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R&D news in brief

Our weekly round up of R&D news in brief

Experimental bird flu vaccine makes progress

An improved version of an experimental vaccine designed to protect humans from the bird flu virus causes ìa good immune responseî in a ìsignificant numberî of 300 human volunteers, according to the drug's developer, sanofi-aventis. The French firm said the new variant of the vaccine appears to be effective at a lower dose than the amount used in a previous trial. An extra ingredient called an `adjuvant' was added to help stretch the vaccine. sanofi-aventis said it would proceed with further tests and publish more definitive results when they are available.

Roche to seek regulatory approval for Cera

Roche says its experimental anaemia drug Cera is ready to be submitted for regulatory approval next year after it successfully completed four late-stage clinical tests. The Basel-based company said it will seek regulatory approval globally for use of Cera in the treatment of chronic kidney patients. Cera, belonging to a class of drugs called EPOs, stimulates red blood cell production in a different way to other anaemia drugs, claims Roche. It is viewed as a follow-up to Roche's NeoRecormon, which is soon to lose patent protection. Analysts said Roche could face an uphill struggle to get the new drug to market because rival Amgen recently filed a lawsuit against the Swiss firm claiming infringement of its EPO patent.

Obesity drug shows promise

Shares in Arena Pharmaceuticals soared nearly 20 per cent last week after the company said its experimental obesity drug, APD356, was effective in promoting weight loss after three months in a mid-stage clinical trial. The effect of the drug was highly statistically significant compared with a placebo, with patients taking the highest of three tested doses - 20 mg a day - losing almost 8 pounds (3.6kg), or about 3.6 per cent of total body weight. The drug also came through the trials without apparent heart-valve and hypertension side effects. The company is planning to launch a large Phase III trial of the drug next year.

Clinical research drawn to Latin America

Latin America is becoming an increasingly popular destination for clinical trials, according to clinical research organisation, Chiltern International. ìOne of the first major aspects of the region is that it has a growing population and a population which at the same time exhibits many of the major diseases seen in other global regions,î said Dr Faiz Kermani at Chiltern. ìThere have been notable increases in several Latin American countries of chronic diseases, particularly viral, cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic conditions, and yet a persistence of diseases associated with poverty and social inequality.î

30th September 2008

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