Nanoparticles Could Lead to Stronger Drugs, Fewer Side Effects for Cancer Patients

A biotech company called Cerulean says its nanoparticle-delivered cancer drugs are better at attacking tumors.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

One result of the side effects of cancer treatments is that patients often can’t tolerate or survive a combination of different drugs at the same time—which can limit a doctor’s ability to knock out the disease. The head of a Boston-area biotech called Cerulean Pharma thinks the solution is nanoparticle-delivered drugs, which have fewer and less severe side effects. They could make it easier for doctors to mount a multipronged attack on tumors and kill the cells before they can develop a resistance to any one compound.

Cancer cells can develop resistance to individual drugs very quickly, says Oliver Fetzer, CEO of Cerulean. And he points to recent studies showing that different cells within the same tumor can have different genetic mutations. In some cases, that means that a drug that kills cancer cells in one part of a tumor may not work in other parts. This tumor diversity suggests that it would be best to hit cancer cells with multiple drugs at once to make it extremely difficult for the tumor to develop resistance to all therapies.

Nanoparticles could help achieve this goal. The nanoparticles developed by Cerulean are too big to get out of blood vessels and into healthy tissue, but they are the right size to get into tumors because the blood vessels that grow around cancer tissue have pores or gaps that aren’t found in healthy tissue. “These nanoparticles find their way into the tumor through the leaky [blood vessels], so they can’t really escape out of your normal bloodstream in the healthy tissue,” says Fetzer. Once inside the tumor tissue, cancer cells take them in.

Cerulean’s nanoparticle acts like time-release packaging—instead of dumping all the cancer drug into the tumor at one time, the nanoparticle slowly breaks down and releases the drug bit by bit. A feature of Cerulean’s technology is that the nanoparticle and the drug are connected by a chemical bond. While drugs in other nanoparticles used in delivery are held by polymer meshes or inside a fatty capsule, drugs in Cerulean’s nanoparticles are tethered by a chemical link. The drug is released as the chemical bond is broken, a process partly controlled by an unknown enzyme in the body. That rate of release can be tuned using different linkers, says Fetzer.

Data from early clinical trials of Cerulean’s lead compound—a nanoparticle containing a drug called Camptothecin that is too toxic to be administered on its own—suggests it is well-tolerated. Patients in the trial experienced fewer and milder side effects than do patients given available drugs.

Another player in the nanoparticle-delivery space, BIND Biosciences, adds a layer of specificity to its delivery by affixing targeting molecules to the outside of its nanoparticles (see “Fine-tuning Nanotech to Target Cancer“). The targeting molecules recognize proteins on the outside of cancer cells and so help bring the nanopharmaceutical to its desired location.

Fetzer says that while there may be applications where the targeting is helpful, his company does not think it is necessary. “When we look at the data we’ve generated with untargeted particles, we haven’t seen the need to add another layer of complexity.”

The company expects to have results from its human trials of its lead compound in treating lung cancers by the end of the 2012. It recently began testing the effectiveness of the same compound in ovarian cancer patients. To begin to explore the possibility of combining nanoparticle-based cancer drugs with other therapies, Cerulean is also enrolling patients with kidney cancer in a phase I trial that will combine the company’s lead compound with bevacizumab, a commercially available cancer drug used in a variety of cancers.

Company Aims to Cure Blindness with Optogenetics

The technique would retrain cells that typically don’t respond to light.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One biotech startup wants to restore vision in blind patients with a gene therapy that gives light sensitivity to neurons that don’t normally possess it.

The attempt, by Ann Arbor, Michigan-basedRetrosense Therapeutics, will use so-called optogenetics. Scientists have used the technique over the last few years as a research tool to study brain circuits and the neural control of behavior by directing neuron activity with flashes of light. But Retrosense and others groups are pushing to bring the technique to patients in clinical trials.

The idea behind Retrosense’s experimental therapy is to use optogenetics to treat patients who have lost their vision due to retinal degenerative diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa. Patients with retinitis pigmentosa experience progressive and irreversible vision loss because the rods and cones of their eyes die due to an inherited condition. If the company is successful, the treatment could also help patients with the most common form of macular degeneration, which affects nearly a million people in the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any therapies for either condition.

