The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has announced grants totaling $6 million to establish a European research consortium that will investigate key factors in the development of Crohn's disease.
The three-year grants will support efforts at two leading clinical centers in France and Spain as well as Germany's top microbial research institute to analyze how the immune system interacts with the microbiome — the aggregate of microorganisms that reside on the surface, as well as in deep layers, of skin, saliva and oral mucosa, the conjunctiva, and the gastrointestinal tracts — and explore effective and safe stem-cell based therapies to disrupt the progression of Crohn's. The lack of effective treatments for Crohn's patients has increased interest in regenerative medicines such as hematopoietic stem cell transplants (typically a bone marrow transplant) and epithelial stem cells.
The consortium will be led by Matthieu Allez of the Saint-Louis Institute, which is part of the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale in Paris, whose team focuses on the management of immune-mediated IBD and digestive tumors; Azucena Salas of the Institut d'Investigaciones Biomedicas August Pi i Sunyer, one of only two centers in the world to have performed hematopoietic stem cell transplants in more than twenty patients; and Dirk Haller of the Research Centre for Nutrition and Food Sciences of the Technical University of Munich, whose main areas of research are gut health and the pathogenesis of inflammation-related chronic disorders such as IBD.
"With access to cell therapy models and unique patient cohorts, this consortium brings together unique and complimentary resources that will enable it to conduct cutting-edge studies to determine how genetic factors, the immune system, and the microbiome interact together to develop Crohn's disease," said Jim O'Sullivan, program director of the Helmsley Charitable Trust's IBD and Crohn's Disease Program.