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New Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis: Fostamatinib from AstraZeneca (AZN) and Rigel Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (RIGL) Now in Phase III Trials: Interview with President and Chief Operating Officer Raul R. Rodriguez

67 WALL STREET, New York - September 19, 2012 - The Wall Street Transcript has just published its Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals Report offering a timely review of the sector to serious investors and industry executives. This special feature contains expert industry commentary through in-depth interviews with public company CEOs, Equity Analysts and Money Managers. The full issue is available by calling (212) 952-7433 or via The Wall Street Transcript Online.

Topics covered: Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Valuations - Oncology Drug Development - Orphan Drugs - FDA Approval Process - Reimbursement Trends

Companies include: Rigel Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (RIGL) and many others.

In the following excerpt from the Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals Report, the COO of Rigel Pharmaceuticals discusses the outlook for his company for investors:

TWST: Please begin with a brief overview of what Rigel is doing now.

Mr. Rodriguez: Rigel is a biopharmaceutical company that does drug development and drug discovery. We primarily focus on immune disorders, and now also on muscle disorders.

Our strategy is to build a broad portfolio of pharmaceutical drugs, which we discover ourselves, move them forward into early development and then establish proof in the clinic that our product candidates are useful and effective in major diseases. At that point, we selectively partner those with large pharmaceutical companies who can finish the development and market the products globally.

TWST: Rigel continues to impress with its R&D prowess. Would you comment on the technology behind the product candidate R343 that's being evaluated as a treatment for allergic asthma?

Mr. Rodriguez: R343 is an oral SYK kinase inhibitor. SYK is a well-known target in the mast cells of the respiratory tract. These mast cells are activated when there is exposure to an allergen, such as pollen, that causes an asthmatic response. So inhibiting SYK is an attractive approach because its inhibition prevents the respiratory mast cells from beginning an inflammatory response. R343 does that quite effectively. It's delivered into the lung via a dry-powder inhaler, and then potentially prevents that asthmatic attack or minimizes it.

We've completed an exploratory clinical trial of R343 with our former partner, Pfizer. In this trial we took mild asthmatics and elicited an asthmatic response, and showed that R343 was effective in ameliorating both the early- and late-phase asthmatic responses - even more effectively in the early phase than a widely used and currently available inhaled steroid.

TWST: Would you give us more background on what the science is behind this avenue of research?

Mr. Rodriguez: Rigel has been working on SYK kinase inhibitors for about a decade. We have considerable experience with this target and other similar targets like JAK inhibitors, which are also kinase inhibitors - particularly as they relate to immune disorders. SYK is a very attractive target since it is a central player in inflammatory responses.

We have another product, an oral SYK kinase inhibitor, fostamatinib, in late-phase development with our partner AstraZeneca for rheumatoid arthritis. R343 is an inhaled SYK inhibitor potentially useful in asthma.

We also have a number of other JAK kinases inhibitors that we are putting into the clinic or have already put into the clinic. We have four other programs going forward based on JAK kinase inhibition.

TWST: What is the timetable for fostamatinib, the other oral inhibitor that is in Phase III for rheumatoid arthritis?

Mr. Rodriguez: Our partner AstraZeneca started a large Phase III program called OSKIRA, Oral SYK Kinase Inhibition in Rheumatoid Arthritis. The three pivotal Phase III trials from that program - OSKIRA 1, OSKIRA 2 and OSKIRA 3 - will have their top-level data release during the first half of 2013. It will be a very substantial database with over 2,000 patients total in those three trials. In addition, we will get initial data at the end of this year from a smaller Phase II trial, OSKIRA 4.

TWST: Would you tell us what is the current regimen of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis?

For more from this interview and many others visit the Wall Street Transcript - a unique service for investors and industry researchers - providing fresh commentary and insight through verbatim interviews with CEOs, portfolio managers, and research analysts. This special issue is available by calling (212) 952-7433 or via The Wall Street Transcript Online.