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Monday, August 7, 2006

Herbal essence

WATERTOWN

An experimental therapy with humble beginnings as a Chinese herbal remedy is generating excitement among researchers battling HIV as doctors are increasingly concerned about the ability of the virus to thwart drugs designed to fight it.

As the International AIDS Conference convenes next week, there are more than 20 drugs available to suppress the virus and at least 82 additional HIV therapies in development, Globe business reporter Diedtra Henderson writes. But as quickly as drug companies find ways to sabotage HIV, the virus develops a new survival strategy.

That's why some patients, doctors, and researchers are excited about an experimental drug based on an herb known by the Latin name Syzigium claviflorum that had been used in Taiwan to treat diarrhea and stop bleeding. Now its derivative is being tapped to fight HIV by a small Watertown-based biotechnology company.

If approved by the Food and Drug Administration, bevirimat, developed by Panacos Pharmaceuticals Inc., would represent the first in a new class of drugs that uses an unusual approach to block maturation of the virus that causes AIDS.

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