Affecting more than 2 million Americans, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) remains an enigma. The chronic swelling and pain brought about by RA can be debilitating in severe cases, and, as is true of most autoimmune diseases, the mechanisms and risk factors that influence onset are poorly understood. But long-suffering patients and eager biotech companies need not give up hope; recent insights into the autoimmune response and a new project that aims to ferret out genetic risks for the disease promise to open up new research and therapeutic approaches.

PROGRESS: Immunex's Mike Widmer says that "we have now come to understand at least one molecule involved in the pathogenesis" of rheumatoid arthritis.

CLINICAL RESEARCH ABOUNDS: Alabama's Larry Moreland notes that at least 60 drugs for rheumatoid arthritis are in industry pipelines.
Although genetic causes have long been suspected, researchers trying to pin down the risk genes have been frustrated so far. Work...

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