R&D leaders to Capitol Hill: Consortia are necessary to accelerate medical progress | Scientists develop chikungunya vaccine | Discovery of additional gene variants sheds more light on Parkinson's risk
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July 29, 2014
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Google aims to create a baseline of the healthy human
Google is seeking 175 volunteers to provide anonymous genetic and molecular data in an effort to develop a full understanding of what it means to be healthy. Molecular biologist Andrew Conrad is spearheading the multidisciplinary study, which Google eventually intends to expand to include thousands of volunteers. The Wall Street Journal (tiered subscription model) (7/24), Time.com (7/29)
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News from FasterCures
R&D leaders to Capitol Hill: Consortia are necessary to accelerate medical progress
Last week, FasterCures convened leaders from across sectors in medical R&D who delivered a strong message to Capitol Hill: To accelerate medical progress, we need to encourage and incentivize public-private partnerships that advance shared goals. This robust panel discussion covered the unique value proposition of these partnerships, the complex scientific challenges they can address, and the power of engaging various sectors, including industry, academia, patients and government. Read more.
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Science and Technology
Scientists develop chikungunya vaccine
Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a vaccine for chikungunya, and they say the approach they used holds promise for other infectious diseases. Chikungunya is a mosquito-transmitted zoonotic virus that has appeared in the U.S. Most cases involved travelers to the Caribbean, but one originated in Florida. "The technology we've developed can now be very rapidly applied to any of the 700 known arthropod-centric viruses," said researcher Dennis Brown. Human trials are planned. The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) (7/25)
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Discovery of additional gene variants sheds more light on Parkinson's risk
NIH researchers compared the genetic markers of more than 18,000 patients through the use of a gene chip called the NeuroX and found 24 genetic variants linked to Parkinson's disease, including six that had not been previously reported. The findings appear in the journal Nature Genetics. MolecularImaging.net (7/28)
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Cypher Genomics takes steps toward becoming the Google of bioinformatics
Cypher Genomics has struck a deal with gene sequencing technology maker Illumina under which Illumina's sales force will promote Cypher's biomarker discovery services and genomic analytics platform alongside their own technology and services. Cypher was founded by Eric Topol, bioinformatics and genomic medicine expert Nick Schork, drug discovery and experimental medicine expert Ali Torkamani, and neuroscientist Ashley Van Zeeland, who continues to serve as CEO. Cypher's technology is designed to help researchers zero in on key biomarkers even with small sample sizes. Xconomy/San Diego (7/24)
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Harvard startup to commercialize organs-on-chips
Emulate, a spinoff from Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, will work to develop and market organs-on-chips to expedite the development of new drugs. Wyss Institute scientists also have developed a way to allow simulated blood to flow through multiple organ-like devices to simulate the human body. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (7/28)
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Finance and Economics
NIH to fund 3 "emerging technologies" initiatives
The NIH will fund studies into how the spatial and temporal organization of DNA in cell nuclei affect gene expression and cellular function, and how organizational disturbances affect development and diseases. The 4D Nucleome initiative is one of three "emerging technologies" initiatives to be financed through the NIH Common Fund with an eye toward capitalizing on transformative biomedical research. GenomeWeb Daily News (free registration) (7/25)
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Policy and Regulation
Docs urge FDA to include statistics on drug labels
Drs. Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz are encouraging the FDA to require drugmakers to include statistics on drug labels such as the percentage of clinical trial participants who experienced certain side effects and how well the drug worked compared to a placebo. They have designed a prototype label and launched the company Informulary, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, where prescribers and patients can find such information. Studies have shown that patients who have access to statistical information are more likely to choose the objectively better drug. National Public Radio/Shots blog (7/25)
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FDA approves expanded use of leukemia drug Imbruvica
Pharmacyclics and Janssen Biotech obtained the FDA's approval to market Imbruvica, or ibrutinib, as a treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia in patients with chromosome 17p deletion. The drug is already cleared as a second-line treatment for CLL. The approval was based on data from a 391-patient study that showed significant reduction in disease progression or mortality among patients who took Imbruvica. MedPage Today (free registration) (7/28), HealthDay News (7/28)
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Society and Ethics
Allow patients to choose risk levels in drug trials
Patients should be permitted to select the level of risk they are willing to accept in return for access to potentially lifesaving drugs in clinical studies, writes Kevin Tracey, CEO of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. The widespread misalignment of incentives is driving stakeholders with new solutions out of business, and there is no reason to give the FDA sole authority over access to critical drugs, Tracey writes. The Wall Street Journal (tiered subscription model) (7/27)
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Study finds certain HPV-linked cancers increasing
A study in CMAJ Open found that anal and throat cancers related to the human papillomavirus became more common over the past 35 years, according to an analysis of data from the Alberta Cancer Registry. "Both oropharyngeal and anal cancers are associated with substantial side effects when treated; therefore, education and prevention programs, including the HPV vaccination program, are urgently required," said oncologist Harold Lau, a co-author of the study. HealthDay News (7/25)
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