Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Biotech bits

Today, two articles caught my eye regarding biotechnology and the drugs produced from this science. I wish I could be more excited about these little bits of news, but its hard to decipher them, and even harder to guess what they may mean for us out here in PsA-land.

The first article concerned another "mab" drug (like andalimumab and infliximab) which is being tested for effectiveness on psoriatic arthritis, as well as psoriasis. Golimumab is produced by Centocor, and is in phase III clinical trials. It looks like it is mildly effective for psoriatic arthritis, and if I'm reading this article right, may be even more effective for psoriasis. But the results, while positive, aren't earth-shatteringly good:
Dr. Kavanaugh and colleagues said the results were promising for golimumab, the first subcutaneous TNF-alpha inhibitor to show efficacy against certain psoriatic arthritis symptoms, such as nail disease, enthesitis, and dactylitis.

They also noted that patients continued to show improvement when they continued on treatment for an additional 10 weeks.

On the other hand, at week 24, fewer than 40% on either drug dose met the more stringent ACR50 standard for response (50% reduction in symptoms).
It appears that some of us may have some good results with this drug, and some won't.

What's great about Golimumab, however, is that it's another option for us. Many people with psoriatic arthritis find that Humira, or other biologics, stop working so well after a year or two. Just having one more drug to try is fabulous news.

The second interesting article was regarding a court case on patents. A Federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. ruled that an invention from Amgen, which was basically the sequence for a gene, could not be patented. It was developed using a method that was so obvious that the court thought that "any competent graduate student can take a known protein and come up with the nucleotide sequence that encodes it." (full disclosure: this is a quote from Science magazine, which I cut from a blog that quoted it).

In short: because the methods for locating this gene sequence were so obvious, Amgen couldn't claim ownership, I think. (Please correct me if you understand this better than I do).

In another news article on this story, an important question is asked - what affect does this have on future products, findings, etc from biotechs? If they use obvious methods to make discoveries or design drugs, can they not patent them? Does that mean they will be seeking only those discoveries they will patent? And does this have an effect on the cost of making and producing drugs?

I'm going to keep following this story, and will write more as I "get it" more. It's a brave new world out there. What will our lives be like in 20 years, and in 200?

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