Retrosense is developing a treatment in which other cells in the retina could take the place of the rods and cones, cells which convert light into electrical signals. The company is targeting a group of neurons in the eye called ganglion cells. Normally, ganglion cells don’t respond to light. Instead, they act as a conduit for electrical information sent from the retina’s rods and cones. The ganglion cells then transmit visual information directly to the brain.

Doctors would inject a non-disease causing virus into a patient’s eye. The virus would carry the genetic information needed to produce the light-sensitive channel proteins in the ganglion cells. Normally, rods, cones, and other cells translate light information into a code of neuron-firing patterns that is then transmitted via the ganglion cells into the brain. Since Retrosense’s therapy would bypass that information processing, it may require the brain to learn how to interpret the signals.

So far, Retrosense and its academic collaborators have shown that the treatment can restore some vision-evoked behaviors in rodents. The treatment also seems safe in nonhuman primates. The optogenetically modified ganglion cells of these primates are light-responsive, but behavioral tests aren’t possible, as there are no nonhuman primate models of retinal degeneration, says Retrosense CEO Sean Ainsworth.

Retrosense plans to begin its first clinical trial in 2013 with nine blind retinitis pigmentosa patients.

Home prices gain again but consumer mood cools


NEW YORK | Tue Aug 28, 2012 11:49am EDT

(Reuters) – Home prices rose for the fifth consecutive month in June, a fresh sign of improvement as the recovery in the housing market picks up steam.

But in a reminder of how fragile the broader economy remains, another measure of consumers’ economic views released on Tuesday deteriorated in August to the lowest in nine months as Americans were more pessimistic about business and labor market prospects.

The housing sector has been a bright spot, with the stabilization in prices since February suggesting the long-struggling market has finally turned a corner.

Still, the recovery is expected to be slow as the sector faces several hurdles, including ongoing foreclosures and a large number of underwater homeowners.

The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas gained 0.9 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis for June, topping economists’ forecasts for a 0.5 percent rise, according to a Reuters poll.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, prices were even stronger, up 2.3 percent.

Prices in the 20 cities rose 0.5 percent compared with the previous year, the first time year-over-year price changes were in positive territory since September 2010.

Atlanta fared the worst, tumbling 12.1 percent from a year ago. Hard-hit Phoenix continued to bounce back and was up nearly 14 percent.

“The fact that some of the areas hardest hit during the housing downturn, such as Florida, Arizona, and California, have seen gains in recent months is a positive sign that the gradual improvement in housing conditions is becoming somewhat broader based,” said Michael Gapen, senior U.S. economist at Barclays Capital in New York.

Financial markets showed little reaction to the data as investor attention remained on a highly anticipated speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke at the end of the week.

Many analysts think the Federal Reserve could take more steps to bolster the economy as soon as the central bank’s next meeting in September. Bernanke’s speech at an annual gathering in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, will be scrutinized to see if he provides any clarity on the Fed’s next move.

Economic growth slowed to a 1.5 percent annualized rate in the second quarter, though a second reading on GDP on Wednesday is expected to revise that up slightly to 1.7 percent. Economists anticipate a pick-up in the second half of the year, though growth is still expected to be relatively lackluster.


The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes fell to 60.6 from a downwardly revised 65.4 the previous month. Economists had expected a slight increase to 66 from July’s original reading of 65.9.

August’s figure was the lowest level since November.

The expectations index tumbled to 70.5 from 78.4, while the present situation index edged down to 45.8 from 45.9.

The decline suggested the recent rise in gasoline prices took a toll on consumers, said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. The raft of tax hikes and spending cuts that are set to take effect at the beginning of next year may also be weighing on sentiment, he said.

“Although in recent years confidence has not been a very reliable leading indicator of actual consumption, the drop in August is nonetheless one more reason for the Fed to act boldly at its next meeting in mid-September,” said Dales.

Consumers’ labor market assessment was mixed. The “jobs hard to get” index eased to 40.7 percent from 41 percent while the “jobs plentiful” index also declined, to 7 percent from 7.8 percent.

But the view of the job market in the next six months was weaker, with 15.4 percent expecting to see more jobs, down from July’s 17.6 percent.

Consumers were more concerned about price increases. They expected inflation in the coming 12 months to climb to 5.9 percent, from 5.4 percent in the previous survey.

