Little Atom Bioscience hopes to make a big bang with new gout awareness campaign

When you think of gout, you’ll often think of old English kings, too much red meat and wine, and a disease that mainly affects a person’s toes.

Chinese biotech Atom Bioscience wants to dispel those misconceptions and what it sees as “misinformation” around the disease, which affects around 9.3 million people in the U.S. alone.

Gout is caused by a long-term condition known as hyperuricemia, an excessive buildup of uric acid levels in the blood, which is  mainly caused by genetic mutations in uric acid transport mechanisms in the kidney and bowel. These form crystals that lodge in and inflame joints.

And while it’s true that gout often first attacks the joints of the big toe, it can also occur in the knees, ankles, feet and hands. It’s also a serious and very painful disease that ups the risk of permanent joint damage, heart attacks and kidney disease.

Atom, which is working on a gout therapy, is “calling for increased understanding of gout,” it said in a press release, and has launched a new website and embedded video that talks up its own gout project, how gout affects patients and the long-term damage to other organs it can cause.

“In treating gout, we have to do more than ease the painful symptoms of gout flare-ups,” said William Shi, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Atom Bioscience, in the release.

“We must target the underlying cause by reducing excessive uric acid levels in the blood, which not only lead to gout, but also serious conditions such as permanent joint damage, heart attacks and kidney disease.”

Atom’s latest-stage gout hopeful is ABP-671, an inhibitor of urate transporter 1 (URAT1) proteins, which are involved in reabsorption of uric acid by the kidneys. It’s currently prepping for phase 3 studies.

Gout remains a poorly treated disease with many patients treated with ibuprofen for the pain and inflammation during flare-ups. There are specific therapies for lowering uric levels, with Horizon Therapeutics' Krystexxa one of the more recent FDA approvals for the condition.

Horizon recently launched its own gout awareness campaign “Weed it G’out," which featured animated spots aimed at educating viewers with a gardening analogy about the connection between uric acid, gout and chronic kidney disease.