RESEARCH TRIANGLE…Biogen Idec (Nasdaq:BIIB) is in the middle of hiring about 200 people in the Research Triangle to gear up for production of Antegren for treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Biogen spokeswoman, Amy Brockelman, tells LTW the company is hiring people for manufacturing related positions in its Research Triangle facility.

The company has hired people away from other RTP biotech companies and Brokelman admits that its location in the Triangle where qualified people are readily available is useful. The company is seeking approval to market the drug initially to combat MS

Biogen collaborates with Elan Pharmaceuticals, the Irish-based drug development company on developing and marketing Antegren. Antegren is the trade name for natalizumab, a monoclonal antibody that inhibits immune cells from leaving the blood and causing inflammation in the brain in MS.

Brockelman says the drug is also in late stage clinical trials to treat Crohn’s disease, where it would protect the gastrointestinal track, and in rheumatoid arthritis, where it protects joints. The company is conducting Phase II clinical trials for the later two indications.

Inspire Gets Press

One way the Triangle’s increasing status as a biotech cluster is evident is in the continual attention regional companies get in the industrial and trade drug discovery press.

Barely an issue of Modern Drug Discovery goes by without mention of an RTP biotech company.

The June issue examines the pipeline of drugs with promise for treating cystic fibrosis, which affects 30,000 people in the U.S. and 80,000 worldwide. Although scientists found the defective gene causing CF in 1989, fixing it has proved difficult. The magazine points out that therapeutic treatments, however, are on the way.

“Furtherest along,” the monthly trade journal says, is Inspire Pharmaceutical’s (Nasdaq:ISPS)”INS37217, a new class of P2Y2 receptor agonists that activate an alternate chloride channel.”

Ben Yerxa, senior vice president for discovery at Inspire explains, “Chloride secretion drives water movement.” That means, he told the magazine, “The net result is that patients clear out the goop in their lungs,” and without going through the heroic motions they normally need to engage to get it out.

Results of Inspire’s Phase IIa trials of the treatment are expected at midyear. Inspire hopes to launch the drug in three years.

Biotech workshop

Teachers from middle school, high school and community colleges from throughout NC complete a workshop on how to present biotech more effectively today.

Sponsored by the NC Biotechnology Center, the workshop, held Monday through Friday this week at the NC School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, hosted 19 teachers.

“We here at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics have observed the loss of manufacturing jobs in communities where we have outreach programs,” says Jon Davis, project director at NCSSM.

“We are elated to partner with the North Carolina Biotechnology Center to promote biotechnology statewide as we expect it will be an increasingly important part of the state’s 21st century economy.”
It’s one of four such workshops planned for this summer. They cover basic science while introducing hands-on lab techniques.

Participants learn to incorporate inexpensive paper and wet lab activities into their classes such as isolation of DNA form fruit, using a polymerase chain reaction to isolate a gene of interest, and practical issues such as lab safety and sterile technique.

More than 1,100 teachers from 98 of North Carolina’s 100 counties have taken workshops sponsored by the Biotechnology Center since 1987. They have taught hundreds of thousands of students about the science, applications and issues of biotechnology.

Biogen Idec:

Inspire Pharmaceuticals: