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R&D news in brief

Our weekly round-up of drug discovery and development stories.

S&N investigates stem cells

Medical device firm, Smith & Nephew, is conducting a research programme into the potential use of stem cells to repair muscle and bone damage. The company revealed that it is exploring how to use a patient's own stem cells to repair damaged skin, bone, cartilage and ligaments. Approximately 50 Smith & Nephew employees are working on cell-based therapy, with five scientists concentrating on the potential of stem cells. The company is expected to make a decision later this year whether to continue with the research programme.

India launches HIV/AIDS trial

India has launched its first clinical trial to investigate a potential vaccine to prevent HIV/AIDS. The trial, which will test a vaccine for the sub-type C version of the disease, will be tested on 30 volunteers at the National AIDS Research Institute. Meanwhile, the French National AIDS Research Agency has suspended an ongoing clinical trial investigating an HIV/AIDS vaccine. The agency said that it had stopped the trial after the US Food and Drug Administration suspended a similar trial because a volunteer developed a neurological disorder.

Trials stopped early

Two clinical trials investigating the potential of vaccines to prevent cervical cancer have been stopped earlier because the vaccines have proved so successful. The vaccines, Gardasil by Merck and Cervarix by GlaxoSmithKline, were found to protect against the HPV-16 and HPV-18 strains of cervical cancer, which are responsible for 71 per cent of cases. Merck and GSK have now started final-stage testing of the vaccines, which were found to offer more than 90 per cent protection against cervical cancer.

SLV308 enters phase III trials

Belgian pharmaceutical company Solvay has entered its oral Parkinson's disease therapy, SLV308, into phase III clinical trials. The therapy combines dopamine activity with serotonin and noradrenaline mood-enhancing effects and was effective in phase II clinical trials. ìSLV308 is for less advanced stages of Parkinson's disease, while the recently acquired drug Duodopa is intended for people suffering from late-stages of the disease so there are good complementaries between the two products,î said Bank Degroof analyst, Bernard Hanssens.

Phytopharm plans fundraising

Biopharmaceutical company Phytopharm, is planning to raise £23.9m through a UK placing, US private placing and open offer of 13.3m new shares. The company is expected to use the funds to expand the number of products in its pipeline and invest in its existing products. Phytopharm's most promising product is its appetite-suppressing extract Hoodia gordonii, also known as P57, that South African tribesmen have traditionally used to suppress their hunger when hunting for long periods of time. Phytopharm secured a licensing deal with Unilever in December 2004 for the extract.

NIH launches new policy

The US National Institute of Health (NIH) has launched a new policy to accelerate the public's access to published articles resulting from NHI-funded research. Scientists will be asked to release their research papers as soon as possible and within 12 months of final publication as part of the policy. The publications will be available to view through a web-based archive managed by the US National Library of Medicine.

30th September 2008


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