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April 13, 2009
An HIV Drug. Or A Gout Drug? Or Both. . .
We get a lot of surprises in this business, most of them not so good. That's understandable, since there are lot more ways for drugs and their mechanisms to go wrong than there are for them to go right. But once in a while, you do see something that's unexpectedly good news.
That may be what's happened to a small San Diego outfit, Ardea. As Xconomy details, the company (formed out of the remnants of IntraBiotics and Valeant) was testing an HIV compound in the clinic when they noticed significant declines in blood levels of uric acid.
That rang a bell: something that decreases uric acid levels would be useful for gout, and there's only been one new gout drug approved in the last 40 years. Follow-up work showed that the effect seemed to be coming from a metabolite of the original drug, and thanks to the HIV trial data, they already had good hopes for that compound's safety. The new compound, RDEA594, has made it through Phase I and is headed for Phase II, and the trials look to be manageable affairs that the company can afford to run. The market is there: more people have gout in the US than are HIV-positive (although the two diseases clearly aren't comparable in other respects!). But the state of HIV research now means, weirdly, that the serious medical needs in that population are actually being met more completely than those in many other disease areas. (Ardea's HIV compound is progressing as well).
So good luck to them, on both fronts. It's a reminder to always look through all your data, and to be alert for whatever opportunities might be hiding in there. We don't get as many as we'd like, so we can't let any of them slip away.
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