Scientists Continue to Make Strides in Fighting Heart Disease

Posted September 17, 2014 by lindsayrosenwald
Categories: Lindsay Rosenwald, Research

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Heart Disease pic While numerous innovative biotech companies specialize in rare conditions and illnesses, many researchers in the United States have strived to maintain a focus on the biggest problems facing patients, including the country’s number-one killer: heart disease. Since the turn of the century, scientists and public health officials have succeeded in reducing the impact of these diseases. As compared to 1999, patients hospitalized in 2010 were 23 percent less likely to die within a year from an unstable angina or a heart attack, while one-year death rates from heart failure and stroke fell by 13 percent. Nevertheless, heart disease still kills some 600,000 Americans every year, and biotech experts have turned to new technologies to enable even better treatments.

One recent breakthrough in the fight against heart failure, a condition that results in the death of half of those afflicted within five years, involves myosin heavy-chain-associated RNA transcript, or Myheart, which regulates a protein responsible for heart development in fetuses. During heart failure, this protein, BRG1, begins altering genetic material in the heart and creates significant problems. With the application of Myheart in mice undergoing a cardiac episode, the RNA chain inhibits BRG1 activity and stops the progression of heart failure. While Myheart itself remains unusable in human subjects due to its size, researchers are now beginning to look for functional portions that may result in a powerful treatment that addresses heart failure at the genetic level.

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Three Common Fibromyalgia Treatments

Posted September 8, 2014 by lindsayrosenwald
Categories: Lindsay Rosenwald, Medical Treatment, Pharmaceuticals

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Fibromyalgia pic A disorder characterized by musculoskeletal pain throughout the body, fibromyalgia is a complicated condition that researchers have yet to fully understand. Because there is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, treatment focuses primarily on symptom management. Here are three common fibromyalgia treatments:

Pain relievers—Because fibromyalgia patients typically experience high levels of pain, over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, are commonly prescribed. Doctors may also recommend a prescription pain reliever such as tramadol. Narcotics like oxycodone are rarely used, as they can actually worsen pain over time and lead to dependence.

Antidepressants—In recent years, physicians have begun prescribing antidepressants like milnacipran and duloxetine to relieve much of the fatigue and pain caused by fibromyalgia. For individuals experiencing difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, doctors may also prescribe a sedative, such as fluoxetine or amitriptyline.

Anti-seizure medication—Some fibromyalgia patients respond well to epilepsy drugs, such as gabapentin and pregabalin, which was the first fibromyalgia drug to earn apAnti-seizure medicationproval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Despite New Onyx Drug, Amgen Performs Below Predictions

Posted August 21, 2014 by lindsayrosenwald
Categories: Lindsay Rosenwald, News, Pharmaceuticals

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Amgen logo pic Last fall, Amgen Inc. made waves in the biotech industry by purchasing Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $10.4 billion. The deal came after Onyx turned down the company’s initial $10 billion offer in June 2013. In its first quarter since purchasing the biotech start-up, Amgen reported lower-than-forecasted earnings. Although sales increased from the same period in 2013, the pharmaceutical giant’s revenues fell $230 million short of estimates. The company attributes the gap primarily to a drop in sales of Enbrel, an anti-inflammatory drug. Meanwhile, analysis shows that Onyx’s multiple myeloma drug, Kyprolis, generated $68 million, and drugs such as Xgeva and Prolia helped drive sales growth by approximately 5 percent.

Despite the fact that Kyprolis contributed $68 million to the company’s bottom line, the purchase of Onyx also affected Amgen’s first-quarter earnings. According to officials, research and development costs increased by more than 15 percent during the quarter as Amgen integrated Onyx’s existing programs. Although Amgen may see some slowed growth as a result of the growing biosimilar market, analysts predict that Kyprolis could hit peak sales of $2.4 billion in five years.

Maintaining Research Continuity during Mergers and Acquisitions

Posted August 4, 2014 by lindsayrosenwald
Categories: Lindsay Rosenwald, Research

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Biotech pic In the wake of the recent merger proposal that Pfizer, Inc., submitted to AstraZeneca PLC, experts have weighed in on how massive pharmaceutical mergers can affect ongoing research and development. These critics point out that when large companies combine, research and development teams often experience detrimental personnel reductions. They argue that some of the most successful biotechnology start-ups have placed significant emphasis on keeping research teams intact even when they are bought out by larger companies. This is especially important given that many of today’s most innovative drugs require knowledge of an increasingly discrete set of novel biological targets.

