Roche's gRED sees promising results in PhII macular degeneration study

Roche has rolled out positive data from a midstage study of a new drug for age-related macular degeneration. Investigators say that lampalizumab slowed progression of AMD in patients with advanced disease, shrinking the area of geographic atrophy by 20.4%. AMD is a leading cause of blindness and major market opportunity for the drug giant ($RHHBY), which has executed a sequence of big advances in R&D.

The pharma giant unveiled the data at the American Society of Retina Specialists meeting in Toronto on Tuesday. In a specific subpopulation treated monthly with lampalizumab, the "GA" progression rate was decreased by 44% at 18 months, reports Roche. And researchers noted that there were no unexpected side effects from the drug, which could help improve its chances of diversifying its drug portfolio with a new eye drug.

Roche obtained the drug from its buyout of Genentech, which in turn acquired the therapy in an acquisition of Tanox in 2007, according to Reuters. The drug blocks the cell-destruction properties of the protein Factor D, which is believed to increase the risk of developing AMD.

"The phase II results are encouraging for patients with geographic atrophy, a major vision-impairing disease where there is a great need for treatment options," said Richard Scheller, the head of gRED. "We are continuing to investigate our emerging biomarker strategy to identify people who would be appropriate candidates for treatment with lampalizumab."

Roche has benefited enormously from its buyout of Genentech, swelling its cancer drug portfolio and earning kudos for a series of pioneering new oncology therapies from gRED. But outside of cancer the R&D landscape has been bleak, with key failures for its pRED group in cholesterol and diabetes.

- here's the press release
- read the Reuters report