Philanthropy Advisory Service releases new Giving Smarter Guide for small cell lung cancer | Closing in on colorectal cancer | Scientists develop new gene-editing method
October 1, 2015
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Human Genome Project led the way on consortium-based research
The Human Genome Project accelerated biomedical research and set the example for consortium-based research, and the project still provides lessons to researchers pursuing big science projects, write Eric Green, James Watson and Francis Collins. The HGP taught scientists to embrace new partnerships, willingly share data and design studies with data analysis in mind, the scientists write. Other lessons include the need to prioritize technology development, consider societal implications of the research and be bold but flexible. Nature (free content) (9/30)
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News from FasterCures
Philanthropy Advisory Service releases new Giving Smarter Guide for small cell lung cancer
FasterCures report
Recently, the Milken Institute convened a group of world-renowned small cell lung cancer (SCLC) experts and patient advocates to discuss the state of science relevant to SCLC and the challenges currently impeding research progress. In a new Giving Smarter Guide, the Philanthropy Advisory Service presents the key issues that were prioritized by the group and recommendations on how strategic philanthropic investments can accelerate progress in SCLC. Strategic investment in research tools, infrastructure and discovery science can play a catalytic role in developing new life-saving treatment options for not only SCLC patients, but also patients with other forms of lung cancer. Read the two-page summary and the full report.
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Closing in on colorectal cancer
Based on analysis conducted by the Philanthropy Advisory Service team, they were able to guide philanthropic dollars to high-impact opportunities in colorectal cancer, including a groundbreaking translational research project led by Victor Velculescu, M.D., Ph.D., professor of oncology and pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and co-director of the Kimmel Cancer Center's Cancer Biology Program. The research project, started in 2012, focused on the first philanthropic opportunity of identifying molecular pathways driving tumor resistance. This week we see the fruits of that effort as Velculescu and team publish their findings in the journal Nature. The researchers have discovered new genetic drivers that may help clinicians predict how late-stage colorectal cancer patients will respond to therapy. Read more.
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Science and Technology
Scientists develop new gene-editing method
Scientists report in Science Translational Medicine that they have edited genes through the cellular homologous recombination repair pathway. The new method can be used to insert new material into a gene, said Annalisa VanHook, Web editor of Science Signaling. The Scientist online (10/1)
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US AI company partners with Genomics England to identify drug targets
Privately owned US firm Berg will mine the genetic and health data from Genomics England's 100,000 Genomes Project in a search for potential drug targets. Berg uses a proprietary artificial intelligence supercomputer platform to identify disease patterns, co-founder Niven Narain said. The company will open an office in the UK to work on the project and on other collaborations with drugmakers and academic institutions in Europe. Reuters (9/30)
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Researchers test brain implants to aid memory formation in patients with AD
Researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center are developing an electronic brain implant designed to mimic the function of a damaged hippocampus in patients with Alzheimer's disease. The device is designed to deliver neural signals to trigger long-term storage of memories. The system has been tested in animal models and nine patients who have epilepsy. The study was reported at the annual conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Sunday Herald (Glasgow, Scotland) (9/30)
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Finance and Economics
Foundation awards $2.6M for Chagas' disease vaccine development
Researchers with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston will receive a $2.6 million grant from the Carlos Slim Foundation for work on a Chagas' disease vaccine. With the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, the scientists hope to initiate a human trial and submit a regulatory application for a lead vaccine candidate. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (9/30), Vallarta Daily (Mexico) (9/30)
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Life sciences investment fund raises $62.8M
Life sciences investment firm Accelerator Corp. raised $62.8 million to invest in new therapeutics. AbbVie, WuXi PharmaTech and the Watson Fund are among the investors. (9/29)
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University of Puerto Rico brain study wins $3.8M grant
The National Science Foundation has awarded a $3.8 million grant to the University of Puerto Rico's Institute of Neurobiology to study the brain's decision and rewards mechanisms. "A better understanding of the decision-making process could lead us to improve strategies to solve problems in a more effective and appropriate manner," said Mark Miller, director of the Neural Mechanisms of Reward and Decision Project. Fox News Latino/Agencia EFE (Spain) (9/29)
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MIT-Harvard immunotherapy spinoff nets $55M
Third Rock Ventures, Clal Biotechnology and its parent company Access Industries are among the investors in Neon Therapeutics, a joint venture between Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developing cancer immunotherapies. Neon's primary compound is a vaccine that teaches the patient's cells to recognize and attack neoantigens, which are mutated proteins found in tumors, says interim Chief Scientific Officer Robert Tepper. The vaccine is intended for use with a checkpoint inhibitor. Bloomberg (10/1)
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Policy and Regulation
Patent laws discourage some drug development
Patent laws that grant temporary monopolies encourage the development of some innovative drugs while discouraging development of others, writes health economist Austin Frakt. Drugmakers do not want to invest time and funds in developing drugs from old, unpatentable compounds or ideas because they would not recoup that investment without patent protection, Frakt writes. Some experts have suggested that the government fund clinical trials for potentially valuable but unpatentable drugs. The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (9/28)
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Society and Ethics
Small pigs stoke potent ethics debate about gene editing
The genomics institute BGI in Shenzhen, China, created "micropigs" for researching human diseases, but the company now plans to sell the little pigs as pets for $1,600 each. The company plans to manipulate the process to select traits such as coat color, and it's possible the technology will be applied to other species. Some experts are concerned over manipulating genetics for aesthetics and warn that the ethical debate that is likely to result could overshadow the promise of gene editing for treating or preventing diseases. Nature (free content) (9/29)
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