SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., May 16, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Rigel Pharmaceuticals, Inc., (Nasdaq: RIGL) is expanding its respiratory franchise by focusing on two innovative, comprehensive treatment alternatives for patients with asthma. One of these agents, R343, an inhaled SYK inhibitor, will be entering a Phase 2 clinical study later this summer in mild to moderate asthmatic patients. The other, R256, an inhaled IL13 signaling/JAK inhibitor, is potentially useful in controlling moderate to severe as well as chronic forms of the disorder. Clinical results with R343 and research results with R256 will be presented at the upcoming American Thoracic Society Conference in San Francisco, CA this month (see details below). "Extensive study of inflammatory conditions in the lung has led us to discover small molecule therapeutics that may be capable of disrupting the inflammatory cascade, restoring lung tissue functionality and, in cases of severe disease, preventing airway remodeling resulting in additional tissue damage," said Donald G. Payan, M.D., Rigel's co-founder and president of Discovery and Research. "Direct delivery of R343 and R256 into the airway puts the drugs where they are needed, and may offer new options in asthma therapy that address not only the symptoms, but also the underlying causes of the disease." AsthmaAsthma is recognized as a chronic inflammatory disorder of the lungs and respiratory passages, which often occurs in response to the presence of an allergen or pathogen. Uncontrolled or chronic inflammation associated with asthma may result in long-term damage to the airways and lungs. In severe cases or episodes, this disorder can cause breathlessness, tissue scarring and/or death from asphyxiation. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, an estimated 20 million people in the U.S. have asthma. The majority of the cases are considered allergic asthma, for which there is no known cure. Acute and severe episodes of the disease make up approximately two million Emergency Room visits each year, accounting for 25% of all visits.