GTC Biotherapeutics

New Factor IX Products in Development

What’s going on with hemophilia B? A lot! I’ve read recently about four new studies about new products for hemophilia B patients. In a nutshell:

A. Inspiration Biopharmaceuticals (www.inspirationbio.com) has signed an agreement with Cook Pharmacia to develop an injectable recombinant factor IX. So, what’s new about that? I mean, we already have that. Well, Inspiration is focusing on revolutionizing hemophilia treatment in two ways: 1) developing lower-cost versions of existing intravenous recombinant therapies; and 2) developing non-invasive administration of therapies. Like inhaling? (Hence the name, Inspiration? Just a wild guess)

B. Baxter International (www.hemophiliagalaxy.com) has begun preclinical work on a genetically engineered product for bleeding in patients with hemophilia B. Again, we already have that, so what’s new? With its partner Nektar Therapeutics of San Carlos, Calif., Baxter wants a more long-lasting treatment for hemophilia B. Imagine infusions lasting all week instead of a day, or maybe two weeks!

C. Nastech Pharmaceutical (www.nastech.com) has begun a feasibility study with an undisclosed global leader in the production of plasma products. The study will examine the possibility of developing an alternative delivery method of factor IX without an injection. Not much said about this one: who’s the company? What’s the method? More to come, hopefully!

D. GTC Biotherapeutics, Inc., of Framingham, Massachusetts, has purchased a license to develop a new recombinant factor IX product with ProGenetics LLC of Blacksburg, Virginia.

Currently, the only existing recombinant factor IX product is BeneFIX, made by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. But there sure is a lot of commercial interest in this hemophilia population, which is a small. Of the approximately 17,000 people with hemophilia in the US, only about 15% are estimated to have factor IX deficiency.

If this is all interesting to you, then see about attending The Coalition for Hemophilia B one-day consumer symposium on Saturday, March 8, 2008, from 9:30 am–5 pm, at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York City. For information, call Kim at 212-520-8272 or email her hemob@ix.netcom.com

Great Book I am Reading: Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama. I thought, oh great, a book ghostwritten for a politician seeking election. But I was wrong. He wrote this in 1995, when he was a senator-elect. I am captivated already: it is honest, intimate, frank and eloquent. This is a guaranteed great read (and not a political endorsement), and I always appreciate a well-written book. I am only on Chapter 3 but it is insightful and informative. Obama has led an amazing life, and in this book, he traces his roots, from his grandparents to his childhood, and the unusual path his genealogy has taken and why. Eventually he returns to Kenya to learn more about the father he barely recalls. This is a look at race relations in America, one man’s quest to make a difference for his race, and a quest for the meaning of family for a man who was raised in several diverse cultures. (For those of you fearing I am making a “statement,” I also have it on my list to read John McCain’s book, Faith of Our Fathers, also about the impact his grandfather and father had on his life. ). Three stars out of four.

Factor Through Goats?

A persistent question we are always asked is “What ever happened to gene therapy?” We used to write extensively about this subject when gene therapy was hot, but since the deaths of two young people in gene therapy trials unrelated to hemophilia, all gene therapy seems to have taken a slow and extremely cautious route. There instead seems to be great interest in creating new and less expensive ways to manufacture factor. We recently heard of a new biotech company in California, founded by a parent of a child with hemophilia, that is developing all therapies, which hints that these products one day will be lower in cost.

And the newswires announced this last week: GTC Biotherapeutics, a Massachusetts-based biotech company, held a webcast this morning from Monaco; the webcast will be available tomorrow through the company’s website. This company “develops, produces, and commercializes therapeutic proteins through transgenic animal technology.” This means literally milking animals for the desired protein that is developed through gene therapy and then expressed through the animal’s milk.

Like many, I feel a bit skeptical but according to GTC, in August 2006 its recombinant form of human antithrombin was approved by the European Commission for use in patients with hereditary antithrombin deficiency undergoing surgical procedures. This was the first approval anywhere in the world of a therapeutic protein produced from a transgenic animal. GTC has developed goats that have the human antithrombin gene linked to a milk-protein promoting gene so that they express this protein in their milk.

In 2006, GTC was granted a patent in the United States through 2021 for the production of any therapeutic protein in the milk of any transgenic mammal. And GTC has established a strategic collaboration with LFB Biotechnologies of France to jointly develop recombinant human factor VIIa as a potential treatment for hemophilia inhibitor hemophilia patients. This would be a direct competitor to NovoSeven, apparently. Although the article doesn’t directly state this, it implies that this recombinant FVIIa would be expressed by animals?

It bears watching, and we hope to bring more information about this through PEN and through HemaBlog. Watch the webcast yourself tomorrow at the GTC web site, www.gtc-bio.com.

ADVERTISEMENT
HemaBlog Archives
Categories