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12:00 AM
 | 
Feb 09, 2009
 |  BioCentury  |  Product Development

Aiming to be photogenic

Clinuvel Pharmaceuticals Ltd. spent the first half of this decade looking for a therapeutic application for its afamelanotide, which it knew worked as a photoprotectant and which the media had tagged as a potential tanning agent. In late 2005, the company finally came up with a focus on diseases provoked by ultraviolet light.

Now, Clinuvel has positive interim Phase III data in erythropoietic protoporphyria that it believes will get afamelanotide approved for the Orphan indication in 2010.

Erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP) is caused by a deficiency in the enzyme ferrochelatase, which catalyzes protoporphyrin IX (PP9) into heme. CEO Philippe Wolgen said it is thought that PP9 builds up in the skin and attacks epithelial cells when it is excited by light around 400 nm.

The clinical outcome is photosensitivity, resulting in pain, redness, swelling, blistering and scarring when a patient is exposed to the sun, especially in spring and summer. There is no treatment other than avoiding the sun.

"These patients basically live their lives indoors, which severely lowers their quality of life and can cause psychological problems," Wolgen said.

Afamelanotide is a modified version of the...

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