SYDNEY - Researchers in Australia and the U.S. have combined to discover an antibody that they say is a promising new vaccine for rheumatoid arthritis.

Discovered by Richard Bucala, of the Picower Institute, in New York, the antibody recently was tested in rats by Eric Morand of the Centre for Inflammatory Disease at Monash Medical Centre, in Melbourne.

The antibody, which targets a molecule known as macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), successfully prevented the occurrence of arthritis in a well-established rat model, where arthritis is triggered by the injection of another molecule.

The research findings are published in the May 1998 issue of the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism.

Morand told BioWorld International that research showed the anti-MIF antibody acted like a sponge, soaking up the MIF. Once the MIF was blocked, the swelling in the joints was reduced and arthritis was prevented.

He said Idec Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, is undertaking the necessary work to convert the antibody molecule for human use and is considering human trials.

In the meantime, Morand is undertaking further tests on the human reactions to the antibody. He also expects to conduct the clinical trials.

Rights to the anti-MIF technology are held by Cytokine Networks Inc., a commercialization company for the Picower Institute. - Mark Lawson

Correction

An article in the May 13, 1998, BioWorld International should have listed 3i Ltd., of London, as an investor in the second-round financing of Modex Therapeutiques SA.

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