The connection between how skin responds when rubbed with chili oil, and the phenomenon that occurs in the brain during a migraine has Amgen Inc., the world’s largest biotechnology company in the world looking to produce new medicines for the millions of people affected by migraine. Amgen, as well as Alder Bioparmaceuticals Inc., Arteaus Therapeutics, and Labrys Biologies Inc., are looking at a chemical released during a migraine that carries a “pain” signal from nerve to nerve. The aim is to block off receptors from receiving messages, in the hope that drugs can be created that cut off migraine symptoms before they start.

A similar pain-signal transmission happens when chili oil touches skin. The capsaicin in the pepper causes the body to release calcitonin gene-related peptides, or CGRP. This event leads to an increase in blood flow to the area. Researchers at Amgen injected their drug under the skin of patients who had chili oil on their skin. The therapy blocked the CGRP that causes increased blood flow. “It sounds simple, but it’s important; it tells us that our drug is getting into the body in relative concentrations that are generally well tolerated and that block CGRP,” says Rob Lenz, a lead researcher in Amgen’s migraine drug development. Currently, Amgen’s AMG 334 and Alder’s ALD 403 are in the second of three clinical trials typically needed for U.S. regulatory approval.

There is a lot of excitement for this new pain blocker approach. By blocking a receptor in the brain from receiving a message, migraines could be totally avoided, says Dr. Peter Goadsby, director of the University of San Francisco’s Headache Center. Goadsby helped discover CGRP’s link to migraines, and has worked with drug companies on advancing his findings into medicines.

Financial analysts are also closely watching these trials. Michael Yee, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets predicts Amgen’s new migraine drug could reach $1 billion in sales, should it gain U.S. approval…….   Chicago Tribune     5/12/13

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