Interestingly, most successful biotech companies end up discovering drugs that treat illnesses other than those they initially set out to treat. For example, although Genentech launched with the aim of developing drugs for heart disease, the company’s scientists ultimately produced pioneering new cancer drugs. Team continuity is crucial to these sorts of innovations, and large pharmaceutical companies can certainly learn from the lessons offered by biotech start-ups, especially when large mergers are on the table.

Pfizer, AstraZeneca Continue to Attempt Merger

Posted July 18, 2014 by lindsayrosenwald
Categories: News, Pharmaceuticals

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pfizer logo pic  In early 2014, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc., began pursuing the possibility of a merger with AstraZeneca PLC. Although talks stalled mid-January, Pfizer recently submitted a new proposal to the company on April 26th, which valued AstraZeneca at approximately $100 billion. The proposal offered shareholders a substantial cash payment as well as stock in the newly combined company. AstraZeneca has once again turned down the lucrative offer, but Pfizer has stated in a press release that it continues to believe that the merger would be extremely beneficial to both companies. Both firms would attain greater footholds in the global market and be able to streamline a variety of financial and operational functions. Furthermore, consumers would benefit from a “strengthened presence in breast cancer,” “opportunities for greater depth in immuno-oncology,” and a “complementary portfolio of important cardiovascular medicines.”

In the days following Pfizer’s proposal, the stocks of both companies saw notable increases. Shares in AstraZeneca jumped by 12.2 percent, while those of Pfizer increased by 4.2 percent. If talks do reignite and a deal is consummated, it would result in the largest foreign takeover of a British business.

Recent Quarters Produce Large Number of Biotech IPOs

Posted July 8, 2014 by lindsayrosenwald
Categories: Biotech IPOs, Lindsay Rosenwald

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After a major boom in initial public offerings (IPOs) in the biotech sector during 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, the trend seems to be slowing. Last year, more than 45 biotechnology firms entered the public market, generating over $3 billion. Although some feared that the biotech bubble would soon burst, 29 life sciences start-ups went public in 2014’s first quarter. Together, the companies collected just over $2 billion, which will fund continued research and development efforts by firms like Ultragenyx and Dipexium Pharmaceuticals. However, few industry experts expect the number of biotech IPOs to hold steady at such a high rate. In fact, some even argue that these high-performing stocks could ultimately de-incentivize the buyout activity of large pharmaceutical companies upon which small biotech firms rely.

Moving into the second quarter, biotech companies may want to carefully weigh the pros and cons of pursuing IPOs versus merger and acquisition opportunities. Boards must examine shareholders’ risk and return profiles, the deal’s time to liquidity, and rates of dilution. Biotech investment is often both risky and long-term, so it is ideal to ensure that shareholders are able to reap the benefits of their early risks.

Changing Attitudes toward Fibromyalgia

Posted June 18, 2014 by lindsayrosenwald
Categories: Uncategorized

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Fibromyalgia, which produces symptoms of chronic fatigue and aches and pains throughout the body, is an often-misdiagnosed condition. Yet, when identified and properly treated, it can be manageable and need not overly impact a person’s quality of life. One estimate by the American College of Rheumatology put the number of Americans with fibromyalgia at about one in 50.

In the 1800s, physicians first described fibromyalgia, which they called “muscular rheumatism,” listing it as a “mental” problem. At that time, the collection of symptoms indicative of the condition—aches, exhaustion, difficulty sleeping—had already been identified among its characteristics.

By the early 20th century, Ralph Stockman had conducted pathology studies that showed evidence of inflammation in the fibrous septa membranes dividing muscle tissue. At about the same time, Sir William Gowers coined the term “fibrositis” to describe the inflamed fibrous tissue that resulted in lower back pain for his patients. It was not until the mid-1970s that Gowers’ word was superseded by today’s “fibromyalgia.”

As contemporary medicine progressed and research better defined the parameters of the condition, fibromyalgia began to lose some of its unjustified reputation as a “mental” or “imaginary” disorder. In 1981, the reality of the tender points and other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia were validated through a controlled clinical research project. In addition, in 1990, the American College of Rheumatology published a set of diagnostic criteria intended to guide researchers. Physicians shortly adopted these standards in diagnosing and treating patients. In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration approved one of the several fibromyalgia-targeted drugs currently on the market