Bioregnum, Drug Development

BioRegnum: The miracle drug story that just won’t die

The view from Endpoints

Eight years ago resveratrol was the miracle drug of the hour. Linked to preclinical evidence that it could expand the life spans of mice, GlaxoSmithKline paid a whopping $720 million in cold, hard cash to get its hands on Sirtris, the biotech startup that promised to deliver an anti-aging miracle by turning an ingredient in red wine into a medical reality.

Queue the jokes about drinking more red wine for better health. This is the stuff headlines are made of, and I was happy to participate.

GSK, which just demonstrated its appetite for discovery and early-stage development with its electroceutical partnership with Verily, didn’t do very well with its new subsidiary. Progress was slow. Tellingly, academics began to debate over whether the animal studies GSK bought into could ever be replicated. And the pharma giant eventually decided to disband the Sirtris team in Cambridge, MA and absorb the work in its Philly operations.

That’s the last I heard about it from GSK.

Resveratrol, though, is making a comeback as a miracle drug.

I read in the august pages of the Wall Street Journal Monday that scientists the world over “appear to be getting closer to harnessing one of red wine’s most elusive health-giving ingredients and putting it into a pill.”


To back that up, the Journal cites a tiny human study last fall that tracked a biomarker for Alzheimer’s, an awful disease that is still poorly understood and remains as one of the single greatest challenges in biopharma research today, along with new academic research at University of New South Wales and a project at a small biotech company in Florida called Jupiter Orphan Therapeutics.

Out of such small servings a great feast is made.

One of the challenges at resveratrol, aside from ever proving that it could do what some scientists believed it could, was finding a safe concentration of the drug. As an ingredient in wine, you’d have to drink an ocean of it in order to get any kind of therapeutic effect.

Perhaps one day scientists will figure out how to make resveratrol into a drug. It’s always entertaining to track these discovery projects. But it’s also important to distinguish the kind of extraordinary risks and epic timelines that are involved — especially when a miracle drug returns to mainstream media, dressed up once again as a pipeline contender to be reckoned with. — John Carroll.

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John Carroll, Editor and Co-Founder

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