(Editing by Dan Grebler)

Changing Cities: A Wind Turbine That Creates Fresh Water Out of Thin Air

For the nearly 20 percent of the world’s population lives in areas without access to fresh drinking water, getting access is a matter of life or death. Inspired by the mechanics of a dripping air conditioner, French inventor Marc Parent was inspired to create a solution that could bring fresh water to the most remote, driest parts of the world.

Parent created a company, Eole Water, that produces wind turbines that literally pull fresh water out of thin air.  His solution, dubbed the WMS1000 uses the electricity generated from a windmill to collect and treat water without tapping into a water source such as a river, lake or well.

Eole Water is testing the invention in France and Abu Dhabi.  The invention, if the company can get the economics to work, looks to be a promising solution to the water crisis.

I recently interviewed Thibault Janin,  Marketing and Communication Director of Eole Water on the WMS 1000 turbine to find out what’s in store for this new technology.

How was the idea of a wind turbine that produces water developed?
Thibault Janin: The idea came from Marc Parent, founder of Eole Water, when he lived in the Caribbean, and was subjected to water shortages. He began to work on a system that could recover moisture from the air and transform it into water. Soon after, he returned to France. He patented the process and founded Eole Water.

Millions of people worldwide live in remote areas without any access to safe drinking water. What is the potential  for the Eole system to solve this issue?
Thibault Janin: Each unit can create 1,000 liters of drinking water using only moisture and powered only by wind. Let me highlight this word : CREATE. All existing solutions (wells, desalination, lakes/rivers pumping, etc.) only treat an existing source of water. Thus, what happens when there is no or no more water available? The WMS1000 can create water when there is no existing source available. That makes a difference. Our technology integrates water creation, water collection, water treatment and water local distribution.  The WMS1000 can produce and distribute water everywhere.

Today, people only use centralized distribution, from a center point to others. With our turbine, we wish to decentralize the water access. As the logistic and the process are easy to install and operate, it will be an answer to various issues like massive population movements that cause swelling of cities, increased diseases and therefore health care costs increasing, a door to agriculture or a local industry beginning. All economic or welfare starts with access to water. And this is what we provide.

Are any of these turbines in place and operational?
Thibault Janin: Wind turbines (first, second, third generation) can be seen at Eole Water Headquarters in Manosque in the South of France. The fourth one is used to make demonstration during shows and exhibitions. The fifth one, the WMS1000, is the real showcase of our actual company knowledge. It has been designed and manufactured between January 2010 and December 2011. Then first tested in France between January 2011 to August 2011, and second in Abu Dhabi (Mussafah) from November 2011 to April 2012. The final location of this turbine will be Dubai by the end of 2012. The location will be opened to public.

What’s the cost of production and operation of the turbine?
Thibault Janin: The WMS1000 has a price of $600,000. It has been designed to operate in very remote areas, which implies that the maintenance overheads are strictly reduced to minimum. The WMS1000 wind turbine has lifetime of 20 years minimum.

What is the potential for the turbine?

Thibault Janin: Thibault Janin: Do not look only at the 150 million potential customers for this technology. It is much more complex. Water is becoming increasingly scarce. Household needs in the matter should increase by 130 percent by 2030. At the same time, the WMS1000 is only one step in our development. Our range will expand to provide more precise and larger answers to communities with larger turbines featuring higher capacities of water production. We respond to a growing and constant global demand, not subjected to economic classical cycles, since water is essential to life.

What hurdles do you see standing in the way of bringing more of these wind turbines online?
The major challenge for Eole Water is to make this technology more competitive in terms of price per water cubic meter. Our technology must reach maturity as quickly as possible, at several levels: production, R&D, legal or business experience.

This interview has been edited

How Making Brain Tumors Glow Saves Lives

 By DR. TIFFANY CHAO, ABC News Medical Unit

Aug. 27, 2012

It all started with a headache.

Back in 2010, Kelsey Stewart thought the new head pain he had been feeling was a sinus infection. He saw a doctor, who prescribed him some anti-inflammatory medication that he hoped would take care of the problem.

But once he started vomiting uncontrollably — one day, he recalls, he vomited 21 times — he went to the hospital for further evaluation.

There, a CT scan of his head and further testing revealed the bleak truth: Stewart had brain cancer. And it was not just any kind, but a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). GBM is a very aggressive kind of cancer known for its grim prognosis.

