Good News for Amira

Amira Pharmaceuticals announced some good news last week: The company has pharmacologically matched the results of a study with a murine knockout model that identified a novel target for treating idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Amira’s findings have already been the subject of an article in BioCentury and two stories on Xconomy.

Over 14 days of treatment with an experimental drug candidate, mice experienced a 40- to 60-percent reduction in fibrosis and inflammation, suggesting that Amira is well on its way to developing an oral medication fit to be studied in a human clinical setting.

Amira’s announcement is an exciting one, but the media’s interest in the story isn’t based solely on the merits of the data. The hits in BioCentury and Xconomy result, in large part, from preliminary footwork done by Russo Partners and Amira to familiarize reporters with the IPF space and cultivate interest in Amira’s program before the preclinical data was announced.

Our strategy on Amira’s behalf has focused on educating our media contacts about IPF and Amira’s promising program, which may produce one of the first viable treatments for this debilitating lung disease. We also highlighted the team’s focus on the bioactive lipid space and ability to rapidly develop the program – both of which provided excellent support for articles.

In working to raising awareness of the company’s earliest stage program, our goal is unusual in the realm of healthcare PR. Reporters tend to focus on the most advanced compounds in a company’s pipeline. When faced with a pitch about a preclinical program for a company like Amira with multiple clinical stage programs, they  all wanted to know, “What’s so special about this preclinical program?”

Here is where our introductory outreach to reporters becomes important. We can answer that question by educating journalists about the bleak contours of the therapeutic landscape where Amira’s drug will land if it is approved.

Approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed each year with IPF, which is a chronic disease marked by the accumulation of scar tissue in the lungs. There are no approved treatment options aside from a lung transplant.

Amira’s drug targets a receptor called LPA1, which is involved in inflammation and wound healing. LPA1 was identified as a potential target for IPF treatment by researchers at Harvard Medical School, who published a paper in the Jan. 2008 issue of Nature announcing that LPA1-knockout mice were better protected from fibrosis and mortality than their control counterparts.

Within 14 months, Amira replicated these results with a small molecule. The speed of this turnaround was useful in piquing reporters’ interest in Amira. Russo Partners turned the company’s findings about their experimental drug into a much bigger story by situating the data within the bigger story of IPF and the void of available treatments.

By taking the preliminary steps to educate reporters about Amira and the IPF space, we can continue to set the stage with journalists for further coverage in the months to come.

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