ScienceAugust 13, 2018

Biologics for Rheumatoid Arthritis in Novel Patients Populations

The development of effective biologic drugs has brought relief to many people…
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The development of effective biologic drugs has brought relief to many people with chronic conditions—especially that of rheumatoid arthritis. But despite the availability of multiple treatments for the autoimmune disease, firms continue to develop other options such as protein drugs[1] and biosimilars.[2] The continual development stems from patients who do not benefit from existing therapies due to either being unresponsive or unsuitable because of pre-existing conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Because of this patient population, pharmaceutical firms need to develop more biologics for rheumatoid arthritis. The multiple pathways implicated in the disease’s progression make targeting different patient profiles possible. The key to discovering potential drugs, however, depends upon R&D laboratories identifying the best target candidates for further study and discovery.

Biologics Can Be Successful in Treating Patients with Unmet Needs

One such candidate, a monoclonal antibody which will address the unmet needs of rheumatoid arthritis patients, is currently being studied in Europe. Intended for people unable to tolerate the most common treatment options because of their negative effects upon the liver and blood cells, the drug was found to significantly decrease disease activity.[3] By working to inhibit inflammatory activity, clinical data suggests that it might be one of the most effective anti-rheumatic drugs developed thus far.

Rheumatoid arthritis remains—and will remain—a popular target for drug development due to its incidence worldwide. Thanks to the innovation in this area, other diseases can benefit from a similar approach. There will always be patients for whom current treatment options are unsuitable, and biopharmaceutical firms must use modern solutions to develop unique therapies.

How Streamlining the R&D Process Can Help Navigate Biological Pathways

Navigating the multiple biological pathways implicated in diseases like rheumatoid arthritis to discover new therapies can be difficult and slow. To streamline the process, R&D laboratories need to adopt strategies that increase their chances of developing a successful drug. They can do this in a few ways:

  • Integration: Developing effective novel therapeutics for these patient demographics requires a deep understanding of their unmet needs, recent advances in rheumatoid arthritis research, and the best hypotheses to address these points. While researchers may have access to the real-world data, obtaining a clear picture may prove difficult due to their disparate sources. Integrating various information resources allows R&D teams to see potential connections and make informed decisions regarding which drug candidates to pursue, and which will benefit the most patients possible.
  • Collaboration: The monoclonal antibody being studied in Europe targets the most common cytokine found in rheumatoid arthritis patients, with its levels correlating to disease activity and joint destruction. Because of this relationship and its role in the inflammatory signaling pathway, the cytokine was a logical target. By utilizing collaborative tools that support the integration of databases and modeling of systems, R&D laboratories can formulate multiple hypotheses based on biological pathways and their impact on cells and organs. These hypotheses can then go on to enable drug discovery and development.
  • Simulation: Not only did the monoclonal antibody decrease disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, it demonstrated a 20% improvement in symptoms. But with the multiple pathways implicated in the disease, identifying drug candidates with similar success rates can be bogged down by trial and error. Discovering biologics for other complex diseases can be just as difficult. Utilizing drug simulation can allow researchers to identify the most appropriate therapeutic strategies, a necessary tool in diseases where there exist different patient demographics.
  • Modeling: The clinical trial success of the monoclonal antibody has fueled hopes of improving the quality of life in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. While such trials are meant to demonstrate drug efficacy, R&D laboratories can bolster their chances of positive results by leveraging experimental and real world data. By modeling the pharmacological effects of drug candidates, scientists can simulate biological endpoints and use this information to design clinical trials and predict drug safety.

The pharmaceutical industry’s focus on developing innovative biologics has led to increased quality of life for patients previously without other treatment options. Due to improved understanding of underlying genetic and biological mechanisms, firms are better able to discover therapeutics that can benefit even the most difficult patient demographic to treat. As illustrated by the number of biologics for rheumatoid arthritis, other complex diseases can enjoy a wide variety of treatment options. To create those drug options, however, pharmaceutical laboratories will need to scrutinize underlying disease mechanisms and identify the biological pathways best suited for drug targeting.

Dassault Systèmes offers comprehensive digital solutions for pharmaceutical companies seeking to develop life-improving drugs for patients with unmet needs. The Designed to Cure Industry Solution Experience offers R&D laboratories the necessary processes to improve drug discovery. Its modeling and simulation tools enable better understanding of biological systems and the ability to predict drug efficacy. The solution also allows researchers to better anticipate drug safety and toxicity, bolstering efforts to develop therapies more likely to win market approval. If you’re interested in learning how the Dassault Systèmes can boost your company’s efforts to develop innovative drugs, please contact us to learn more.


[1] “Bristol-Myers Squibb Gets EU Approval For Orencia For Rheumatoid Arthritis,” September 6, 2016,

[2]  “FDA approves new biological drug for rheumatoid arthritis,” August 31, 2016,

[3] “New Biologic to Fight Rheumatoid Arthritis Being Studied,” March 20, 2016,

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