, and much more, and share this with their clinical teams back at their lung transplant center.

“Back then, we knew how valuable this was, to both patients and clinicians, in providing the reassurance of frequent (every day!) check-ups without the need for patients to travel to their transplant center,” says Eamonn Costello, patientMpower CEO. “But we never could have envisaged a time then when patients couldn’t attend a hospital for their routine check-ups. We feel so fortunate to have developed a technology back then that has proved to be so essential in the current crisis. We have been working hard to set up many new lung transplant centers with our home technology throughout COVID-19.

patientMpower has quadrupled the size of its team in the last few months to keep up with the demand for their home monitoring services. In addition to the demand for existing solutions, they were able to put expertise in this area to good use to quickly develop a solution for home monitoring of people with COVID-19. This has been used by hospitals across Ireland (where they have an office) where it has helped hospitals manage their capacity and resources, and it is now being used in the U.S. and the U.K. too.

“Empowering patients to better manage their own conditions has always been the core of what we do,” says Costello. “And COVID-19 has only reinforced this approach. More than ever it is so important for patients to be in control of their condition, with the support of the clinical team.”

About the Lung Transplant Foundation

The mission of the Lung Transplant Foundation is to improve the lives of lung transplant patients and families. This is accomplished by promoting and advancing research in order to improve long-term outcomes among lung transplant recipients, educating and promoting awareness about organ donation, through patient support, education and advocacy.