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$1M Gates Foundation grant to formulate lifesaving oxytocin

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A million dollars of funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Grand Challenges Explorations initiative means that Monash University researchers can move an inhaled formulation of oxytocin into clinical trials, potentially saving lives of women at risk of uncontrolled bleeding after childbirth (postpartum hemorrhage).

Every year, up to 150,000 women in developing countries die at childbirth from postpartum hemorrhage. This is treated using an oxytocin injection, which has to be kept refrigerated and must be given by a trained healthcare professional. This can be difficult in areas without power, or where births more usually take place at home. An aerosol-based dry powder formulation of oxytocin can simply be inhaled by the patient and can be stored at room temperature.

"The real tragedy of this statistic is that it is almost completely preventable. The drug exists, it's safe, it's effective, and we know it can save lives. The inhaled form of oxytocin that we are developing is a needle-free and non-refrigerated option suitable for use in remote areas with limited training," says Michelle McIntosh, a researcher at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The research team will use the money to prepare the formulation for clinical trials in 2013, carrying out stability and efficacy studies and sourcing a low-cost inhaler. This was the only Australian research project to receive Phase II funding in the latest round from the foundation.

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