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R&D News in brief

Our weekly round-up of drug discovery and development stories

Statins can help more people

All patients with diseased arteries can avoid heart attacks and strokes by taking statins, new research from the Universities of Oxford and Sydney suggests. The study, published by the Lancet, analysed detailed results from more than 90,000 participants in 14 trials involving statin treatments and found that people who derived the greatest benefit were those whose cholesterol level was reduced most by statin treatment, largely regardless of starting cholesterol levels. Lead researcher Dr Colin Baigent said the study showed statin drugs ìcould be beneficial in a much wider range of patients than is currently considered for treatmentî.

Personalised medicines - too much hype?

Personalised medicines are at least 15 to 20 years away, according to a report by the Royal Society. Currently pharmacogenetics are being investigated for the treatment of certain cancers. But the report says that for further development to take place, there needs to be more knowledge of the relevant science among healthcare professionals, and more specialised researchers carrying out pharmacogenetic research. RS working group chairman Sir David Weatherall said: ìPersonalised medicines show promise but they have undoubtedly been over-hyped.î

WHO warns about obesity numbers

The World Health Organisation has warned that the number of overweight people in the world will rise by 500 million to 1.5 billion by 2015, with many developing countries showing the most dramatic increases. Releasing the estimates ahead of World Heart Day on October 2, the WHO also predicted alarming increases in chronic diseases, especially heart disease, strokes and type 2 diabetes. ìThe sheer magnitude of the overweight and obesity problem is staggering,î said Catherine Le-GalËs Camus, WHO assistant director-general for non-communicable diseases.

Biotech fraud investigation

The Serious Fraud Office is investigating Merlin Biosciences after allegations that £2.5m has been misappropriated from the biotechnology investment fund. A spokesman for the company, which is run by high-profile entrepreneur and Labour Party donor Sir Christopher Evans, said it was cooperating with the preliminary inquiry. It is understood that a senior former employee, who left Merlin in acrimonious circumstances, tipped off the SFO that money had been diverted from company funds. One of Merlin's investments, ReNeuron, which is developing stem cell-based therapies for people paralysed by a stroke, recently raised money on the stock exchange.

30th September 2008

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