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Xenova takes step to smokers' vaccine David Firn, Pharmaceuticals and Chemicals Correspondent Published: July 14 2004 16:20 | Last Updated: July 14 2004 16:20
A vaccine to prevent former smokers falling back into their old ways is a step closer to becoming a reality after a successful clinical trial of Xenova's TA-NIC treatment.
Xenova shares rose 2.5 per cent to 10.25p on Wednesday after it reported that 43 per cent of smokers either quit after being treated with the vaccine or got less pleasure from cigarettes.
The trial was designed to calculate the optimum dose of the vaccine. David Oxlade, chief executive, said Xenova was planning to start the final round of trials to confirm the effectiveness of the anti-smoking jab by early 2005.
"The interesting point, without overstating the case, is that all the participants were told they were not being asked to change their smoking habits, so we were quite positively encouraged to see a significant number were either voluntarily quitting or they reported the pleasure from smoking was substantially reduced," he said.
However, Xenova may seek a partner for the project because it does not have enough cash to fund the trials by itself. "We will of course be exploring various options," Mr Oxlade said.
Xenova is the leader in the challenging field of producing vaccines against drugs of addiction. The immune system generally ignores such small molecules. To raise the necessary antibodies Xenova , which, last month reported its first success with a cocaine vaccine, has joined nicotine to a protein from cholera vaccine that is designed to stimulate an immune reaction. The combined molecule primes the body to recognise the drugs.
If someone who has been vaccinated smokes, the nicotine encounters and binds to antibodies in the bloodstream. The antibodies form a complex that is too large to cross the blood-brain barrier, so the pleasurable stimulus that usually accompanies smoking is eliminated.
The Xenova vaccine is aimed at those who have given up smoking , but in danger of the "I'll-just-have-one" syndrome at a party and find themselves back on a packet a day by the end the week.
At least two companies are competing with Xenova. Cytos, a Swiss biotechnology company, is already in the final phase of testing of a nicotine vaccine. Meanwhile, US company Nabi Biopharmaceuticals has shown it may be possible to prevent addiction to nicotine in the first place.The research raises the possibility that children could be immunised against nicotine to prevent their taking up smoking.
Socially acceptable nicotine is public enemy number one in the war on drugs. Three times as many people are addicted to tobacco as are addicted to alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, LSD, speed, sedatives and opium put together. According to the World Health Organisation, more than 1.2bn people smoking and 4.9m die of smoking -related diseases every year. A report from Lehman Brothers last year estimated the nicotine vaccine market could be worth $1.25bn a year.