West Nile outbreak prompts GenoMed to adjust PR focus

ST. LOUIS: West Nile Virus fears have propelled a small biotech company into the national spotlight.

ST. LOUIS: West Nile Virus fears have propelled a small biotech company into the national spotlight.

When GenoMed researchers discovered that the same drugs for high blood pressure could also suppress inflammation caused by viruses, they saw a host of possibilities for the treatment.

The biggest challenge they faced was making that message stick.

"We spent the first couple of years telling people that we were trying to prevent renal failure - and [those efforts] went nowhere," said Dr. David Moskowitz, chief medical officer at GenoMed. "We then decided to take on the news stories of the day."

Then came West Nile Virus, a disease that increased in prominence last year as it spread from New York City across the country, infecting 10,000 people.

The disease is already on the radar this year. Seven people tested positive for it and two developed encephalitis, a potentially fatal brain swelling.

For GenoMed, the story presented an opportunity. Both encephalitis patients received its treatment, and both recovered.

"We are now getting a lot of media calls and things are coming to a boil," Dr. Moskowitz said.

GenoMed has also started advertising and marketing campaigns in local media outlets.

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