Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Defensive medicine

Last night we pointed out that Dr. Brett P. "eHarmony" Giroir had previous dealings with Xoma, the Berkeley-based biotech company. Nature Biotechnology wrote about what they were doing in 1998.
The pivotal phase III clinical trial of one of the last "surviving" sepsis drugs—for the treatment of meningococcal sepsis—is nearing completion. XOMA Corporation's (Berkeley, CA) Neuprex is recombinant human bactericidal/permeability-increasing protein (BPI), an endogenous neutralizer of endotoxin and, with lesser potency, an antibiotic. Some experts are cautiously optimistic about the outcome and hope that positive results will reinvigorate the sepsis field. "This field needs some excitement," says Brett Giroir, of Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX, who is the principal investigator of the Neuprex trial. "If positive, this study is going to answer a lot of questions."
Neuprex was being repositioned for meningococcal sepsis after it turned out to be less effective than hoped in treating more general trauma. Xoma continued to test Neuprex against sepsis and other conditions, but Vision 1920 can't find any evidence of a final FDA approval. Xoma's current hopes are mostly pinned on an antibody drug called XOMA 052 that binds Interleukin-1 beta (whatever that is... our tame faculty consultant has been less tame of late).

Dr. Giroir was at UT-Southwestern when the Neuprex work started, but came to the Texas A&M System via the Defense Science Office at DARPA. Xoma founder Patrick Scannon also has been on DARPA advisory boards and other biodefense projects. Xoma has done biodefense work for NAIAD on vaccines against botulism toxin.

Xoma has another indirect A&M connection, noted in this 2005 news story:
Lexicon Genetics and Xoma have announced the formation of a collaboration to jointly develop and commercialise antibody drugs that could be effective in treating diet-induced obesity and enhanced insulin sensitivity.
Xoma and Introgen also have had at least one common Board member.

The suggestion that this might create a conflict of interest for Dr. Giroir is absurd:
Giroir said that Introgen is providing advice but has no contract to receive any money from the center and that Xoma's contract for helping design the center will top out at $20,000.

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