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China's First Homegrown Pharma

Apr. 07, 2015 4:29 PM ET
Derek Lowe profile picture
Derek Lowe

The Wall Street Journal had an article on a new HDAC inhibitor from Shenzhen Chipscreen (full text here from The Australian). It's worth highlighting. Epidaza (chidamide) appears to be the first homegrown drug discovery and development effort to reach regulatory approval in China.

Their founder, Xian-Ping Lu, was working at Galderma before he went back to China in the early 2000s to start his own company. Chidamide is a start-to-finish compound for Chipscreen, and that puts China on a rather short list of countries that have demonstrated the ability to do that in small molecule drug development. You see claims for this sort of thing that don't quite hold up, but this certainly appears to be the real thing, and congratulations to them.

Some thoughts: first off, this would be the fourth (I think) histone deacetylase inhibitor to get regulatory approval somewhere. That class of compounds was a hot topic for development ten or twelve years ago (I was working on some then, not to any great effect). It's the first class of pharmacological agents deliberately targeting epigenetic signaling, and the complexities of that field have made things run slower than people were hoping. As this article in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery put it:

Oncology drug developers have long been interested in the role of HDACs, which can repress gene transcription by modulating chromatin structure, because altered expression of HDAC enzymes is often seen in tumours. HDAC inhibitors, the researchers hoped, could drive the re-expression of silenced genes, including those that encode tumour-suppressing proteins. However, the failure of multiple HDAC inhibitors to show activity in most cancer types, especially in solid tumours, has over the years led to an outbreak of 'HDAC inhibitor fatigue' in the research community — distinct from the physical fatigue many patients experience as a common side-effect of the drugs. “The wave of excitement surrounding this early class of epigenetic drugs

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Derek Lowe profile picture
Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek, email him directly: derekb.lowe@gmail.com (mailto:derekb.lowe@gmail.com)

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