TYLER, Texas — The UT Health Science Center has a history of fighting against lung diseases like tuberculosis.
Over time, they have expanded their reach to biomedical and clinical research, and doctors at the UT Health North Campus are staying true to the hospital's origin.
For two decades, doctors Steve Idell and Sreerama Shetty have been conducting research for diseases like pulmonary fibrosis, which is scarring in the lungs.
"The original objective was to determine how cellular survival was actually determined," Dr. Idell said.
That led to the discovery of something different while conducting pre-clinical studies.
"This fragment of a protein... which is now called LTI-03, was very effective in preventing and then actually reversing fibrosis," he said.
Now an Austin company, Lung Therapuetics, is helping to commercialize it.
"As an option for people with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis which has a poor outcome in most cases," Dr. Idell explained.
In the U.S., about 40,000 people die each year because of lung scarring.
LTI-03 has been manufactured to test if it will help people.
"It is ready to go in an inhalation way to be given essentially for patients to inhale it and see whether it's safe," he said.
A study to see if the drug works will be performed in Belfast later this year and should take about a year.
From there, Dr. Idell said "It'll take six months to do the safety studies. So the stage the safety studies are going to take a year to complete and then the efficacy studies will probably be two to three years."
Dr. Idell says he hopes LTI-03 will be FDA approved and available for patients to use in the next couple of years.
"If it works, it's the real work of my life," said Dr. Sreerama Shetty. "Otherwise as I said we try our best and rest of things is not in our hands."