The end of gluten allergies?
While the food industry is focused on taking the simple route (removing gluten from foodstuffs), the pharmaceutical industry is focused on curing the disease altogether. To illustrate the problem in more detail, individuals with celiac disease lack the proper set of enzymes needed to fully digest gluten proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye. Incomplete digestion elicits an immune response, which causes inflammation of the digestive tract. Given the explosion in therapeutic antibody development in recent years, the medical community is confident that a successful treatment and cure can be developed.
AbbVie Inc (NYSE:ABBV) and partner Alvine Pharmaceuticals are developing ALV003, which is an oral therapy containing two enzymes that break down gluten. Depending on results from a soon-to-be initiated phase 2b trial, AbbVie Inc (NYSE:ABBV) will acquire the drug or Alvine in its entirety. The latter would give AbbVie Inc (NYSE:ABBV) an intriguing early-stage pipeline for celiac disease — the first of its kind in the pharmaceutical industry.
I like to remind investors that less than 15 years ago there were virtually no viable treatments for several other autoimmune diseases such as moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. That changed with TNF-alpha inhibitors such as AbbVie Inc (NYSE:ABBV)’s Humira — now the world’s top-selling drug — which combined for tens of billions of dollars in annual sales in 2012. Future therapies that improve on current treatments or perhaps even cure these ailments will be developed. It is only a matter of time.
Foolish bottom line
The gluten-free food market is poised to continue growing as awareness movements gain traction. The food industry, which has historically caused nightmares for many celiac-disease patients, is finally making strides to properly label products and offer safe alternatives. That isn’t the only investment opportunity, however. Should AbbVie Inc (NYSE:ABBV)’s developmental drug successfully make it to market in the next several years, look for an increased effort to properly diagnose individuals (an offshoot of many new treatments) — not to mention a potential blockbuster. That would allow AbbVie Inc (NYSE:ABBV) to help more patients and likely drive gluten-free food sales even higher. With compounding effects like that, why not entertain these investment ideas?
The article 4 Investment Ideas That Are Gluten-Free originally appeared on Fool.com.
Fool contributor Maxx Chatsko has no position in any stocks mentioned. Check out his personal portfolio or his CAPS page, or follow him on Twitter, @BlacknGoldFool, to keep up with his writing on energy, bioprocessing, and biotechnology. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Whole Foods Market.
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