The word "biologics" used to refer to human blood products, and later vaccines and insulin. Now the biopharmaceutical market is teeming with synthetically produced clotting factors, enzymes, gene therapy products, growth factors and, perhaps most promising, immunomodulators, which have shown effectiveness in treating previously mysterious inflammatory disorders such as Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Biologics: Designer drugs
Story originally published August 4, 2006
With the mapping of the human genome complete, scientists have been better able to discover combinations of DNA and other proteins and enzymes that, when administered to a person whose own systems aren't functioning correctly, can help restore normal physiological responses.
In May 2005, market research firm ASInsights, which tracks biopharmaceuticals and such, predicted growth in biological medicines will continue to outpace other types of prescription drugs and grow from its current $48 billion value globally to $100 billion by 2010.
Scientists searching for cures for everything from AIDS to psoriasis are turning to biologics engineered to replace chemicals produced in healthy humans but lacking in patients with compromised immune systems, or immune systems that have malfunctioned and attacked healthy organs. Such achievements could make the current treatments for autoimmune diseases -- which often involve killing off a patient's immune system and injecting painstakingly acquired donor white blood cells -- seem draconian by comparison.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research is monitoring the fast growth of human gene therapy products, which researchers hope will lead to gene-based treatments for cancer, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, hemophilia, wounds, infectious diseases and rejection of donor grafts or organs.
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