March 16th, 2011
Posted by Shane Climie, Ph.D.
On March 9, 2011, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved Benlysta® (benlimumab) for the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus. Benlysta is the first new drug approved for the treatment of lupus in more than 50 years: a triumph of genomic medicine. The drug was born of a partnership, dating back some 18 years, between biotech Human Genome Sciences and multinational pharma GSK. The Benlysta story is an interesting example of how molecular biology and genomic technologies can be applied to create new treatments for challenging diseases, even though the timeline extended well beyond what was anticipated by the lofty projections made in the earliest days of genomic medicine some 20 years ago.
Benlysta is a monoclonal antibody that was developed by HGS and GSK from antibodies that were provided by Cambridge Antibody Technology (which was acquired by AstraZeneca and is now part of AZ’s biologics arm, MedImmune). It acts against B-lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS), which is believed to increase the production of white cells that attack healthy tissue in lupus patients.
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