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R&D news in brief

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

Merck and Novartis to release diabetes drug data
In presentations, this week, to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), Merck and Novartis are expected to unveil much-anticipated clinical study data about their new diabetes products - Januvia and Galvus.

The US and Swiss firms are developing the first two drugs in the class of medicines known as DPP-IV inhibitors, which are designed to treat Type II diabetes. As the pills can be used alone or in combination with various other treatments, some analysts are predicting a quick acceptance of the drugs. According to the Financial Times, the new products could share potential global sales of $3bn per year by 2010.

Merck's Januvia is expected to reach market first, with potential US regulatory approval by October.

Antidepressants linked to diabetes risk
Investigators at the 66th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association have announced a link between diabetes development and antidepressant use.

Their findings, presented by Dr Richard R Rubin of the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, were based on a trial of 3,187 participants, which Rubin carried out with co-investigators from the Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group.

Dr Rubin told Reuters Health: ìWe don't have a clueî, as to why the association exists. He warned antidepressant users, however, not to panic, saying: ìThose at risk of diabetes should have their blood sugar monitored frequently and perhaps - perhaps - begin oral anti-diabetic treatment early.î

Depression is two to three times higher in diabetics than in the general population, and 10-15 per cent of the US population take antidepressants. According to Dr Rubin, future confirmation of the study ìwould have enormous public health implicationsî.

`Promising' Alzheimer's vaccine
A potential DNA vaccine for Alzheimer's disease has produced positive results in tests with mice.

The vaccine appeared to cut levels of key amyloid proteins - which are thought to cause the disease - by 50 per cent in some parts of the brain. More importantly, no obvious side effects were recorded. The Japanese study appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr Clive Holmes, of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, told the BBC: ìThis work represents a promising new line of vaccine development but more research would be needed to see if this could be replicated safely in humans.î

Lung tests for pre-school children
Great Ormond Street doctors have developed a new lung-testing method that can pick up problems in children under five, even if they haven't exhibited symptoms.

Until now, conventional tests were unsuitable for children under five years old. However, the new Multiple Breath Washout technique seems to have overcome traditional problems.

The test successfully detected 73 per cent of abnormalities in young children with cystic fibrosis, even though many of them had no chest symptoms at the time of measurement, and had received normal results through other tests.

The research was unveiled at 'Lungs for Life' - the new British Lung Foundation campaign. Respiratory disease is the most commonly reported long-term illness in children, taking up 34 per cent of weekly GP consultations and 15 per cent of hospital admissions.

New tablet vaccine for grass pollen allergy
ALK-Abell? has announced positive results to its trial of GRAZAX - a new tablet vaccine for treatment of grass pollen allergies.

In new data presented at the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology in Vienna, Austria, GRAZAX appeared to demonstrate highly significant results, with a reduction in rhinoconjunctivitis symptoms and use of symptomatic medications, from the very first day of use.

The tablet vaccine is the first tablet-based sublingual immunotherapy treatment to be developed for approval across Europe. Its manufacturers say it has been recognised by the WHO as the only treatment to target the immunological cause of allergy, thereby altering the natural cause of the disease.

Professor Dr Claus Bachert, of the University of Ghent, said: ìWhilst symptomatic medications for treating eye and nose symptoms of allergy are generally availableÖthe accessibility to causal immunotherapy has been limited...With GRAZAZ, we now have a treatment that can be quickly and simply administered at home by the patient.î

30th September 2008

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