February 5 2003
A small group of British volunteers are to become the first human guinea pigs for a new multiple sclerosis (MS) drug being developed by a Melbourne company.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, incurable auto-immune disease that progressively destroys the central nervous system.
It affects an estimated 13,000 to 15,000 Australians.
Antisense Therapeutics today announced human trials of its drug ATL1102 would begin at London's Stamford Hospital next month following approval from British ethics and research authorities.
ATL1102 belongs to a developing class of drugs known as antisense drugs, which work by entering cells and targeting genes.
It is hoped ATL1102 will target a protein produced by mRNA, a product of DNA, which has been shown to contribute to MS.
If the drug works as intended, it will prevent the production of the VLA-4 protein and slow down progression of the disease.
Last October Antisense announced it had successfully completed animal studies which indicated ATL1102 was safe enough to trial on humans.
"The development of this drug has been rapid, having moved from the pre-clinical animal phase into human studies in a little over one year," Antisense managing director Mark Diamond said in a statement.
In the trial, 42 healthy male patients will be injected with increasingly high doses of the drug about once a week to test its safety and behaviour in humans, Antisense said.
Antisense said if initial trials were promising, it intended to apply to test the drug on patients with MS in 2004.
However, it would take several more successful trials and about 10 years
before the drug became available.
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