Cedars-Sinai has launched an initiative to accelerate the development of novel drugs, devices and therapies aimed at improving treatments for patients with gastrointestinal and metabolic diseases.
Physician-scientists and others in the Medically Associated Science and Technology (MAST) Program are focusing their research expertise on disorders of the microbiome. This naturally occurring ecosystem of single-cell organisms — including bacteria, fungi, viruses and archaea — lives within the human gut.
The microbiome can protect against external infections and aid in digestion, but also can disrupt healthy gastrointestinal function, resulting in the development of diarrhea, constipation and other ailments.
MAST investigators are initially focusing on areas of the microbiome linked to irritable bowel syndrome and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, a condition in which excessive bacteria causes chronic diarrhea and related illnesses. Emerging technologies combined with identified patient needs will allow for expansion into new areas of research, such as metabolic disorders, diabetes and obesity.
The initiative is the result of a partnership between the Cedars-Sinai Technology Transfer Office and the Burns & Allen Research Institute. With support from the partnership, investigators in the MAST Program tap into science, bioinformatics and other disciplines to develop new technologies and clinical treatments for common conditions affecting millions of people, driven by input from patients themselves.
“Discoveries best happen at the bedside of patients by doctors who are invested in their care,” said Mark Pimentel, MD, executive director of the program and an associate professor at Cedars-Sinai. “We have found that many of our discoveries have benefited a vast number of patients here and around the world. We expect that, with the formation of the MAST program, we will be able to help millions more with our growing pipeline of novel diagnostics and therapeutics.”
MAST investigators have developed a breath test to identify the presence of hydrogen sulfide among the gases present in patients who experience diarrhea. Based on that work, the program has developed and applied for patents for a four-gas breath test device that should be available to patients by the end of the year.
The MAST team also has developed a system called Lotus to safely, quickly and precisely collect samples from patients’ small intestines. Cedars-Sinai has licensed the technology to Hobbs Medical Inc., a Stafford Springs, Connecticut, manufacturer and supplier of endoscopy accessories. Pimentel and Cedars-Sinai have a financial interest in the Lotus system.
Along with scientific expertise, the team brings a track record of successfully navigating the lengthy and complex FDA-approval process.
“Through MAST, we are accelerating the development of innovations that will lead to faster diagnostics and treatments for patients,” said Ruchi Mathur, MD, MAST’s director of clinical research and an associate professor at Cedars-Sinai. “Our team is dedicated to improving the lives of patients who are affected by gastrointestinal and metabolic diseases.”