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R&D news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news in brief

Drug administered too quickly, says C4 investigation
TGN 1412, the monoclonal antibody at the centre of the Northwick Park clinical trial disaster, was administered 15 times more quickly than it had been in animal safety studies, according to the Channel 4 programme, Dispatches. However, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the speed of administration was not to blame. ìThere was no reason to believe that the administration rate proposed for TGN 1412 would present as a foreseeable hazard to the subjects,î said a spokesman. Six male volunteers were hospitalised after taking the drug.

UCB epilepsy drugs move forward
Belgian firm, UCB Pharma, has reported positive phase II results for two new epilepsy medicines, brivaracetam and seletracetam. The fulcrum of UCB's epilepsy franchise is currently the blockbuster, Keppra. UCB hopes to introduce brivaracetam to the market before Keppra goes off-patent in 2009, while selectracetam is further behind in development. UCB also announced that it voluntarily suspended phase III trials of experimental treatment for lupus, epratuzumab, after a routine quality audit of the facilities of its partner, Immunomedics.

Protein clue for diabetes treatment
US scientists have found that a single protein, calcineurin, plays a key role in the onset of diabetes. A team from Stanford University said that the protein played a central coordinating role in keeping insulin-producing pancreatic cells healthy. A study on mice showed calcineurin regulates 10 genes that had already been associated with the condition. ìThis work has led us and others to think in entirely new ways about diabetes,î said lead researcher, Dr Jeremy Heit. ìUntil now, people had identified individual genes or processes that were involved in diabetes. The new findings show that these lines of research are connected through a common regulator in calcineurin.î

Antibiotic effective against elephantiasis
The antibiotic, doxycyline, prevents and relieves the symptoms of elephantiasis, according to a team from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. The condition, also known as Lymphatic Filariasis (LF), causes severe swelling in the limbs or scrotum, and affects about 120 million people globally. Trials in Ghana on 51 patients revealed that doxycyline, which attacks the bacteria inside parasitic worms, not only kills adult worms but also helps to relieve symptoms in those who have already developed the disease. ìThe important breakthrough with this trial is to show that in addition to the anti-parasitic effects of antibiotic treatment, we can also improve the lives of individuals suffering from the stigmatising elephantiasis,î said Dr Mark Taylor, from Liverpool.

30th September 2008

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