Archive for January 2014

The Development of Targeted Cancer Therapies

January 30, 2014

Targeted therapies for cancer have created a revolution within the health care and pharmaceutical industries. Many current products exist in this expanding market, and many others are in various stages of research and development.

A targeted cancer therapy is a medication or other substance that interferes with the development and metastasis of the disease through defusing particular molecules involved, thus halting the disease or delaying its progression. Breast cancer was among the first types of cancer to receive targeted therapies.

Medical professionals frequently refer to the molecules involved as “molecular targets” when treating the disease. Because of this specific targeting, this type of treatment may be more effective, and less damaging to surrounding tissues and organs, than radiation or chemotherapy.

Most targeted therapies consist either of monoclonal antibodies or small-molecule drugs.

Different types of targeted cancer therapies interfere with cellular division and tumor growth in a variety of ways. Some attack cancer cells directly, while others focus on an indirect method through stimulating the immune system to deliver toxins to the cancer cells. Many other targeted therapies disrupt communication along cell pathways by engaging with the proteins involved in network signaling. Such blocking can destroy the cancer cells’ ability to divide and develop, and therefore can result in their destruction.

On the biotechnology investment front, one recent report forecasts nearly $33 billion in global revenue for small-molecule therapy products by the year 2016, which represents an increase of more than $10 billion from 2011 figures. The prospects for ongoing success in research and development of small-molecule therapies should remain strong over the next decade, with demand high in most of the world as populations age.


An Overview of Investing in Israeli Biotech

January 23, 2014

Investment in Israel’s biotechnology and life sciences industries is likely to present attractive options well into the future. The small country is distinguished by a highly educated and innovative entrepreneurial community, supported by numerous high-technology university programs and extensive government backing. Today’s Israeli biotech companies are making strides in multiple areas with products focused on diagnosis and treatment, including equipment, appliances for orthopedic conditions, diagnostic kits, and biologically and chemically based pharmaceuticals.

Figures from 2011 showed that nearly 6.5 percent of the country’s population aged 18 to 64 is composed of entrepreneurs. Additionally, Israel has the highest expenditures on research and development as a portion of its gross domestic product than any other nation, as well as the most biotech start-up corporations per capita. The country also holds the most patents for medical devices per capita and has a proportionally large percentage of its population working in the sciences. A number of entrepreneurs in Israel possess multi-disciplinary talents, and they thus are able to combine insights from several fields into product creation.

Israeli banks offer the same full range of services as those in the United States, although corporate tax rates traditionally have been high. Newer legislation has attempted to create tax incentives for foreign and high-tech investors.

Israel-based experts have described the country’s recent emergence into a period of maturity as a high-tech innovator, and have noted its high rate of growth throughout these industries. The country’s heavy investment of time and talent into the pharmaceutical and biotech fields over the past decade has begun to pay off, with the number of companies involved in advanced-stage clinical trials double that of five years ago.

Israeli Biotech Advances to Watch For

January 17, 2014

Despite being a small country about the size of New Jersey with a population of only about 8 million, Israel stands at the forefront of international technical innovation. Recent developments in the country’s biotechnology, medical, and pharmaceutical arenas hold much promise for the future of health care and biotech investment.

Vecoy Nanomedicines has developed a way to trick deadly viruses into turning their destructive forces on themselves. The start-up company’s “vecoys” represent a significant advance over traditional vaccines. Although viruses can be highly resistant to outside agents, vecoys move past their defenses and present a virus with the choice of either adhering to the vecoy host or morphing into a form that cannot enter cells, with both scenarios neutralizing the virus.

Another innovative Israeli company has devised an implant that allows the human body to regenerate its own cartilage. CartiHeal has presented its own research showing Agili-C’s ability to rapidly restore cartilage after damage. The implant offers stem cells the chance to grow directly from bone marrow, then form vessels and begin to regenerate. A 47-year-old patient treated with Agili-C for knee damage was able to ski six months post-procedure and to run a marathon the following year.

Mapi Pharma recently acquired United States patents for its multiple sclerosis treatment drugs. Tapentadol acts as a sophisticated analgesic, and another once-a-month medication offers a form of glatiramer acetate in a timed-release format. The latter represents an advance over traditional drugs that release immediately. The company’s leadership predicts that the products will enter the market within the next few years.

Other Israeli products in development include a safer mask for sleep apnea sufferers, a radiation-free imaging device to detect breast cancer, a blood test designed to reveal the early onset Alzheimer’s disease, a non-hormone-based contraceptive, and a device to screen for lung cancer using a patient’s exhaled breath.

Zytiga Becoming a Preferred Treatment for Advanced Prostate Cancer

January 9, 2014

Revenues from Zytiga (abiraterone acetate), Johnson & Johnson’s drug therapy for advanced prostate cancer, have skyrocketed recently, as countries around the world have adopted it and similar therapies as a preferred early treatment option. Zytiga was originally developed by Cougar Biotechnology, where co-founder Lindsay Rosenwald provided support to the drug’s research team. In 2009, Johnson & Johnson bought the company for almost $1 billion. Now, Zytiga is ushering in a new method of treating prostate cancer that is safe and effective and prolongs the lives of patients in the late stages of the disease. Clinical trials currently are testing abiraterone acetate’s effectiveness on other types of cancer as well.

In late 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved abiraterone acetate for pre-chemotherapy use in patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC). The drug stops the body’s production of estrogen and androgens that can cause cancer to grow. More than 65 countries have approved the use of Zytiga, and the drug is becoming a standard treatment for men with mCRPC.

Zerenex Shows Promise for Treating Chronic Kidney Disease

January 3, 2014

Recent data that Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, Inc., released from an extension study of Zerenex show that the drug seems to be safe and easy to tolerate. The two-year study, which should be completed before July 2014, is researching the effects of Zerenex in treating hypertension in patients who are on dialysis and have chronic kidney disease (CKD). Preliminary data support results from a previous long-term phase III study of Zerenex.

The current study enrolled only patients who completed the phase III study, which lasted 58 weeks. Participants will have been exposed to Zerenex for two years, and results so far show that the drug effectively controls serum phosphorus and reduces the need for IV iron while maintaining hemoglobin levels.

The promising nature of the study’s data means that Zerenex could receive Federal Drug Administration approval by mid-2014. The drug has tremendous marketability, as more than 26 million people in the United States suffer from CKD, and more than 8 million of those have moderate to severe cases. Analysts estimate that sales of Zerenex could reach $800 million, although the strong preliminary data from the extension study could boost sales even more.