It's tough for companies testing experimental drugs to find patients to play guinea pig.
Those with treatments for rare, rapidly advancing diseases have twice the trouble because cases are so few and patients who have been stricken may die before they can be pinpointed.
For instance, Berkeley-based Xoma Corp. is looking for patients to test its drug for treating severe meningococcemia in children. The disease--a runaway immune reaction to a bacteria--recently killed two Orange County children. When the company heard about the deaths, it began contacting local hospitals and physicians for prospects.
Xoma aims to test its drug Neuprex in 130 sick patients over the next two years, then plans to seek regulatory approval to market it. So far, it's enrolled 29 in tests across the U.S., Canada and England, needs to recruit more, and must continually scan the country for possible outbreaks. "The more trial sites we have enrolled, the more quickly the trial can come to a conclusion," says Ellen Martin, the company's spokeswoman.