Chui, who is an investigator in the study but who has no other financial ties to the company, says Viprinex "could be a major advance in the treatment of stroke" if it works. He says the trial is a reminder that even failed clinical studies can lead to advances.
"We have learned some valuable lessons from the failed trials," he says. "We have to be smarter at selecting patients who stand to benefit from treatment."
Transeau is convinced the speedy recovery that has allowed him to return to work is due to the drug. He talks fine and regained his strength and motor skills through physical therapy.
"I think if I had the placebo and not the actual pit viper venom, I don't think I would be as far along as I am today," Transeau says. "I started speaking the next day, and my writing became more legible as each day went along."
But neither he nor Chui knows whether he got the drug because it is being used in a double-blind study against a placebo. No one knows who is receiving what.
The method is considered the gold standard in clinical trials because it is thought to produce objective results.
The study might show Transeau benefited only from the speedy help. He and his family recognized the stroke from his impaired speech during a cellphone conversation. Paramedics found him on the side of the road in about 15 minutes, he says, and they called for a helicopter to take him directly to the specialty hospital where Chiu's team has experience moving swiftly against strokes.
Chui says the most immediate way to help stroke victims is for family members and friends to be more aware of signs and symptoms and for them to act fast to get patients to specialty hospitals.
"We need to do better in the community," he says. "It's not something you can afford to delay treatment for."