The problem

Equine gastric disease is a common condition affecting millions of horses worldwide, especially in the thoroughbred racing and endurance riding sectors. The current standard treatment for gastric disease and associated ulcers is a daily oral paste, but for some ulcers oral treatment can be ineffective, and many horses don’t accept the paste willingly. So, is there a better way to address this distressing condition?

The solution

An eight-year joint project between the University of South Australia and animal health industry partner Luoda Pharma has produced a long-acting gastric ulcer medicine, injected weekly, that heals ulcers in horses much faster than current treatments. 

Lead researcher, UniSA pharmaceutical scientist Professor Sanjay Garg, says the new injectable formulation of omeprazole developed by UniSA and Luoda Pharma is now used widely in horses in Europe, with outstanding results, and has become the treatment of choice for many veterinarians. 

“Gastric disease is extremely prevalent in high performance horses, with more than 80 per cent of racehorses and high-level endurance horses suffering from gastric ulcers. In other horses, the prevalence may be as high as 60 per cent,” Prof Garg says. 

“With more than 58 million horses in the world, this product has extraordinary potential to improve the health and welfare of horses. Our industry partner, Luoda Pharma, plans to register the product worldwide to ensure all horses can benefit.” 

Luoda Pharma’s Head of Product Development, Dr Stephen Page, says that, when treated with oral pastes, ulcers associated with gastric disease typically take more than a month to heal, with some still present after two or three months of daily treatment.  

“Oral omeprazole pastes suppress acid production for around 9-16 hours each day,” Dr Page says. “Together with Prof Garg’s team, we have designed an injectable form of omeprazole that suppresses acid production within hours and continuously for up to a week, with clinical reports indicating that in many cases ulcer healing has occurred in less than 14 days.”  

The invention is now the subject of a patent that is currently going through the review phase, and Dr Page says collaborative research has been an essential part of Luoda Pharma reaching that crucial stage.   

A racehorse galloping

“Luoda Pharma is a virtual pharma startup, meaning there is no physical research resource, only the experience, ideas, and objectives of the company,” Dr Page says.  

“This means it is absolutely essential for a virtual company to find external expertise and skills that represent the highest likelihood of a successful outcome. Through the collaboration with Prof Garg’s team, we have together invented something of great direct benefit to horses, and secondarily to their owners, worldwide. 

“The unmet clinical needs we are endeavouring to solve are all very challenging – they have never been solved before. Success is not inevitably a commercial outcome; it could also be a conclusion that the objective cannot be met – important information! If failure is the outcome, then best fail early – an important mantra of medicine R&D. 

“However, nothing beats a commercially viable outcome – not necessarily for commercial reward, but for knowing that what has been invented will benefit others.” 

Partners involved

Luoda Pharma logo

Project outcomes

Significant improvement in ulcer healing outcomes for horses

Reduced stress and suffering from treatment for horses

Lower costs and worries for horse owners

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