US biopharmaceutical research companies currently have 901 biotechnology medicines and vaccines in development to target more than 100 debilitating and life-threatening diseases, according to new industry figures.

The products in development are all now either in clinical trials or under review at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and they include 353 medicines for use in cancer and related conditions, 187 for infectious diseases, 69 for autoimmune disorders and 59 for cardiovascular conditions, according to the report, from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

There are also 44 treatments for neurologic disorders, 40 for respiratory conditions, 39 for HIV infection, 32 for blood disorders, 28 for skin disorders, 27 for digestive conditions, 24 for diabetes and related conditions, 22 for musculoskeletal disorders, 20 for eye conditions, 19 for genetic disorders, 18 for transplantation and five for growth disorders, the report reveals.

Included among these protects are a genetically-modified, virus-based vaccine to treat melanoma, a monoclonal antibody (MAb) for the treatment of cancer and asthma, an antisense medicine for the treatment of cancer and a recombinant fusion protein to treat age-related macular degeneration.

"Biotechnology can offer patients and their doctors better healthcare choices that save and improve life. New therapies are changing how some human diseases are prevented and others are treated," said PhRMA chief executive John J Castellani, commenting on the new industry figures.

"Innovative, targeted therapies offer enormous potential to address unmet medical needs of patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS and many other serious diseases. These medicines also hold the potential to help us meet the challenge of rising healthcare costs by avoiding treatment complications and making sure each patient gets the most effective care possible," he added.

Approved biotechnology medicines are already treating or helping to prevent heart attacks, stroke, multiple sclerosis, leukaemia, hepatitis, congestive heart failure, lymphoma, kidney cancer, cystic fibrosis and other diseases, and these products use many different approaches to treat disease, as do those medicines which are currently in the pipeline.

According to the report, products currently in development include: - 300 MAbs, laboratory-made versions of the naturally-occurring immune system protein that binds to and neutralises foreign invaders; - 298 vaccines; - 23 antisense drugs, which interfere with the communication process that tells a cell to produce an unwanted protein; - and 20 interferons, which interfere with the ability of a cell to reproduce.

There are also 78 recombinant hormones and proteins, 64 cell therapy and 50 gene therapy products, 13 RNA interference (RNAi) products and 10 growth factors.

As medicines that address significant unmet needs are developed, future innovations in biotechnology research will bring exciting new advances to help more patients, says PhRMA.