FAIR project: investigating treatments for antibiotic-resistant pneumonia

An international consortium of interdisciplinary specialists is set to a launch a new European Union (EU) wide research project that will focus on improving the treatment of antibiotic-resistant pneumonia.

Pneumonia is a type of respiratory tract infection that causes the tiny air sacs in the lungs (called alveoli) to become inflamed and fill with fluid, making it difficult to breathe. Despite often being preventable, pneumonia is the third leading cause of death worldwide and it especially affects children and the elderly.

The new research initiative, called FAIR [1], gathers experts from several of Europe’s leading medical and scientific institutions, including the ERS. It will receive a total of €10 million in funding from EU Horizon 2020 grants over five years, beginning in January 2020 until December 2024.

The FAIR team aims to investigate therapies that may be used as an alternative to antibiotic treatment for pneumonia in order to address the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), as the World Health Organization estimates that bacterial infections due to AMR will become the leading cause of death worldwide by 2050.

Specialists working on the FAIR project will focus their investigations on the innate immune system, as they say it is an area of drug discovery in infectious disease that has been underexploited thus far. The strategy will be to investigate the delivery of a host-directed adjunct therapeutic, namely flagellin (a type of globular protein), to infected tissue in order to enhance the effectiveness of first-line antibiotics.

The FAIR team will target the airways using a nebulizer to stimulate local innate immune defences, which are universal and have broad spectrum effects, as this should avoid systemic adverse effects and concentrate the therapeutic effect at the target site of infection.

Further, the FAIR team will examine the adjunct therapy’s acceptability for patients and healthcare professionals, and they will use health economic modelling to assess the potential for nebulized flagellin to be a cost-effective, affordable adjunct to conventional treatment of AMR pneumonia in European healthcare systems.

Jean-Claude Sirard, scientific coordinator of FAIR and team leader at the Institut Pasteur de Lille, explained: “For the first time, the FAIR team will align the analysis of immune responses in the context of the treating of antibiotic-resistant pneumonia. Our analysis will include an immunostimulatory biologic, and we plan to conduct a phase I clinical trial using the respiratory route in order to identify the relationship between molecular and cellular profiles in blood cells and tissues, and disease treatment.”

He continued: “Our methods also use high-resolution, multi-omics profiling analysis, and mathematical modelling to identify molecular patterns that better predict response or non-response to standard antibiotic therapies, and the boosting of innate defences. We believe that this comprehensive, unique approach will help to identify paths that can improve management of pneumonia.”

The eventual goal of the FAIR team is to develop a first-in-class drug capable of increasing immunity, thus improving the effectiveness of antibiotics in antibiotic-resistant pneumonia. By involving medical associations in close partnership with patient groups, FAIR also hopes to share new knowledge and key outcomes into clinics more swiftly.

The FAIR project will formally begin following the team’s first meeting in Paris, France from 13-14 January, 2020. The FAIR project website will launch in March 2020.

More information about the FAIR project

[1] The ‘Flagellin Aerosol therapy as an Immunomodulatory adjunct to the antibiotic treatment of drug-Resistant bacterial pneumonia’ (FAIR) project is led by Inserm.

The project duration is 60 months in total, beginning in January 2020 until December 2024.

This project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Societal Challenges 1 Health, demographic change and wellbeing - Work Programme under grant agreement No. 847786. A total of €10 million in funding will be allocated for the project.

The project partners:

Partner organisation name and website Country
Academisch Medisch Centrum Bij de Universiteit Van Amsterdam; www.uva.nl NL
Aerogen Ltd; www.aerogen.com IE
Centre Hospitalier Regional Universitaire de Tours; www.chu-tours.fr FR
Epithelix Sarl; www.epithelix.com CH
European Respiratory Society; www.ersnet.org CH
Freie Universitaet Berlin; www.fu-berlin.de DE
Inserm Transfert Sa; www.inserm-transfert.com FR
Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale; www.inserm.fr FR
Statens Serum Institut; www.ssi.dk DK
Universite de Lille; www.univ-lille.fr FR
University of Southampton; www.southampton.ac.uk UK