John Wallace has agreed to share with the readers of MedProsvita his incredible history and tremendous experience that really changed the course of history of medicine.
1.How did you get the idea to do this research? What prompted you to do this?
I have been interested for many years in finding a way to prevent the major side effect of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which is bleeding and ulceration in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. My basic research on hydrogen sulfide (H2S) suggested that this molecule exerted actions that might prevent GI damage. We had observed in animal studies that H2S could increase blood flow to the stomach tissue, and reduce the adherence of white blood cells within blood vessels. Our previous studies had shown that these effects would greatly reduce NSAID-induced GI damage.
2.Did you rely on results of any similar researches? Are there any similar researches in the world?
We were the first group to investigate the possibility that H2S and nitric oxide (NO) could prevent GI damage caused by NSAIDs
3.What difficulties have you faced during the whole period of your work?
The biggest challenges we have faced in research have always been related to funding. Finding funding for the laboratory and to support the salaries of students and post-doctoral fellows is always very difficult. Now that I have a company developing these drugs, money is still the main challenge, but instead of writing grant applications, we are meeting with venture capitalists trying to convince them to invest in the company.
4.Have you engaged any other research organizations or people, or did you do it all on your own?
The basic research was done by myself and the students/post-doctoral fellows in my lab. Of course, we also had help from collaborators, such as the chemists that made the drugs for us.
5.NicOx refers to the fact that it was you who described the healing properties of nitric oxide for the first time. Do you still cooperate with this company and research the properties of nitric oxide, or are you done with this research?
I am no longer doing research on nitric oxide, and I have not had a formal relationship with NicOx since 2004. I remain friends with the management of NicOx and of course I follow their progress closely and wish them great success. I left NicOx in 2004 to start a new company (Antibe Therapeutics), because I saw great potential in H2S.
6.Do you still research the effect of anti-inflammatory drugs? What topic is the most interesting for you now?
Yes, my main research topic is still anti-inflammatory drugs. My major interest now is how these drugs modify the intestinal microflora, and how that influences the damage to the intestine that these drugs can produce.
7.Are there any safe drugs based on hydrogen sulfide, or does the research still go on?
This is an ongoing project, but our data in humans is very encouraging. Our most advanced drug, ATB-346, is very promising. It has been found to be much more potent in reducing pain that the most successful NSAIDs on the market. We have not seen any GI problems with the drug.
8.What new properties will these drugs have?
ATB-346 is more potent and long-acting that existing NSAIDs, which will mean more convenience for patients (once a day dosing with a small pill). Patients with osteoarthritis who have taken this drug have also commented that they sleep much better then they do with the NSAIDs they were previously taking.
9.What are you working on now?
Other than my work on ATB-346, I am working on a much more potent NSAID for short-term relief of severe pain — which could be a non-addictive substitute for opioids. I am also working on an H2S-releasing drug for treating inflammatory bowel disease. In animal studies this drug is very promising.
10.What are the your goals for the future?
I hope to advance ATB-346 to the marketplace, so that patients around the world can have pain relief that is much safer than current drugs provide. Then, onto the next drug!
11.What inspires you and gives you strength and energy for research?
Developing a new drug from the lab to the patient is tremendously challenging, and I like challenges. I am highly motivated to achieve this goal. I am not motivated by money — it is the desire to achieve this goal that drives me.
12.What discoveries are you most proud of?
Many years ago I made the observation that the earliest event in the production of stomach ulcers was the adherence of white blood cells to the inside of blood vessels in the stomach. If this event was prevented, the ulcers were prevented. This discovery is what led to my work on nitric oxide (and the founding of NicOx) and my work on hydrogen sulfide (and the founding of Antibe Therapeutics).
What would you like to say to your Ukrainian readers?
I am very pleased to have had very productive collaborations and friendships with many Ukrainian researchers. I have been very fortunate to visit Ukraine several times. I is a beautiful country with wonderful people. Of course, in Canada we have benefited greatly from having a large Ukrainian immigrant population. I look forward to visiting Ukraine many times in the future!
Interview prepared by Natalya Vitko