Dozens of research teams vie for a vast commercial market awaiting those who discover how to protect the body against itself
BOSTON--A decade ago, disorders like Graves' disease, myasthenia gravis, and systemic lupus erythematosus--diseases in which the immune system attacks the body's own tissues--were mysteries that eluded reliable or effective treatment. Too little was known about how the immune system works and, consequently, why it goes awry in these diseases. But research during the past five years has provided many insights into the immune system.

The result is a growing number of scientists in both industry and university labs who are examining what makes the body turn against itself. And on the horizon, say business analysts, is a commercial market of virtually unlimited potential.

Armed with a better understanding of the immune system, scientists are developing increasingly sophisticated weapons against autoimmune diseases, disorders in which the body mistakes its own...

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