Preventerm inhibits three molecules that block contractions. The medication acts to prevent premature labor whatever the cause, be it infection, inflammation, bleeding, an overextended uterus, or too much amniotic fluid. Every day that a premature baby manages to stay in the womb increases their chances of survival, and a normal healthy life once they are born.
Premature birth is the leading cause of infant death in developed countries. It also accounts for half of all neurological handicaps in newborns, such as cerebral palsy, blindness, and developmental defects. Babies born at 22 weeks have a 10-15% survival rate. Those born just five weeks later have a 90% survival rate.
While more than one tenth of all births in the U.S. are delivered prematurely, until now there has been no failsafe measure to prevent it from happening
Now Israeli start-up Bioterm is developing a product called Preventerm that will help prolong pregnancy to full-term, help ensure that babies stay in the womb for those essential extra weeks, and in turn profoundly reduce neonatal mortality and morbidity rates.
The treatments practiced today attempt to prevent preterm birth are unsatisfactory. They include intravenous fluids and bed rest, tocolytic agents, such as uterine contraction inhibiting agents and surgical procedures that attempt to strengthen the cervix. In the worst-case scenarios, mothers taking a preterm labor drug may suffer a respiratory arrest and die. In the best-case scenarios, the delivery can be postponed for a few extra days.
Preventerm inhibits three molecules – including prostaglandins which are involved in pre-term birth – that block contractions. The medication acts to prevent premature labor whatever the cause, be it infection, inflammation, bleeding, an overextended uterus, or too much amniotic fluid.
Preventerm is based on a collagen inhibitor central to cervical flexibility. It can be administered vaginally from the second trimester up until birth, and it inhibits the final common pathways for triggering preterm birth, therefore effective regardless of the cause for labor.
Dr. Israel Shamir Leibovitz, founder and interim CEO of Bioterm, believes that Preventerm is far more effective than the existing treatments, with a 90% level of potency. He also says it has only minor side effects. Aside from the obvious advantages for the baby, Leibovitz points out that the product can also drastically reduce medical expenses. In the Western world, the cost of caring for premature babies is about $45 billion a year.
The idea of creating a preterm labor inhibitor started while Bioterm doctors were researching a drug candidate for labor induction.
“Once we found that collagenase is critically involved in parturition (giving birth) during labor, we decided that inhibiting collagenase and cytokines can be a great alternative for treating and preventing pre-term labor,” said Leibovitz, co-founder and CMO.