President John F. Kennedy would have had another heir had his second son not died from respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). The disease—caused by developmental insufficiency of surfactant production and structural immaturity in the lungs—doomed many premature babies before the development of Infasurf.
That drug was developed by UB researchers Edmund A. Egan, MD, and Bruce A. Holm, PhD. Since 1999, nearly 500,000 premature infants have been rescued with Infasurf, an exogenous surfactant that decreases the incidence of RDS and associated mortality.
Egan, professor of pediatrics, physiology and biophysics, is president and chief executive officer of ONY, the drug’s manufacturer, located in UB’s Technology Incubator. Holm, who died in 2011, was UB senior vice provost and executive director of UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences as well as a professor of pediatrics, gynecology-obstetrics and pharmacology.
An adult form of the drug, Pneumasurf, is currently in phase three clinical trials. Pneumasurf is targeted at patients requiring mechanical ventilators as a result of direct acute respiratory distress syndrome, which affects some 100,000 previously healthy Americans annually and has a 35 percent mortality rate.