No. 16: A drug that makes the bleeding stop

For most people, a bruise is no big deal. But for hemophilia patients, a bruise can bring internal bleeding that won’t stop on its own. And deep cuts or flesh wounds pose even greater danger. 

A new drug called Obizur can help. Invented by Emory hematologist Dr. Pete Lollar and approved by the FDA, Obizur helps the blood to clot in an emergency for patients with acquired hemophilia A.

These patients lack what’s known as clotting factor VIII, an essential protein that allows the blood to coagulate after an injury. In some cases, the absence of factor VIII stems from the immune system attacking factor VIII molecules, treating them like a disease.

That’s where Obizur comes in.

While conducting basic research on the clotting process, Dr. Lollar and colleagues made an intriguing discovery. Pigs also have clotting factor VIII, similar to that in humans. But they found that human antibodies sensitized to recognize and attack factor VIII failed to react to porcine factor VIII. 

So Dr. Lollar and his team used proteins derived from porcine factor VIII to develop a modified factor VIII that could skate past the sensitized immune systems of hemophilia A patients – and make the bleeding stop. 

Now marketed as Obizur by Baxter International, the drug born of an Emory lab is expanding its reach. In late November 2015, it became the first approved treatment for acquired hemophilia A patients in the European Union.