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A Step Forward in Fighting Allergies in Dogs

An innovative therapy developed at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine that could spell relief for dogs suffering from chronic allergies is now entering a clinical trial, thanks to a new grant from the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund.

CVM immunology professor Bruce Hammerberg and immunodermatology professor Thierry Olivry are among the CIF’s latest awardees. The Chancellor’s Innovation Fund helps NC State researchers develop projects addressing global challenges that have promising commercial potential.

Hammerberg and Olivry have spent four years on the new approach to allergy therapy for dogs. They have designed and produced a protein that removes and blocks the immunoglobulin E (or IgE) antibody that latches onto inflammatory cells, causing allergic reactions.

Like humans, dogs develop allergic diseases based on environmental and food allergens, resulting in everything from itching and rashes to bacterial skin infections. Dogs can be allergic to the same things as humans, especially different types of food, dust mites and pollen. Allergies are among the most common reasons for vet visits.

Current canine allergy treatments, usually a range of anti-inflammatory medications, vary in effectiveness and they often come with side effects such as muscle weakness, weight gain or decreased immune function.

“Receiving this support is an important recognition and validation of our work in developing therapeutic biologicals for allergic diseases,” said Hammerberg. “Support from the CIF is essential for product development at this stage as there are very few funding sources that allow the freedom to bring these products to commercial partnerships without encumbering restrictions.”

The Chancellor’s Innovation Fund, launched in 2010 with the support of NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson, awards up to $75,000 per project. Hammerberg and Olivry’s allergy therapy work launched with a CIF grant in 2013.

“Receiving this support is an important recognition and validation of our work in developing therapeutic biologicals for allergic diseases,” said Hammerberg.

Their second CIF grant will allow them to treat many dogs in a pilot clinical trial. They have already begun enrolling patients.

“The first returns suggest an efficacy that might be more prolonged than we expected,” said Olivry, also a senior clinician in the dermatology service at the Veterinary Hospital. “We are very encouraged at this early point.”

Hammerberg and Olivry’s work is one of five university-wide projects awarded CIF grants this year. The projects illustrate the depth and breadth of research projects at NC State, from improving coastal weather forecasting to developing insect bite-resistant clothing to fight mosquito-borne diseases.

To date, the CIF has awarded $2 million to 35 projects and helped launch 12 start-up businesses, reflecting NC State’s commitment to practical innovation and technological breakthroughs. In 2015, CVM associate professor of regenerative medicine Ke Cheng received a CIF grant for his work in therapeutic lung stem cell development.

“The confidence shown by the CIF for the potential success of this product has been an inspiration to us to overcome earlier setbacks with creative solutions,” said Hammerberg.

To learn more about the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund and this year’s awardees, go here.

For more information regarding clinical studies, go here.

~Jordan Bartel/NC State Veterinary Medicine