The results are in: FasterCures surveys activities and needs of more than 250 disease research foundations | Cells from a paralyzed man's nose help repair spinal injury | Drugmakers to collaborate on Ebola vaccine
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October 23, 2014
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12 universities to share $31M in NIH grants to improve diversity
More than $31 million has been awarded to 12 universities this year to develop strategies that increase diversity in the biomedical workforce. Projects include modifying enrollment processes, improving mentoring programs and overhauling undergraduate courses. "We believe that recruiting of individuals into careers in science is often predicated upon an opportunity to actually carry out scientific research in a meaningful way as an undergraduate," NIH Director Francis Collins said. "We are trying to create the opportunity for those experiences to happen." The Chronicle of Higher Education (free content) (10/22)
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News from FasterCures
The results are in: FasterCures surveys activities and needs of more than 250 disease research foundations
Earlier this year, FasterCures sent out a comprehensive survey to more than 250 disease organizations, including 60 organizations that are active participants in The Research Acceleration and Innovation Network (TRAIN) and nearly 200 other disease organizations that have utilized TRAIN's open-source resources. The survey, which received nearly a 30% response rate, was intended to ensure that we at FasterCures are serving the needs and interests of the organizations in the network, as well as to gather information about the landscape of foundation-driven disease research and about specific issues or practices that might be of interest to other stakeholders, such as industry or academic institutions. Read our latest blog to find out more about these organizations, what issues are important to them and what we are working on as a result of this survey.
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Science and Technology
Cells from a paralyzed man's nose help repair spinal injury
Surgeons at Wroclaw University in Poland transplanted specialist olfactory ensheathing cells from a patient's nose to his spine to repair damaged spinal cord fibers. The patient, a Bulgarian man whose spinal cord was severed four years ago, is now able to walk while holding on to parallel bars or a frame, according to research published in the journal Cell Transplantation. Funding came from the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation and the UK Stem Cell Foundation, whose ongoing work includes finding sources for olfactory ensheathing cells and creating biomaterials out of nanofiber that can serve as a growing medium for transplanted cells. Business Insider/Agence France-Presse (10/21)
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Drugmakers to collaborate on Ebola vaccine
Johnson & Johnson of the U.S. and the U.K.'s GlaxoSmithKline plan to collaborate on developing an Ebola vaccine. GSK's vaccine is undergoing clinical tests, and J&J will hold human trials in January. Experts are meeting in Geneva to discuss how all companies can work together to avoid bottlenecks in supply, says Andrew Witty, GSK's chief executive. Reuters (10/22)
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Tekmira begins production of Ebola treatment
Tekmira Pharmaceuticals has started limited manufacturing of TKM-Ebola, a ribonucleic acid interference therapy. The drug could be available in December in limited amounts. An investigational new drug application with the FDA remains on partial clinical hold but could be resolved before the end of the year. Reuters (10/21)
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Finance and Economics
Newly launched cancer immunotherapy startup gets $12M funding boost
A Series A funding round has pulled in $12 million for Unum Therapeutics, a newly launched cancer immunotherapy firm based in Cambridge, Mass. The funding round was led by Atlas Venture and Fidelity Biosciences and included support from Sanofi-Genzyme BioVentures. Xconomy/Boston (10/21), The Boston Globe (tiered subscription model) (10/21)
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New type of startup vehicle rises in Boston
PureTech, neither a conventional venture fund nor a traditional accelerator, sets up operating subsidiaries for commercializing products aimed at some of the thorniest issues in health care. PureTech initially owns all of the startups, which are created by the PureTech team, and those that advance raise funding from other investors. The VC-accelerator has launched Akili Interactive Labs, which is developing a system to remotely treat cognitive disorders; Gelesis, which is working on a drug to treat the physiological symptoms of hunger; and Tal Medical, which is creating a neurostimulation device to treat psychiatric disorders. BostInno (Boston) (10/20)
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Foundation Medicine scores reimbursement win for cancer genomic tests
Priority Health has become the first U.S. health plan to provide reimbursement coverage for Foundation Medicine's cancer genomic profiling tests. Specifically, the coverage applies for the FoundationOne and FoundationOne Heme tests, designed to allow doctors to prescribe more appropriate medications for cancer patients. GenomeWeb Daily News (free registration) (10/16)
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Policy and Regulation
OIG finds FDA applications, network susceptible to cyberattacks
The HHS Office of Inspector General recently conducted an external penetration test of the FDA's Web applications and computer network to uncover vulnerabilities to cyberattacks. One problem found during the test was that some FDA Web pages failed to validate the data being entered by users. According to the OIG, this vulnerability could give attackers an opportunity to send malicious data to FDA pages, hack a user's Web browser and redirect the user to malicious sites. The OIG suggested that the FDA perform corrective actions and regularly evaluate the security of its systems to address the problems. Health Data Management (10/21)
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Society and Ethics
Targeted text messages promote vaccination during measles outbreak
A text-based program by NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital helped increase the number of children who received measles vaccinations. During an outbreak, text messages were sent to the families of 266 children aged 1 to 6 who had not yet received a measles vaccine. The campaign also identified 287 patients who may have been exposed to the virus without immunization; alerts were added to their EHRs. Health Data Management (10/21)
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WHO: Global burden of TB is greater than previously thought
Approximately 9 million people worldwide were diagnosed with tuberculosis last year, over 500,000 more cases than previously estimated, the World Health Organization reported Wednesday. About 3.5%, or 480,000, of tuberculosis cases in 2013 were multidrug-resistant, the agency found. Reuters (10/22), NBC News (10/22)
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On the FastTrack
PhRMA's "I'm Not Average" campaign highlights cancer survivor stories
"I'm Not Average" is a campaign launched by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America to share stories from cancer survivors about how innovations in cancer treatments have affected their lives. PhRMA recently released the third video in the series, highlighting Marina Symcox, who lives with the rare cancer gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST). View Marina's video, as well as the first two, featuring metastatic breast cancer survivor Dian "CJ" Corneliussen-James and chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) patient Jamie Pires.
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FasterCures is an action tank that works across sectors and diseases to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the medical research enterprise. FasterCures, a center of the Milken Institute, is nonpartisan and independent of interest groups.
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