This is a good article.


Two Steps Forward
Mary Ellen Egan 08.07.08, 6:00 PM ET
Forbes issue date 09.01.08




New drugs in late-stage trials offer promise for sufferers of the chronic and crushing disease multiple sclerosis
Robin Giese, 59, kicks off each day by getting out of her wheelchair for a half-hour ride on a stationary bike followed by 30 minutes of stretching exercises. Most afternoons she visits friends or one of of her five grandchildren, and in the evenings she and her husband, Clifford, entertain guests or go out to dinner.

Giese hasn't always been so active. She has multiple sclerosis, the degenerative disease of the central nervous system that afflicts 400,000 Americans. In MS the immune system attacks myelin, a fatty substance that protects nerve fibers much the way insulation protects electrical wires. When the unprotected nerve fibers, or axons, are damaged, signals are blocked or delayed traveling to and from the brain. This causes a variety of symptoms that can include blurred vision, incontinence, difficulty walking and paralysis.

Over three decades multiple sclerosis has slowly robbed Giese of her mobility and weakened her muscles, and without treatment she would be all but immobilized in her wheelchair. But an experimental drug has changed the course of her disease--and her husband's career path.

The compound, called dirucotide, is a chain of 17 amino acids that mimics a portion of the protein in myelin. It works by acting as a decoy to divert the attacking immune cells. It has had such a profound impact on Robin's condition that her husband has started a company, BioMS Medical, to bring it to market. Today dirucotide is one of two novel MS drugs in late-stage clinical trials. The other, from a small firm called Acorda, improves muscle strength.

There are four kinds of MS. Most sufferers are first given a diagnosis of a mild relapsing form of the disease marked by occasional flare-ups followed by months or years without symptoms. Ninety percent of patients with this condition eventually develop a progressive MS characterized by continuous deterioration. The two remaining types of MS, less common, entail a rapid decline.

Most existing MS therapies work by suppressing the immune system, and they're generally effective only when the disease is at an early stage. They include Biogen Idec (nasdaq: BIIB - news - people )'s monoclonal antibody Tysabri, beta interferons and anticancer drugs. They can be helpful (there is no cure), but their side effects can range from flu-like symptoms to fatal viral infections of the brain.

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