Newly approved psoriasis drug invented and tested at Univ. of Michigan

ANN ARBOR, MI The University of Michigan Health System today welcomed the approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of a psoriasis treatment that was first developed in a U-M Medical School laboratory.

Alefacept, a specially designed molecule that blocks a specific immune-system reaction involved in the painful skin condition, was approved for marketing today under the name Amevive. Biogen, Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., will market the drug.

Alefacept traces its roots to research done at the U-M in the mid-1990s by a team led by former dermatology faculty member Kevin D. Cooper, M.D. The University and Biogen share the patent on the engineered molecule with Cooper, who is now chair of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

UMHS also played a major role in the advanced-phase clinical trials that demonstrated alefacept's ability to significantly ease or clear the painful symptoms of psoriasis -- relief that continues even after treatment stops.

Dermatologist Charles Ellis, M.D., who has no financial connection to the patent, was selected to help design and lead the Phase II and III studies because of his long experience studying and treating the immune response in psoriasis. Ellis is associate chair of dermatology at UMHS and chief of dermatology at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

The results of the phase II trial were published in the July 26, 2001 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. No patients in the Phase II or III studies were treated at UMHS. Ellis shared leadership of the study with Gerald G. Krueger, M.D., a professor of dermatology at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Biogen, which funded the study, compensates Ellis and Krueger for consulting on the development and testing of the alefacept product.

Psoriasis, which stems from a runaway immune response in the skin, causes skin itching, redness, flaking, pain, and cracking in about 2 percent of the population,

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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