Promising Multiple Sclerosis Treatments on the Way

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The suspension of sales of promising multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri earlier this year was devastating to disease sufferers, but it has opened a window of opportunity to alternative treatments.

 Among the therapies in the pipeline is Tovaxin, a PharmaFrontiers Corp. product developed at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston .

 "Tovaxin is a fascinating concept," said Dr. Edward Fox, director of the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic of Central Texas in Austin . "It''s basically a way of immunizing yourself against your own bad blood cells. It''s much more a magic bullet."

 Tysabri was considered the leading therapy for MS until February, when maker Biogen Idec suspended sales after a patient died from a rare brain infection. Two other patients have been diagnosed with the infection since then.

 Biogen told Reuters last week it still hopes to bring back Tysabri for patients who do not have suppressed immune systems.

 "It still is a remarkably effective drug and a tolerable drug and it may yet come about as an MS drug," Fox said. "They may find it safe as a single drug, but not in combination with other medicines. It''s still an open story."

 There are other treatments farther on the horizon, Fox said, including monoclonal antibodies aimed at selective portions of the immune system and a pill that could replace shots, intravenous drips and other more invasive techniques.

 PharmaFrontiers is hopeful Tovaxin can fill the void sooner. Currently, in U.S. Food and Drug Administration trials, the treatment sparks an autoimmune reaction against the rogue T-cells that are thought to attack the protective sheath around nerve fibers, causing MS.

 Tovaxin is not a drug. Rather, it is a treatment that redirects a patient''s own T-cells, meaning it is developed specifically for each case.

 "It''s always going to be an individualized treatment," PharmaFrontiers Chief Executive Officer David B. McWilliams said. "It seems like the disease is individualized. One size does not fit all."

 PharmaFrontiers, based near Houston, acquired Tovaxin when it acquired Opexa Pharmaceuticals Inc. last November.

 If Tovaxin is approved, PharmaFrontiers wants to serve MS patients across the nation and around the world, likely meaning facilities in Europe and Asia .

 That sort of expansion will require cash and McWilliams leaves open the possibility his company could be acquired by a bigger fish some day.

 "These things require continual amounts of funding," he said. "At some point in time we''ll seek out a European partner and a Far East partner to help pay for parts of this. It clearly will require some more money."

About PharmaFrontiers:

   PharmaFrontiers  (PFTR.OB) is a cell therapy company that develops autologous   personalized cell therapies for the treatment of various diseases.  The Company is focused on the autologous use of peripheral blood derived adult stem cells in regenerative medicine as well as T cells for the treatment of autoimmune diseases amenable to T-cell based therapies.

 
About HTC:
PharmaFrontiers is an HTC Client Company
Houston Technology Center (HTC) accelerates the commercialization of emerging technology companies in Houston .  A 501(C)(3) corporation and the center of entrepreneurship in Houston , HTC assists Houston-based entrepreneurs within several key sectors: Energy, Information Technology, Life Sciences, Nanotechnology and NASA-originated technologies.  See www.houstontech.org for more information.

 

 

Author: Mark Babinek
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