“We were terrified,” Stewart says. “Everything you read about GBMs is just death everywhere, death, death, death. My neuro-oncologist said she’s never seen anyone survive this.”

Doctors told him that, without surgery, he was not expected to live more than a year. But even with surgery, risks were high. Operations to remove brain tumors are complicated. They are located in the delicate brain tissues, and a tumor often appears remarkably similar to healthy tissue in the brain. This means that the line between diseased and healthy tissue is almost indistinguishable, leaving surgeons few clues on where to cut.

Fortunately, his brain surgeon had been working on an innovative solution to address this challenge.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Aaron Cohen-Gadol at Indiana University Health Neuroscience Center had developed a method to make cancerous tumors glow, using a special new microscope filter and small amounts of a glowing compound called fluorescein.

“We wanted to find a way using this new technology to increase the safety for the patient and at the same time maximizing tumor resection,” he explains.

In the operating room, Cohen-Gadol infused a small amount of a fluorescein into Kelsey’s bloodstream. Within the baseball-sized brain tumor, microscopic breaks in the blood vessels allowed tiny amounts of fluorescein to leak out into the cancerous tissues to light up under the microscope. Through the filter of his microscope, the tumor glowed fluorescent yellow – almost like white clothing appears under a black light.

Cohen-Gadol says that the glowing tumor was “like a roadmap,” helping him identify tumor more easily and facilitating a more thorough removal.

Currently, many neurosurgeons are seeking similar ways to remove brain cancers more easily and thoroughly. One emerging area of research involves an experimental compound that makes brain tumors glow, called 5-Aminolevulinic Acid (ALA). Other surgeons in Japan have tried using fluorescein, but without the newly invented filter that Cohen-Gadol used, they had to use precariously high doses of the glowing compound until they could see an effect.

In the United States, fluorescein is the only drug already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and available to all hospitals — not just the few enrolled in the ALA trials. Therefore, this compound can theoretically be used by any neurosurgeon schooled in the techniques of the microscope filter Cohen-Gadol used.

“There is no question that without the dye, it is very challenging to remove these tumors; you have to use imagination and adjunct strategies like mapping the brain.” said Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, a professor of neurosurgery and oncology at Johns Hopkins Medical Institution who was not involved in Stewart’s treatment. “Using these dyes makes it a step easier for the patient to optimize outcomes for the patients.

“If these tumors fluoresce with a small amount of fluorescein, this can be of tremendous benefit for us to be able to remove these tumors from the patient.”

In fact, this technology can even be applied in other diseases in the brain. Cohen-Gadol says that fluorescein can also help in identifying brain aneurysms — a condition in which there is an abnormal, dangerous ballooning of blood vessels. He says that when looking for aneurysms, the healthy vessels glow yellow-green while the aneurysm remains uncolored, which makes for “an amazingly beautiful picture.”

Cohen-Gadol says he has used the fluorescein technique in more than 30 brain cancer patients already. In Stewart’s case, Cohen-Gadol managed to remove 99 percent of the tumor using the technology. Other doctors tell him it’s the cleanest removal they’ve ever seen. A few months later, he used the technique again to remove two smaller tumors in Stewart’s brain.

And after he was given less than a year to live, Stewart is now going on three years of survival. For this, he is extraordinarily grateful.

“Dr. Cohen-Gadol being able to see more tumor and go after it was a big advantage for me,” says Stewart. “Whatever new technology is out there to improve the chance of survival, you want to get as much as you can.”

Global stocks, Treasuries up, eyes on central banks

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK | Mon Aug 27, 2012 12:32pm EDT

(Reuters) – Global stocks edged higher and U.S. Treasuries prices rose on Monday as expectations of further stimulus from top central banks gave support to markets, while oil prices were volatile on concerns over a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico.

U.S. stocks rose, led by gains in Apple (AAPL.O), which hit a new high above $680 after a patent court win over South Korea’s Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) on Friday.

Investors are looking ahead to a meeting of central bankers at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday for clarity on what the Federal Reserve will do to stimulate the economy and how the European Central Bank will tackle the bloc’s credit crisis.

“There’s not much going on as we look ahead to Jackson Hole, and we might make some new lows in terms of trading volume going into that as investors wait,” said Dan Veru, chief investment officer at Palisade Capital Management LLC in Fort Lee, New Jersey, which oversees $3.8 billion.

