Human Genome Sciences Up over 200 percent Monday July 20, 2009

This has been one of my favorites for awhile after learning about Craig Venter and Sequencing the Human Genome. Craig partnered with Human Genome Sciences but you can learn more by reading Craig Venters A Life Decoded Biography which shows the ups and downs a scientist can have especially when dealing with the Government and the Human Genome Project.

Wikipedia on Human Genome Sciences.
The company was founded by William A. Haseltine, a noted Harvard professor and AIDS researcher. HGS had a partnership for several years after its founding with Craig Venter and his non-profit TIGR to begin sequencing and submitting patents on hundreds of thousands of protein-encoding DNA fragments. In 2000, Haseltine said that his work "speeds up biological discovery a hundredfold, easily." He talked of finding in genes "the fountain of youth" in the form of "cellular replacement" therapies. More than $2 billion in investments was raised by the company by 1999-2000. Two initial drugs failed in clinical trials, and the stock share price declined from its highs. For example, in September 2000, the company reported that it had found a way to treat large, painful sores that often plague elderly patients, using a protein spray called repifermin, made by a human gene called keratinocyte growth factor-2. In February 2004, the company said that it was ending the development of repifermin because it showed no more benefit than a placebo in clinical trials.

On 7/20/09, Human Genome Sciences (NASDAQ:HGSI) and GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) announced that Benlysta (belimumab, formerly LymphoStat-B) met the primary endpoint in BLISS-52, the first of two pivotal Phase 3 trials in patients with serologically active systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In the placebo-controlled BLISS-52 study, the results showed that Benlysta plus standard of care achieved a clinically and statistically significant improvement in patient response rate at Week 52, compared with standard of care alone. Study results also showed that belimumab was generally well tolerated, with adverse event rates comparable between belimumab and placebo groups. Assuming positive results in November 2009 from a second Phase 3 trial of Benlysta, the companies plan to submit marketing applications in the United States, Europe, and other regions during 1H10.

Human Genome Sciences, Inc. (Nasdaq: HGSI) and GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK) today announced that BENLYSTA(TM) (belimumab, formerly LymphoStat-B(R)) met the primary endpoint in BLISS-52, the first of two pivotal Phase 3 trials in patients with serologically active systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In the placebo-controlled BLISS-52 study, the results showed that belimumab plus standard of care achieved a clinically and statistically significant improvement in patient response rate at Week 52, compared with standard of care alone. Study results also showed that belimumab was generally well tolerated, with adverse event rates comparable between belimumab and placebo treatment groups. "The BLISS-52 results demonstrated that BENLYSTA has the potential to become the first new approved drug in decades for people living with systemic lupus," said H. Thomas Watkins, President and Chief Executive Officer, HGS. "Given the limited treatment options currently available, patients would benefit greatly from potential new treatments. BENLYSTA is an outstanding example of the type of treatment HGS is working to develop and bring to patients. Assuming positive results in November from our second Phase 3 trial of BENLYSTA, we and GSK plan to submit marketing applications in the United States, Europe and other regions in the first half of 2010."
Belimumab is an investigational drug and the first in a new class of drugs called BLyS-specific inhibitors. No new drug for lupus has been approved by regulatory authorities in more than 50 years. Belimumab is being developed by HGS and GSK under a co-development and commercialization agreement entered into in August 2006.

"Lupus is a chronic, often debilitating, and sometimes fatal illness that affects an estimated five million people worldwide and can have a devastating effect on both patients living with the disease and their families," said Carlo Russo, M.D., Senior Vice President, Biopharm Development, GSK. "BENLYSTA is the first medicine being developed specifically for lupus that has reached this late stage of clinical development with positive results. We look forward to completing the pivotal studies, with the hope of bringing this potentially important therapeutic advance to patients suffering from SLE."

Key Findings from BLISS-52

"The BLISS-52 results support and extend the findings that emerged in the serologically active subgroup of SLE patients at Week 52 in our Phase 2 trial," said David C. Stump, M.D., Executive Vice President, Research and Development, HGS. "We are delighted to report that the efficacy of treatment with BENLYSTA plus standard of care was superior in this study to that of placebo plus standard of care, while the safety profile was comparable overall to placebo. BENLYSTA met the primary endpoint in this Phase 3 study at a robust level of statistical significance. BENLYSTA also significantly reduced SLE disease activity versus placebo based on a number of other measures, including SELENA SLEDAI and Physician's Global Assessment. Of note, a greater percentage of patients receiving BENLYSTA achieved a clinically meaningful reduction in steroid dose. We hope to have a full presentation of BLISS-52 results at an appropriate scientific meeting later in 2009."

