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R&D news in brief

Our weekly round-up of R&D news in brief

Novartis announces Alnylam deal to fight pandemic flu
Novartis has struck a deal with US biotech firm Alnylam to begin development work on a new RNA interference treatment for pandemic flu, including avian flu. The treatment will be based on a naturally occurring mechanism within cells for selectively silencing and regulating specific genes. ìAn RNA therapeutic could be an innovative modality, crippling the virus through incapacitating several genes,î said Mark Fishman, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. ìOf course the technology is young and is just now being tested in early clinical trials, but our hope is that it will open new therapeutic frontiers.î The financial terms of the collaboration have not been disclosed.

Drug could stop foetal damage from alcohol
The damage caused to babies whose mothers drink heavily during pregnancy could be reduced by a new drug, according to a study. A team of scientists at Cornell University found a drug called nicotinamide managed to protect mice from Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), for which there is no current treatment. The mice were injected shortly after birth with a dose of alcohol comparable to the amount to which a human foetus would be exposed during a bout of excessive drinking by the mother. When researchers followed the alcohol dose with an injection of nicotinamide two hours later, the number of brain cells that died was no greater than in normal brain development, and there were no behavioural abnormalities.

Pfizer urges Aromasin switch
Pfizer has urged doctors to consider switching patients from tamoxifen to its breast cancer drug, Aromasin (exemestane) after a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that postmenopausal patients on Aromasin, experienced ìgenerally good and stable quality of lifeî over a two-year period. The findings come after an Intergroup Exemestane Study (IES) showed that switching to Aromasin after 2-3 years of tamoxifen reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence by 30 per cent compared with continued tamoxifen treatment. ìThese data show that by switching to exemestane after 2-3 years of initial adjuvant tamoxifen therapy, women with breast cancer can benefit from a reduction in the likelihood of their breast cancer returning,' said Professor Lesley Fallowfield from the University of Sussex.

30th September 2008

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