Last week, volume in U.S. equities was among the lowest so far this year and a holiday in the UK kept trading light in Europe on Monday.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was down 0.31 point, or 0.00 percent, at 13,157.66. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index .SPX was up 2.89 points, or 0.20 percent, at 1,414.02. The Nasdaq Composite Index.IXIC was up 10.89 points, or 0.35 percent, at 3,080.68.

A gauge of world equities .WORLD was up 0.2 percent and the pan-European FTSE 300 .FTEU3 stock index provisionally closed up 0.5 percent.

U.S. crude fell 1.1 percent to $95.06 a barrel, while Brent crude futures fell 0.8 percent in volatile trading after giving up gains of more than $1 per barrel as tropical storm Isaac approached the Gulf of Mexico and traders assessed the prospect of lower crude oil use by temporarily closed U.S. refineries.

“Traders realize that there is more refining capacity at risk from this storm, and that the risk is also to oil consumption,” said analyst Tim Evans at Citi Futures Perspective in New York. “That’s why we see today that crude prices are off and near-term gasoline prices are rising. It is similar to the price action we had ahead of Hurricane Katrina.”

The euro was little changed against the U.S. dollar, holding most of its recent gains after a bigger-than-expected drop in German business sentiment raised hopes the euro zone’s largest economy will do more to revive the bloc’s growth.

The euro edged up less than 0.1 percent to $1.2513 holding below a seven-week peak of $1.2589 set last Thursday.

“The news clearly shows that Germany cannot escape unharmed if the rest of the euro zone falls into a deep recession,” said Boris Schlossberg, managing director of FX Strategy at BK Asset Management in New York.

“Therefore policymakers may now temper their insistence on austerity and instead will pursue more stimulative policies in order to revive growth.”

This view got a boost on Monday from Chicago Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Evans, who said in remarks prepared for delivery in Hong Kong that the Fed should start a new round of monetary stimulus immediately, buying bonds for as long as it takes to produce a steady decline in the jobless rate.

The possibility of more bond buying from the Fed lifted prices of U.S. Treasuries.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up 10/32, with the yield at 1.6506 percent.

European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi signaled earlier this month that the bank may start buying government debt to reduce crippling Spanish and Italian borrowing costs, comments that fueled a broad-based upturn in sentiment on global markets.

However, over the weekend Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann likened the ECB’s bond-buying plans to a dangerous drug, pointing to growing unease over the policy.

Gold prices hit their highest since mid-April on bets of more Fed easing, but then steadied on caution ahead of the Jackson Hole meeting.

(Additional reporting by Wanfeng Zhou, Ryan Vlastelica, Karen Brettell and David Sheppard; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Samsung shares drop $12 billion after Apple’s court victory

By Miyoung Kim

SEOUL | Mon Aug 27, 2012 10:54am EDT

(Reuters) – Samsung Electronics shares slumped 7.5 percent on Monday, wiping more than $12 billion off the South Korean giant’s market value, as a sweeping victory for Apple Inc in a U.S. patent lawsuit raised concerns about its smartphone business – its biggest cash cow.

Samsung, which says it will contest the verdict, was ordered to pay $1.05 billion in damages after a California jury found it had copied critical features of the hugely popular iPhone and iPad and could face an outright sales ban on key products.

“There are still too many variables including the final ruling to come at least a month from the recent verdict, and whether there will be a sales ban on Samsung’s main sellers such as the Galaxy S3,” said a fund manager at a Korean asset management company that was one of the biggest institutional holders of Samsung’s stock as of end-March.

Shares in Samsung – the world’s biggest technology firm by revenue – tumbled as much as 8 percent, its biggest daily percentage drop in nearly four years, to 1.173 million won ($1,000), before closing at 1.180 million won. The broader Seoul market fell 0.1 percent.

Trading volume was also heavy, with a total of 1.27 million Samsung shares changing hands, around four times the daily average it saw last week and the stock’s biggest daily volume since October 2008.

In the most closely watched patent trial in years, the jury at a federal court in San Jose, California, just miles from Apple’s headquarters, found that Samsung infringed on six of seven Apple patents.

The verdict, which surprised many analysts with its speed – coming after less than three days of deliberations – and the extent of Apple’s victory, will likely solidify the U.S. firm’s dominance of the exploding mobile computing market.

