Subjects: R and D
Resveratrol, a naturally-occurring antioxidant found in blueberries, red grapes and red wine, had become a press-magnet over the last few years after studies showed it activated so-called Sirt1 metabolic pathways which control the differentiation, aging and death of mammalian cells.
Amid the excitment, GlaxoSmithKline shelled-out $720 million to purchase Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, a Boston-based company that owned key patents in the area and that was headed by a controversial Harvard researcher, David Sinclair. Sinclair reportedly pocketed $8 million in the deal.
Alas, things haven’t gone well for GSK since the purchase. Last month in fact, the drug giant announced it was pulling the plug on further development of SRT 501, one of the proprietary resveratrol formulations it acquired from Sirtris.
GSK officials said at the time that the drug’s potential to cause harm outweighed any possible benefits, at least in relation to the treatment of multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer.
The announcement came a few months after GSK shut down a Phase 2 trial of the compound when several patients developed kidney failure.
The Myeloma Beacon, a blog that follows scientific advancements relevant to multiple myeloma, first broke the story. A GSK spokesperson told the Beacon that its decision allows the company to reassign development resources towards other resveratrol compounds with a more favorable risk/benefit ratio. The newer compounds are not being considered as treatments for myeloma.
“Currently, we have two of these latest generation compounds (SRT2104 and SRT2379) in several exploratory clinical trials,” the spokesperson added.
The GSK spokesperson did not indicate why the company decided to bag research on SRT501 altogether. Certainly, it could have continued to assess the compound for efficacy against other diseases.
Earlier scientific claims about resveratrol were based on laboratory studies involving mice and other rodents. GSK’s trial of SRT501 in myeloma patients was the first trial of the drug in humans.