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Developments made in medical science are coming at a faster pace in recent times. For patients, this is very beneficial, as a cure for thus far untreatable ailments may be close at hand, potentially saving thousands of lives. At the same time, this could provide a huge opportunity for investors. Which companies have the biggest potential to leap on new drug approvals, and what potential investment opportunities are out there?

GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) and Theravance (NASDAQ:THRX) recently completed a phase 3 program for LAMA/LABA (UMEC/VI), which is used to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). GlaxoSmithKline is on schedule to apply for regulatory approval for LAMA/LABA by 2013. If LAMA/LABA is approved, it will replace Advair, GlaxoSmithKline's blockbuster drug, which brought in $8.1 billion in revenue in 2011. With total revenue of $20.02 billion in the second quarter, and total cash of $12.23 billion, GlaxoSmithKline is in a good position to push for approval of this drug. This could present a lucrative buying opportunity for investors. We will have to wait and see if LAMA/LABA is approved, but investors should watch closely for any new developments and buy opportunities.

Bapineuzumab, made by Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), is now showing new promise. The experimental drug had previously failed to halt mental decline in Alzheimer's patients. But new results show the drug might work if given earlier on, before most of the damage and memory loss has occurred, which may not be possible to reverse. Dementia is a global condition, affecting nearly 35 million people worldwide. Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia.

Nearly 5 million people in the U.S. currently suffer from Alzheimer's. Medications such as Aricept and Namenda temporarily ease symptoms, but there is currently no known cure. Bapineuzumab works by attaching itself to amyloid in order to help clear it out. Amyloid creates sticky plaque which clogs patients' brains, damaging nerve cells and greatly impairing the memory and thought processes. Doctors are unsure of whether amyloid is a cause or symptom of Alzheimer's. Many companies are currently testing new drugs specifically aimed at removing amyloid.

With total revenue of $65.03 billion in the second quarter and total cash of $33.85 billion, Johnson & Johnson is in an excellent position to continue improving this drug and work it through the regulatory process. Investors should watch both Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer closely for developments surrounding this potentially groundbreaking drug.

Last, I will discuss Neuralstem (NYSEMKT:CUR). The company has received a contract from the U.S. Department of Defense for its effort in fighting brain tumors. A total of $1.6 million has been granted for the first year of the project, of which $625,000 will be granted to Neuralstem itself to help fund the goal of developing a therapeutic product that treats brain tumors. Neuralstem was founded in 1996 and has since committed itself to developing successful treatments for brain tumors. Why has Neuralstem targeted brain tumors specifically? Karl Johe, PhD, Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer of Neuralstem, says, "Current cancer therapies do not work on the majority of brain tumors. The prognosis for patients with a brain tumor such as glioblastoma is about 12 months of life." Investors should watch Neuralstem closely for any new developments surrounding its work on the treatment of brain tumors that could present buying opportunities.

Source: 5 Healthcare Stocks That Could Boost Your Portfolio By 2013