LONDON, July 2 An experimental antibody drug
from Roche has produced promising results in mid-stage
tests for asthma, offering a new way to fight the breathing
The encouraging response seen with quilizumab, which the
Swiss group is developing as a treatment for moderate-to-severe
asthma, underscores the growing focus on novel biotech medicines
for hard-to-treat cases of the disease.
Other companies working on a variety of approaches using
biotech medicines to fight the condition include AstraZeneca
, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi. Analysts
at Leerink said in March that sales of biotech asthma drugs
could exceed $7.5 billion a year in the United States and Europe
Roche already sells one biotech asthma drug in partnership
with Novartis, called Xolair, which works by
intercepting an inflammatory protein called immunoglobulin type
E (IgE) linked to asthma.
Quilizumab also targets IgE but it does so in a different
way. By focusing on a form of IgE found on the surface of
certain cells, it inhibits the production of new IgE molecules.
Xolair, by contrast, does not affect production of the
protein, so patients need regular doses to keep IgE levels at
Researchers reported results from a Phase IIa clinical study
with quilizumab in the journal Science Translational Medicine on
Wednesday, showing it reduced airway constriction and prevented
IgE production within four weeks of a single dose.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler, editing by David Evans)