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R&D news in brief

Our weekly round-up of drug discovery and development stories

GSK halts AIDS trial

GlaxoSmithKline has halted a phase IIb trial of its experimental AIDS drug, aplaviroc, after two patients in tests developed severe liver toxicity. The company is now offering treatment-experienced patients the option of continuing in a phase III study with additional monitoring for the adverse hepatic side effect. Aplaviroc, or GSK 873140, belongs to a new class of oral medicines called CCR5 inhibitors that can block the AIDS virus before it enters human cells. The drug, which was licensed from Japan's Ono Pharmaceuticals, is in a race to market with its rival CCR inhibitor, Pfizer's Maraviroc.

Viacell stem cell enrolment stopped

US biotech firm ViaCell has stopped enrolling patients in a Phase I trial of an experimental stem cell product, CB001, to treat cancer after two of eight patients developed transplant-related side effects. President and chief executive, Marc Beer, said the company hoped it was only a ìtemporary suspensionî, after the two patients developed acute graft-versus-host-disease (aGVHD). CB001 is being developed for potential use in haematopoietic stem cell transplantation in a variety of cancers to provide regeneration of blood and immune systems.

Firms not incentivised, says study

Pharma companies do not have the incentive to develop genetic tests required for the successful development of personalised medicine (pharmacogenomics), according to a new study. Paul Martin, deputy director of the Institute for the Study of Genetics, Biorisks and Society at Nottingham University, said that no commercial incentive existed for companies to develop a test that would effectively narrow down the number of people who take their drugs. He is to present his findings at a Wellcome Trust conference in Hinxton, Cambridge. Pharmacogenomics is based on the identification of inter-individual genetic differences that determine the effectiveness of a drug in any specific patient.

Wellcome Trust spends more overseas

The UK's largest independent funder of biomedical research, the Wellcome Trust, has announced a strategic five-year plan which will see more of its money being spent on overseas projects. It expects to spend £1.5bn in the UK and £500m overseas in the next five years; over the past five years, it spent almost £2.2bn at home and £200m overseas. Wellcome Trust director, Dr Mark Walport, said there would be a greater emphasis on clinical research in the UK while the growing international commitment would focus on the developing world, particularly Africa and south-east Asia.

New hypertension drug data unveiled

Novartis has presented clinical data on its new medicine for high blood pressure, Aliskiren (SPP100), and said that it will file for US Food and Drug Administration approval early next year. Recent studies suggest that the drug works well when taken once a day and can offer protection from hypertension for 24 hours with modest side effects. Analysts believe Aliskiren is a potential blockbuster and could one day sit alongside Novartis' top-seller Diovan. The World Health Organisation estimates that around 7.1 million people die each year due to complications of the condition.

30th September 2008

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