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R&D news in brief

Our weekly round up of drug discovery and development stories.

HIV/AIDS susceptibility cracked

US researchers may have cracked why some people are more prone to HIV/AIDS than others. Focusing on the gene that encodes CCL3L1, an HIV-blocking protein, scientists from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found that people with more copies of CCL3L1 were less likely to become infected with the virus or develop AIDS than those of the same geographical ancestry. It is hoped the discovery could lead to a screening test that identifies people who have a higher or lower susceptibility to HIV/AIDS.

UN scientific adviser needed

The United Nations (UN) should ìlead by exampleî and appoint a scientific adviser to its secretary-general Kofi Annan, a UN report has suggested. The report, Innovation: Applying Knowledge in Development, commissioned for Kofi Annan, argues that policymakers lack scientific inputs and that scientific advisers should join economists at the heart of government policy debates on development issues. Science, technology and innovation have helped to drive economic growth and largely eliminate poverty in south east Asia and Asia Pacific, the report suggests.

Research Councils to fund grants

UK Research Councils will pay 80 per cent of the full economic cost of university research grants from September this year, the UK government has announced. Science and innovation minister, Lord Sainsbury, revealed that the Research Councils plan to pay for 100 per cent of costs by 2010. The government has made an extra £120m available to the Research Councils to fund the move, which, according to Sainsbury, is ìa huge step forward in the drive towards proper and sustained funding of the UK research baseî.

Antisoma acquires Aptamera

UK biotech company, Antisoma has acquired US privately-owned firm Aptamera Inc for £11.5m in shares. Investors believe the main reason for the purchase is so that Antisoma, which specialises in cancer treatments, can gain access to Aptamera's promising cancer compound, AGRO100. In phase I trials AGRO100 showed promising anti-cancer effects and lower side effects in patients with various cancers.

ACAM2000 gets fast-tracked

Acambis' smallpox vaccine, ACAM2000, has been granted fast-track status by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This status means that the FDA can take appropriate actions to expedite the marketing application and approval of ACAM2000. Acambis, a UK vaccine specialist company, has already delivered 182.5 million doses of the vaccine to the US government and has orders from several other governments around the world.

Positive year for biotech

Biotech is set for a strong year, G. Steven Burrill, chief executive officer of life sciences merchant bank, Burrill & Company, has said. Burrill revealed that biotech market capitalisation rose in 2004 from $344bn to $400bn, gaining 16 per cent. ìWith nearly $11bn raised through various collaborations and licensing agreements in 2004, we're likely to see even more partnering in 2005 as big pharma struggles to fill the innovation gap and feed its starving pipelines,î Burrill reported.

Record R&D spending revealed

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has revealed record R&D spending increases amongst its members. The OECD said that the increase was a result of countries ìtaking more seriously the need to invest in R&D as a means to boost economic performanceî. However, the OECD has warned that changes need to be made in order to capitalise on increased investment, including increasing innovation, making the most of multinational enterprises and reforming public research systems.

Cystic fibrosis funding awarded

The Institute of Child Health and The Cystic Fibrosis Gene Therapy Consortium have been awarded £2.5m by the UK government to support further research into gene therapy for cystic fibrosis. The Institute of Child Health will investigate gene therapy for cystic fibrosis in the nebulised delivery of a synthetic vector formulation to the nose, while the Gene Therapy Consortium will investigate vector testing through a selection of clinical trials. The funding was made available as a result of the government's Genetics White Paper, Our Inheritance, Our Future: Realising the potential of genetics in the NHS.

30th September 2008


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