Apple’s triumph was also seen as a blow to Google, whose Android software powers the Samsung products that were found to infringe on Apple patents.

But it could help Microsoft, which has been struggling to win ground with its rival Windows mobile operating system. Shares in Microsoft’s handset partner Nokia jumped 6 percent in early trade on Monday.

Analysts estimate Samsung’s earnings will be reduced by 4 percent this year due to increased patent-related provisioning.

“Samsung should be OK – it means a 4-5 percent hit to the bottom line,” said a Hong Kong-based hedge fund manager who declined to be identified.

“Both companies are in the midst of a squabble but I don’t think it’s a structural negative for Samsung. At the end of the day, as Forbes reported recently, Samsung has 65,000 patents versus 9,000 for Apple. Furthermore, Apple relies on Samsung for the processing brains of their phones. I sold Samsung four months ago but am watching the stock closely now.”

The court case had weighed on Samsung’s stock in the week leading up to Friday’s verdict, but even after Monday’s slide it remains up around 75 percent over the last 12 months, during which time galloping smartphone sales have powered record profits.

The phone and tablet business now accounts for around 70 percent of earnings for Samsung, which made a net profit of $4.5 billion in the April-June quarter.


Apple plans to file for a sales injunction against Samsung, its lawyers said, and the judge in the case set a hearing date for September 20. Samsung, in turn, said the verdict “is not the final word in this case”.

Top executives at Samsung, led by Vice Chairman Choi Gee-sung and head of its mobile division JK Shin, held an emergency meeting on Sunday.

The biggest concern for Samsung remains whether its latest flagship product the Galaxy S III, which was not included in the case, will also be targeted by Apple. The model is Samsung’s best selling smartphone, with sales topping 10 million since its late May debut.

But Samsung’s skill as a “fast executioner” – quick to match others’ innovations – would likely mean tweaked, non-patent infringing devices would be on the market soon after any ban came into place, Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note.

“Outcomes of patent cases as well as their direct commercial effects are hard to gauge and often take time to resolve,” said another Hong Kong hedge fund manager who focuses on South Korea. “For now, I would be neutral until better clarity or cheaper levels.”

Samsung was disappointed by the verdict and plans to keep up the legal fight to have its claims accepted, according to an internal memo sent to its employees and released to the media.

“We’ve sought to settle this through negotiations, as Apple is our customer but had no choice but to counter sue,” the memo said. “History has shown there has yet to be a company that has won the hearts and minds of consumers and achieved continuous growth when its primary means to competition has been the outright abuse of patent law, not the pursuit of innovation.” ($1 = 1134.05 Korean won)

(Additional reporting by Joyce Lee and Ju-min Park in Seoul and Nishant Kumar in Hong Kong; Editing by Alex Richardson)

GSK completes trials for combination lung drug

LONDON | Fri Aug 24, 2012 8:09am EDT

(Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline has completed final stage testing of its experimental once-daily lung disease drug LAMA/LABA and will press ahead with plans to file for approval of the medicine in global markets from the end of 2012.

In a statement on Friday, the British drugmaker said a 52-week safety study, the last in a program of trials which also included four pivotal studies of the drug, was now complete.

GSK, which is developing the LAMA/LABA combination medicine with Theravance, said in July that it had showed positive results in four late-stage trials in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“The full results of all these studies … will be presented at future scientific meetings,” the firm said.

LAMA/LABA is a combination of two molecules – umeclidinium bromide (UMEC), a long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA) and vilanterol (VI), a long-acting beta2 agonist (LABA), administered by a new dry powder inhaler.

GSK is working hard to develop next-generation medicines to become successors to its $8 billion lung drug Advair.

Advair and Pfizer’s Spiriva currently dominate the respiratory drug market, but Swiss firm Novartis is also fighting the next generation battle with its experimental combination drug QVA149, which some analysts are already tipping as a potential $5 billion-a-year seller.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

Wall Street rises on hopes for more stimulus

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK | Fri Aug 24, 2012 4:40pm EDT

(Reuters) – Stocks gained on Friday on news the European Central Bank is considering setting targets in a new bond-buying program that could help contain euro-zone borrowing costs and on hopes of more stimulus from the Federal Reserve.

