Roadmap for an early gene therapy for cystic fibrosis airway disease
Gene therapy provides a mutation-independent approach to treat or even cure CF airway disease. To develop a clinical candidate for CF gene therapy, a thorough examination of preclinical efficacy in relevant cell and animal models is a prerequisite. For a long time, the CF field was struggling with a lack of appropriate animal models for CF airway pathology. Since 2008, many different and complementary animal models have been generated that develop hallmarks of CF airway disease, including the CF pig, ferret, and rat. With this, a new era has arisen that allows investigating the efficacy of gene therapy beyond molecular and electrophysiological end-points. Successful gene therapy most likely requires an appropriate time window. CF lung pathology progresses with age and therefore an early treatment would be beneficial to prevent irreversible damage. In that regard, newborn screening programs and prenatal diagnosis already provide a basis to facilitate future preventive gene-based treatment. If successful, gene therapy for CF airway disease would markedly reduce the treatment burden and improve life quality and life expectancy of CF patients.