The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted an orphan drug designation to Alexion Pharmaceuticals' Soliris (eculizumab) to prevent delayed graft function in renal transplant patients. DGF is an early and serious complication of organ transplantation that is characterized by the failure of a transplanted organ to function normally immediately following transplantation.

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Soliris is currently approved for the treatment of patients with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) and atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS), two debilitating, ultra-rare and life-threatening disorders caused by chronic uncontrolled complement activation. Soliris is not approved in any country to prevent or treat DGF following kidney or other solid organ transplantation. Alexion said it plans to initiate a single multinational DGF registration study with Soliris later this year.

“For kidney transplant patients with increased risk, there is a serious unmet medical need for a treatment to prevent delayed graft function and its harmful consequences,” said Martin Mackay, PhD, executive vice president and global head of R&D at Alexion. “By specifically inhibiting the terminal complement pathway, which is believed to play a critical role in the development of DGF, Soliris has the potential to lower the risk of DGF, a benefit that may have positive implications for longer-term kidney function and clinical outcomes for patients. In addition, a significant number of donor kidneys are reportedly never used and thus discarded each year due to the risk of poor outcomes associated with DGF, therefore reducing the risk of DGF may enable more patients to receive a kidney transplant.”

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The FDA grants orphan status to drugs and biologic products that are intended for the safe and effective treatment, diagnosis, or prevention of rare diseases or disorders that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the United States.