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R&D news in brief

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

Gene therapy for arthritis

Gene therapy could be a safe and effective method for treating rheumatoid arthritis and related inflammatory diseases, according to a team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. In a preliminary trial, the team extracted cells from arthritic knuckles, modified them and injected the genetically-modified cells back into the patients' joints. The results were promising with clusters of cells that expressed large amounts of the modified gene present at the synovial surface and producing greatly reduced levels of inflammation. The modified gene works to prevent inflammatory cytokines which trigger inflammation, binding to the lining of the joints. Dr Madeleine Devey, of the Arthritis Research Campaign, described it a ìpromising advanceî, adding that the news for patients with arthritis was ìgoodî,

Power cable cancer link

The results of an eight-year study involving nearly 10,000 children in England and Wales has revealed that those children living within 200 metres of overhead power cables were 70 per cent more likely to develop leukaemia. The study, conducted by researchers at Oxford University and the national electricity grid, also showed that those living more than 600 metres away had a much reduced risk, though still at a 20 per cent increase. However, study leader Dr Gerald Draper said that no scientifically valid causal link had been established, adding that the results may reflect more about the types of people who live in areas populated with overhead power cables. ìIt may not be the effect of power lines at all,î he noted.

Roche hopeful on anaemia trial

Roche's experimental drug for treating anaemia in patients with kidney disease could steal up to one third of the market and achieve blockbuster status, according to some analysts. A year-long extended phase II trial showed that Cera (continuous erythropoiesis receptor activator), given as one dose every four weeks, was successful in controlling haemoglobin levels in patients undergoing dialysis. The drug works by stimulating the production of red blood cells to counter the anaemia seen in up to 90 per cent of patients with kidney disease. Earlier studies have shown it also to be effective in treating anaemia in cancer patients.

Taiwanese biotech deal

A Taiwan-based biotech start up, AbGenomics, has signed an out-licensing agreement with independent, family-owned German group Boehringer Ingelheim for the discovery and development of new pharmaceutical products based on an antibody discovered by AbGenomics. Boehringer has obtained worldwide exclusive rights to develop, manufacture and market drugs based on AbGn168, which may lend itself in particular to treating autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and psoriasis, according to Klaus Wilgenbus, head of BI's licensing division. The deal promises to bring in revenue for the first time for AbGenomics, which is itself an unusual entity based in Asia but outside Japan.

30th September 2008

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