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Bio Firm Working on New Technology for E-Cigarettes

August 30th, 2010 by Dirk Hanson

Key tobacco scientist endorses going vape.

Cypress Bioscience of San Diego hopes to enter the controversial and potentially lucrative market for so-called e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine by heating it to produce an inhalable, smoke-free vapor. The company announced last week that it had acquired a $5 million license for Staccato nicotine technologyA novel electronic multidose delivery technology designed to help people stop smoking.

The company claims that the the electronics embedded within the Staccato delivery system could allow for the programmed, over-time reduction in the overall daily dose of nicotine, and ultimately may lead to the better management of nicotine cravings and eventual sustained smoking cessation

Critics of e-cigarettes have maintained that the devices were not meant to curb smoking but to enable it, by allowing smokers to circumvent no-smoking regulations. Fears have also been voiced that children might be tempted to make use of them. Makers of electronic cigarettes, primarily in Asia, have maintained that the devices are perfect for the management of nicotine cravings when smokers quit, and may have significant advantages over nicotine gums and patches.

The press release from Cypress Bioscience makes the claim explicitly: The Staccato technology may be capable of mimicking the pharmacokinetics of smoking cigarettes through the delivery of optimally-sized nicotine particles to the deep lung. Staccato nicotine may also provide some of the psychological aspects of smoking (e.g., hand-to-mouth movement, oral inhalation) and could allow smokers to self-administer and possibly titrate to the dose to treat cravings.

Up until now, electronic cigarettes have been opposed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the grounds that e-cigarettes were novel and untested drug delivery systems. Signaling a possible change in official attitudes, Dr. Neal Benowitz, professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco--and a prominent nicotine researcher for many years--said in the Cypress Bioscience press release that a delivery device like Staccato nicotine may be useful in addressing a pressing pharmacological problem in overcoming nicotine addiction; namely, that acute cravings during quit attempts are inadequately treated by current nicotine replacement therapies. Dr. Benowitz called the nicotine delivery device an advancement that the field has been waiting for.

Cypress Bioscience said it plans to take the technology into Phase 1 clinical trials next year. The company reported a net loss of 5 cents per share in the second quarter, compared to a loss of 23 cents per share during the same period a year ago.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that almost 450,000 people die annually in the U.S. from smoking. One in five deaths in the U.S. are due to smoking-related illness, according to the CDC.

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