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Aqualung Therapeutics Wins $225K NIH Grant to Develop Respiratory Distress Biomarker Panel

NEW YORK — Aqualung Therapeutics said on Tuesday that it has been awarded a $225,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a panel of biomarkers, called CRIT-ICU, for stratifying patients at risk for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

With the funding, Aqualung said it will evaluate 11 previously identified ARDS-related plasma biomarkers — including cytokine-chemokines, dual-functioning cytozymes, vascular injury markers, and the advanced glycosylation end product pathway — to establish a panel that can predict intensive care unit (ICU) mortality in sepsis or trauma patients who are at risk for the condition.

The Tucson, Arizona-based firm, which is developing a monoclonal antibody-based treatment for acute respiratory failure, said it will then create a standardized platform for CRIT-ICU for use in a clinical setting, as well as perform retrospective validation studies of the panel in biobanked samples. 

"We will aim to apply standard biostatistical approaches, as well as a novel neural network of artificial intelligence, to help identify an optimal plasma derived biomarker panel [that] predicts ICU mortality," Aqualung Founder and CEO Joe Garcia said in a statement. "The goal of this CRIT-ICU panel is to identify patients at risk for ARDS and lead to the development of a true point-of-care test to accelerate clinical trial stratification strategies, and the development of innovative ARDS therapeutics to reduce mortality in this devastating syndrome."