Biotechnology generates new medicines

June 1, 1998

Pharmaceutical Representative

Greater devotion to the research and development of novel biotechnology medicines is gaining momentum with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, according to a recent report from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Greater devotion to the research and development of novel biotechnology medicines is gaining momentum with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, according to a recent report from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

A survey of 140 companies revealed that there are 350 new biotechnology medicines in development. To date, 54 such medicines have been approved and marketed, 19 of which were developed within the last two years.

Biotechnology, which encompasses technologies such as combinatorial chemistry, high-throughput screening and laboratories-on-a-chip, also includes gene therapy.

Gene therapy is the science of determining which genes in the human body create defective proteins that cause diseases. Once scientists identify the genes, they are better able to develop specific medicines that target those genes or proteins. Advanced computer technology helps scientists sort through and analyze the necessary massive amounts of biological data.

"Biotechnology medicines are already saving the lives of people with heart attacks, cystic fibrosis, hemophilia and cancer, and raising the quality of life for people with stroke, kidney disease, diabetes and other diseases," said Alan Holmer, president of PhRMA. "The promise of biotechnology is even greater. We have to keep pushing the frontiers of science until that promise is fully realized."

Of the biotechnology medicines in development, 151 target cancer, the second-leading cause of death in the United States. The bulk of the anticancer medicines are aimed at treating melanomas and colorectal, breast and prostate cancers.

Twenty-nine biotechnology medicines are being developed to target HIV and AIDS; 36 are being developed for infectious diseases, 26 for the treatment of neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease; and 28 are being tested for the treatment of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for Americans.

Companies are also testing 77 vaccines, including 17 that may treat melanoma, and 74 monoclonal antibodies, some of which appear to hinder the growth of tumors. PR

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