Despite the day’s advance, the S&P 500 broke a six-week string of gains. For the week, the benchmark index fell 0.5 percent loss. Conflicting perceptions of the Fed’s commitment to provide more stimulus took a toll on the market this week.

Investor sentiment received a lift on Friday from U.S. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who said the Fed has room to deliver additional monetary stimulus to boost the U.S. economy. Bernanke made the comment in a letter to a congressional oversight panel.

The letter comes a week ahead of the annual economic symposium at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where Bernanke and ECB President Mario Draghi will speak.

The ECB is discussing yield-band targets under a new bond-buying program to let it shield its strategy and avoid speculators trying to cash in, central bank sources told Reuters on Friday. Any decision would not be made before the ECB’s September 6 policy meeting.

“If there can be a nice balance of stimulus that keeps interest rates low, as opposed to throwing more debt at the problems in Europe, and some level of austerity, Europe can get out of this tangle. But that balance is really the key,” said Bryant Evans, investment advisor and portfolio manager at Cozad Asset Management, in Champaign, Illinois.

The market’s gains were fairly broad. The S&P financial index .GSPF rose 0.6 percent and the S&P consumer discretionary index .GSPD climbed 0.8 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 100.51 points, or 0.77 percent, to 13,157.97 at the close. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index .SPXadded 9.05 points, or 0.65 percent, to 1,411.13. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC gained 16.39 points, or 0.54 percent, to close at 3,069.79.

Volume was the second lowest for a full day this year, with 4.6 billion shares trading on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the Amex. The year-to-date average is 6.6 billion.

The Dow also broke a six-week string of gains, losing 0.9 percent for the week. The Nasdaq lost 0.2 percent for the week after posting five weeks of gains.

In a letter to a congressional oversight panel on Friday, Bernanke said, “There is scope for further action by the Federal Reserve to ease financial conditions and strengthen the recovery.

Early in the day, the S&P 500 briefly fell below the 1,400 level following cautious comments from German Chancellor Angela Merkel about Greece staying in the euro zone.

It was the first time in two weeks that the benchmark S&P 500 had dipped below 1,400.

“Intermediate-term, weekly indicators, tracking one- to two-quarter shifts are not yet overbought and, in theory, have potential to carry equities higher into the fall,” said Robert Sluymer, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets LLC, in New York.

Among gaining stocks, Supervalu (SVU.N) shares jumped 10.9 percent to $2.35 as the U.S. grocery company’s advisers sought potential buyers to bid for the entire business, even as several suitors have inquired about its individual parts, according to a Bloomberg report.

On the downside were shares of Autodesk (ADSK.O), which slid 15.6 percent to $30.13. The stock was downgraded by various brokerages a day after the design software maker’s quarterly results fell short of expectations for the first time in nearly two years.

On the data front, new orders for durable goods, which are long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods such as computers and aircraft, surged in July, even as declines in a gauge of planned business spending pointed to a slowing growth trend in manufacturing.

The mixed data added to the market’s uncertainty on whether the Federal Reserve will act soon to bolster the economy.

(Additional reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Dave Zimmerman and Jan Paschal)

New Home Sales Slightly Better Than Expected

Today’s new home sales showed some signs of life.  Combined withyesterday’s existing home sales report it seems that the housing market has left a bottom behind and is on a bumpy road to recovery.

New homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 372,000 in July, according to the Commerce Department.

This is 3.6 percent above the rate a month ago and 25.3 percent more than a year ago, just a bit higher than economist expectations.

New home sales are still well below levels seen in a healthy economy but now match a two-year high.

Last time the housing market was showing signs of life was thanks to a government program offering tax benefits to new home buyers.  Not so this time.

New home sales are a small chunk of the housing market but they have an important ripple effect in the economy.

One more nugget out today on housing.

Home prices rose 1.8 percent in the April-June compared with the first quarter of the year, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said Thursday.

It was the biggest quarterly jump since the fourth quarter of 2005, when prices rose by 2.2 percent. Prices were up 3 percent from the same quarter a year earlier.

Meanwhile, mortgage rates, which reached historic lows earlier this summer, moved higher for the fourth consecutive week.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.66 percent for the week ending Aug. 23, up from last week when it averaged 3.62 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year rate averaged 4.22 percent, Freddie Mac reported.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.89 percent, up from last week when it averaged 2.88 percent. Last year in the same period, the 15-year rate averaged 3.44 percent.