About the BENLYSTA (belimumab) Phase 3 Development Program

The Phase 3 development program for belimumab includes two double-blind, placebo-controlled, multi-center Phase 3 superiority trials - BLISS-52 and BLISS-76 - to evaluate the efficacy and safety of belimumab plus standard of care, versus placebo plus standard of care, in serologically active (i.e., autoantibody-positive) patients with SLE. This is the largest clinical trial program ever conducted in lupus patients. BLISS-52 randomized and treated 865 patients at 90 clinical sites in 13 countries, primarily in Asia, South America and Eastern Europe. BLISS-76 enrolled and randomized 826 patients at 133 clinical sites in 19 countries, primarily in North America and Europe. The design of the two trials is similar, but the duration of therapy in the two studies is different - 52 weeks for BLISS-52 and 76 weeks for BLISS-76. The data from BLISS-76 will be analyzed after 52 weeks in support of a potential Biologics License Application in the United States and Marketing Authorization Application in Europe and other regions. HGS designed the Phase 3 program for belimumab in collaboration with GSK and leading international SLE experts, and the program is being conducted under a Special Protocol Assessment agreement with FDA.

The primary efficacy endpoint of BLISS-52 and BLISS-76 is the patient response rate at Week 52, as defined by: (1) a reduction from baseline of at least 4 points on the SELENA SLEDAI disease activity scale (which indicates a clinically important reduction in SLE disease activity); (2) no worsening of disease as measured by the Physician's Global Assessment (worsening defined as an increase of 0.30 points or more from baseline); and (3) no new BILAG A organ domain score (which indicates a severe flare of lupus disease activity) and no more than one new BILAG B organ domain score (which would indicate a moderate flare of disease activity). Analysis for the primary endpoint is based on intention-to-treat (ITT) and adjusted for baseline stratification factors, including SELENA SLEDAI score, proteinuria and race.

In each of the two Phase 3 trials, patients were randomized to one of three treatment groups: 10 mg/kg belimumab (BLISS-52, n=290), 1 mg/kg belimumab (BLISS-52, n=288), or placebo (BLISS-52, n=287). Patients are dosed intravenously on Days 0, 14 and 28, then every 28 days thereafter for the duration of the study. All receive standard of care therapy in addition to the study medication. Safety is reviewed by an independent Data Monitoring Committee throughout both studies.

About BENLYSTA (belimumab)

Belimumab is an investigational human monoclonal antibody drug that specifically recognizes and inhibits the biological activity of B-lymphocyte stimulator, or BLyS(R). BLyS is a naturally occurring protein discovered by HGS that is required for the development of B-lymphocyte cells into mature plasma B cells. Plasma B cells produce antibodies, the body's first line of defense against infection. In lupus and certain other autoimmune diseases, elevated levels of BLyS are believed to contribute to the production of autoantibodies - antibodies that attack and destroy the body's own healthy tissues. The presence of autoantibodies appears to correlate with disease severity. Preclinical and clinical studies suggest that belimumab can reduce autoantibody levels in SLE. BLISS 52 results suggest that belimumab can reduce SLE disease activity, and a second Phase 3 trial, BLISS-76, is underway to confirm these results.

About the Collaboration with GSK

In August 2006, HGS and GSK entered into a definitive co-development and co-commercialization agreement under which HGS has responsibility for conducting the belimumab Phase 3 trials, with assistance from GSK. The companies will share equally in Phase 3/4 development costs, sales and marketing expenses, and profits of any product commercialized under the current agreement.

About Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic, life-threatening autoimmune disease. Approximately five million people worldwide, including approximately 1.5 million in the United States, suffer from various forms of lupus, including SLE. Lupus can occur at any age, but appears mostly in young people ages 15 to 45. About 90 percent of those diagnosed with lupus are women. African-American women are about three times more likely to develop lupus, and it is also more common in Hispanic, Asian and American Indian women. Symptoms may include extreme fatigue, painful and swollen joints, unexplained fever, skin rash and kidney problems. Lupus can lead to arthritis, kidney failure, heart and lung inflammation, central nervous system abnormalities, inflammation of the blood vessels and blood disorders. For more information on lupus, visit the Lupus Foundation of America at www.lupus.org, the Lupus Research Institute at www.lupusresearchinstitute.org, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases at www.niams.nih.gov, or Lupus Europe at www.elef.rheumanet.org.

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