Astellas: Tremendous Progress in Immunology and Transplantation

Astellas: Tremendous Progress in Immunology and Transplantation

01.25.13 | By Jennifer Wall

While the "Innovations and Inaugurations" series came to an end last week, we remain focused on the importance of collaboration between public and private partners to help advance innovation and the critical role that biopharmaceutical research companies play in improving health care for patients battling disease.

In a guest blog post from Astellas, Catalyst readers can explore how over time - from Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidency to today - advances in the field of immunology and transplantation have transformed the way millions of patients receive care. Check it out:

One year into Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidency, in 1954, 23-year-old Richard Herrick's kidney was transplanted into his identical twin brother Ronald. It was the first successful long-term organ transplant. Ronald lived another eight years, largely because Richard's kidney was genetically identical to Ronald and his body didn't reject it.

But for patients who are not identical twins, doctors soon realized the importance of medicines that inhibit the immune system and prevent it from rejecting a transplanted organ as a foreign object in the body.

In 1967, while President Lyndon B. Johnson occupied the White House, livers and hearts were transplanted successfully for the first time. But many patients died soon after transplantation because the body rejected the new organ. Because of this, heart transplants dropped from 100 in 1968 to just 18 by the time Richard Nixon was president in 1970.

Progress in transplant surgery demanded innovations in the field of immunology, and the pharmaceutical industry was up to the challenge.

For more than 20 years, Astellas and one of its predecessor companies, Fujisawa, have been committed to the field of immunology and transplantation and have worked closely with the patient community to bring pharmaceutical innovations to patients whose lives may depend on it.

In 1993, the year President Bill Clinton was inaugurated, a highly anticipated immunosuppressant drug for liver transplant was unanimously recommended for approval to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, bringing new hope to transplant patients across the nation and expanding the scope of treatment options. Today, 70 percent of liver transplant patients live three years or longer, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). That is up from 1970, when only 30 percent of patients lived one year or more post-transplant. (Alqahtani and Larson, 2011). From there, Astellas continued to push our research, and the medicine was later approved to treat kidney and heart transplant patients, too.

Innovations in immunology have led to a dramatic increase in organ transplant survival rates, and are key to continuing that increase. That's why Astellas continues to invest in innovative immunology research. As we look to the future, we are applying our learnings about innovation to another group of people facing potentially life-threatening health challenges - cancer patients. Astellas recognizes that targeted therapies - especially in areas like oncology - are promising patients a future pipeline of new medicines. Astellas is unwavering in its commitment to innovation so that by the next presidential inauguration, even more patients live longer and healthier lives.

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