PHCRI research study gives hope to those with chronic non-healing wounds

Monday, August 19, 2013, VANCOUVER, BC — New research by the Providence Health Care Research Institute tackles a major problem plaguing long-term care facilities and hospitals. The study, published in the Nature Publication Group journal Cell Death and Differentiation, gives hope to those with chronic non-healing wounds, a problem affecting as many as 20-25 percent of patients in long-term care facilities.

As we age, the skin becomes thinner and weaker reducing its capacity to heal. The elderly and people affected with immobility, diabetes and/or obesity are highly susceptible to developing skin wounds that do not close and heal properly.

The article entitled “Granzyme B degrades extracellular matrix and contributes to delayed wound closure in apolipoprotein E knockout mice” shows that inhibition of Granzyme B improves the healing of chronic, non-healing wounds. This is the first study to show that inhibiting this protein-degrading enzyme, that builds up with age and chronic inflammation, can restore normal wound healing.  The study was funded in part through a Canadian Institutes for Health Research Industry Partnership grant.

The study was led by Dr. Paul Hiebert, a former PhD candidate in the laboratory of Dr. David Granville, Principal Investigator at the Centre for Heart and Lung Innovation at St. Paul’s Hospital, Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of British Columbia and Founder and CSO, viDA Therapeutics, Inc.

“It is becoming clear that Granzyme B does a lot more than we once thought,” says Dr. Hiebert. “It is capable of chewing up the structural proteins in skin that are crucial for proper healing, similar to hungry termites eating the wooden frame of a house while it’s being built.”

“Chronic ulcers are common in hospitals and long-term care facilities, resulting in enormous costs to the health care system,” noted Dr. Granville. “The present study provides important proof-of-concept data to support the notion that drugs targeting Granzyme B could be used as a therapy to improve the lives of so many that are affected by this inability to heal normally.”

Chronic, non-healing wounds affect millions of people across North America resulting in $6 billion in estimated costs to the health care system in the US alone. The degree of morbidity and mortality associated with these wounds is similar to that of many types of cancer. Studies are currently under way at viDA Therapeutics, a spin-off company from the University of British Columbia, to further validate Granzyme B as a therapeutic target and to develop and assess new compounds for therapeutic efficacy. However, at present, the inhibitors are still being developed and not available for clinical applications.

About Providence Health Care
Providence Health Care is one of Canada's largest faith-based health care organizations, operating 15 facilities within Vancouver Coastal Health. Guided by the principle, “How you want to be treated,” PHC's 1,200 physicians, 6,000 staff and 1,500 volunteers deliver compassionate care to patients and residents in British Columbia. Providence’s programs and services span the complete continuum of care and serve people throughout B.C. PHC operates one of two adult academic health science centres in the province, performs cutting-edge research in more than 30 clinical specialties, and focuses its services on six “populations of emphasis”: cardiopulmonary risks and illnesses, HIV/AIDS, mental health, renal risks and illness, specialized needs in aging and urban health.

About the University of British Columbia
The University of British Columbia (UBC) is one of North America’s largest public research and teaching institutions, and one of only two Canadian institutions consistently ranked among the world’s 40 best universities. Surrounded by the beauty of the Canadian West, it is a place that inspires bold, new ways of thinking that have helped make it a national leader in areas as diverse as community service learning, sustainability and research commercialization. UBC offers more than 50,000 students a range of innovative programs and attracts $550 million per year in research funding from government, non-profit organizations and industry through 7,000 grants.

The Centre for Heart and Lung Innovation at St. Paul’s Hospital, is a UBC research centre supported collaboratively by the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine and Providence Health Care and is an affiliated Centre in the Institute for Heart + Lung Health (IHLH). Lead by Director, Dr. Keith Walley and Associate Directors, Dr. Gordon Francis and Dr Tillie Hackett, investigators and trainees at the Centre are using the best available technology to image and measure changes in molecules, cells, tissues, organs and whole organisms, including patients, in order to understand the link between our genes and the environment, in causing heart, lung, and blood vessel diseases

For more information:

Dave Lefebvre
Senior Communications Specialist – Media Relations
Providence Health Care
604-682-2344 xt.66987
604-837-6003 (c)

Alistair Duncan, President & CEO
viDA Therapeutics Inc.
Tel: 778-373-0916