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R&D news in brief

Our weekly round-up of drug discovery and development stories.

Breast cancer survival bolstered

Women diagnosed with breast cancer today may have a greater than 80 per cent chance of surviving for five years or more, according to Cancer Research UK (CRUK). Official figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed that the five-year survival rate for breast cancer between 1998-2001 was 79.9 per cent, though CRUK predicts that todayís rate could be greater still. The incidence of cancer is keeping pace with an increasing ageing population, however the survival rate for most cancers is also escalating. For breast, colon, lung and prostate cancers ñ the four most common in the UK ñ survival rates have improved over the last decade.

Halted study may prove fruitful

A study to develop a new Alzheimerís disease vaccine, which was stopped in 2002 after several patients developed brain inflammation, may yet still bear fruit, according to an international team of researchers. Results from the long-term follow up of a trial that saw patients injected with Alzheimerís-causing beta amyloid protein, showed that 59 of the 300 participants produce a significant immune response. They performed better on memory tests and their brains showed signs of structural and chemical improvements compared with patients given a placebo. In a new, more ìcautiousî, trial, patients will be given doses of antibodies produced in response to beta amyloid protein ñ rather than the protein itself ñ in the hope that it will overcome the side effects seen in the earlier trial.

On the brink of a monoclonal boom

The already healthy market for monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) is set to treble in size to $30bn (£15.9bn) over the next five years, according to a report from market analyst, Datamonitor. While some chimaeric antibodies have already established a dominant position in some markets, such as Rocheís colorectal cancer treatment, Avastin, and Herceptin for metastatic breast cancer, fully humanised antibodies, such as Humira for rheumatoid arthritis (Abbott Laboratories) are now starting to have a commercial impact and, based on their potential for blockbuster status, pharmaceutical companies are on the looking to make prosperous acquisitions. Sales in this sector have already grown by 48 per cent from less than $7bn in 2003 to more than $10bn last year, said Datamonitor.

Heavy Euro-biotech investment needed

European venture capitalists will need to splash out roughly twice as much as they had expected to support growth and stability in the European biotechnology sector over the next 12 to 18 months, according to findings from research commissioned by Quintiles Ltd. Biotech firms claim they will need to see capital injections of at least Ä15m, whereas VCs in Europe had planned to make an average investment of Ä7.5m into the sector. However, younger biotech firms signalled willingness to give up partial ownership, with 100 per cent of businesses established since 2000, which participated in the research, stating their readiness to partner an investor for an equity stake.

30th September 2008

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