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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Protein Potential

Interferon alpha (IFNα) was one of the first FDA-approved biotherapeutic treatments. Since its approval, it has proved to be a powerful cytokine with potent therapeutic activity but, unfortunately, strong side effects. The overall use of IFNα increased dramatically when it was approved as the treatment of choice for hepatitis C.

However, nearly half of the individuals infected with genotype 1 of the virus still fail to respond to therapy (1). Consequently, several pharmaceutical companies are now trying to turn on the body’s own interferon alpha family of proteins using immunomodulatory molecules in the hope that this will elicit a more complete antiviral response. Both therapeutic approaches are not without risk, due to the side effects associated with IFNα. Additionally, there is a growing amount of published scientific articles suggesting that IFNα may be involved in certain autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) (2).

Combined, these observations clearly suggest an increased need to monitor IFNα levels in both normal and diseased individuals along with patients undergoing therapy. How much IFNα produced by the body in response to new immunomodulatory therapies will be functionally equivalent to the current IFNα exogenous treatment regimen? How much ‘basal’ IFNα is beneficial to prevent or limit viral infection and how much is too much, thereby predisposing an individual to autoimmune disorders?


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Ronald G Jubin PhD is the current Research and Development Director at PBL InterferonSource. Previously, he was a Research Scientist with Schering-Plough from 1992 to 2004 in the antiviral therapy department, working on hepatitis C virus and interferon antiviral mechanisms. Whilst there, he published several papers that helped better define the mechanism of HCV translation. Ronald received his BA in Microbiology from Kean University, his MS degree in Microbiology from Seton Hall University and his PhD in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, US.
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