The Microbiome Magnified

Emily BurkeMicrobiome, The WEEKLY

You’ll Never Walk Alone Ready for a fascinating, “earthy” truth about ourselves? Our every surface and crevice teems with microbes—inside and out. In fact, bacterial cells in and on our body outnumber human cells by about ten to one. Most people walk around completely unaware of their invisible passengers. However, these little hitchhikers are an intimate part of what makes … Read More

Universal Flu Vaccine: Coming Soon To A Pharmacy Near You?

Emily BurkeEdited by Sarah Van Tiem

Squash That Bug The flu. Need we say more? Why yes. Yes, we do! Last week, we examined all things flu: we talked about the influenza virus structure, how the pesky pathogen makes us feel so lousy, and why the vaccine’s effectiveness isn’t always up to sniff. Er, snuff.  This WEEKLY delves deeper into the season’s favorite virus. More specifically, … Read More

Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors

Emily BurkeDrug Discovery, Edited by Sarah Van Tiem, Immunology, Immunotherapy

A Killer(-T) Nobel Prize In Medicine On October 1, James Allison, now at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and Tasuku Honjo, now at Kyoto University, won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The two scientists discovered the basis for today’s hugely successful immune checkpoint inhibitor therapies. Let’s look at their discoveries and how they have revolutionized cancer treatment. Keeping The Immune System … Read More

Autophagy: The Incredible, Edible Cell?

Emily BurkeDrug Discovery, Edited by Sarah Van Tiem, The WEEKLY

Autophagy: The Incredible, Edible Cell? True, weird fact: our cells are cannibals. Right now, these itty-bitty sacs of vital fluids inside your body are eating themselves. This phenomenon is called autophagy, or “self-eating.” Autophagy Is Awesome This seemingly odd phenomenon is old news to biologists. They already know that autophagy is really about cellular cleanup and recycling, not cannibalism. It’s a … Read More

Attack Of The Tregs!!

Emily BurkeDrug Discovery, Edited by Sarah Van Tiem, Immunology, Immunotherapy, Inflammation

Attack Of The Tregs!! No matter what it sounds like, this subset of helper T-cells aren’t invaders from another planet. Nope, Tregs, or regulatory T-cells, come from New Jersey (don’t say it!) and elsewhere.  They suppress the immune system. These newcomers to the drug discovery and development scene intrigue the men and women seeking new approaches to diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune disorders. … Read More

Hacking The Fountain Of Youth

Emily BurkeDrug Discovery, Edited by Sarah Van Tiem, Longevity

Hacking The Fountain Of Youth Last week, we began to delve into longevity research — the area of biotech which seeks to understand the biomolecular changes that occur with aging and possibly underlie many of the dubious gifts of old age: heart disease, Alzheimer’s and more. The work aims to lengthen life span of course, but more importantly to extend health … Read More

Fountains of Healthy Old Age?

Emily BurkeEdited by Sarah Van Tiem, Longevity, The WEEKLY

Fountains Of Healthy Old Age? Plenty of famous people have uttered (or supposedly uttered) lots of pithy comments about aging. A couple gems: “Age is mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it don’t matter,” said Satchel Paige.  “We are always the same age inside,” Gertrude Stein wrote — she lived in Paris; how could she help but feel amazing? … Read More

Breath Biopsies

Emily BurkeDiagnostics, Edited by Sarah Van Tiem

A Breath Of Fresh Air For Diagnostics In the scary world of serious illness, early detection is crucial.  The sooner someone knows he has cancer or rheumatoid arthritis, for example, the sooner they can get moving with treatment.  Early detection means a greater likelihood of a good outcome, saved time and money and maybe even less heartache. Sadly, diagnosing disease … Read More

Epigenetics: Writing, Reading, & Erasing

Emily BurkeDrug Targets, Epigenetics

Foundations Of Epigenetics Genetic mutations — changes in the order of the A, C, G, and T nucleotide bases that make up a gene — have been the primary focus of cancer researchers over the last several decades. By sussing out mutations involved in regulating cell growth and division, scientists better understand the molecular range of different cancers and consequently develop more … Read More

Swallowing A Biologic Drug?

Emily BurkeBiologics, Drug Delivery, Drug Development

Swallowing A Biologic Drug? Over the past two decades, biologic drugs — drugs composed of proteins produced by living cells — have become the safest, most effective top sellers within the pharmaceutical industry. Approved to treat a variety of diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and a whole range of cancers, these drugs include monoclonal antibody therapeutics, … Read More

Pills, Peptides, & Proteins

Emily BurkeBiologics, Biotech Basics, Drug Discovery, Small Molecule Drugs

Promising Peptide Therapies The front runners in the game of drug delivery include small molecule and large molecule drugs, but there is another class that lands right in between: peptides. Several companies, including Rhythm Pharmaceuticals (Boston, MA), Kalos Therapeutics (San Diego, CA), Aileron Therapeutics (Cambridge, MA), and Bicycle Therapeutics (Cambridge, MA) have emerged as prominent players in the peptide arena. Let’s review the differences between the drug classes and … Read More

Amazing Antibodies Part 2: Enlightened & Nano

Emily BurkeEdited by Sarah Van Tiem, Immunotherapy, Monoclonal Antibodies, The WEEKLY

What Can’t These Little Dudes Do? When last we met, we discussed the fundamentals of monoclonal (mAb) therapies and looked at two recent advances: antibody-drug conjugates and bispecific antibodies. This week continues our adventure in antibody innovation by introducing antibody-based photoimmunotherapy and nanobodies. Lightening Cancer Patient’s Prospects Photoimmunotherapy was conceived of at the National Institutes of Health and is being developed by Aspyrian Therapeutics (San Diego, … Read More

Amazing Antibodies Part One: Bispecifics & Antibody-Drug Conjugates

Emily BurkeBiologics, Drug Discovery, Edited by Sarah Van Tiem, Immune System, Monoclonal Antibodies, The WEEKLY

Attack Of The Mono- & Polyclonals Monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapeutics burst onto the healthcare scene twenty years ago. They remain one of the most versatile and effective therapies available for a whole range of diseases including different types of cancers, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases, and most recently, even high cholesterol. Tried and true mAbs, such as Herceptin and Rituxan, remain in … Read More

The Immune System: Friend & Sometimes Foe

Emily BurkeAuthor Emily Burke PhD, Biotech Basics, Edited by Sarah Van Tiem, Immune System, Immunotherapy

The Immune System: Friend & Sometimes Foe The immune system. Yes, everybody has one. It’s pretty important to our health. But what the heck is it? In short, the immune system is a complicated network of organs, cells, and signaling molecules. Without this guardian, we fall prey to dangerous pathogens and toxic substances in the environment. The immune system can … Read More

Phage Therapy: New Hope For Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Emily BurkeDrug Discovery

Old Way Of Fighting Bacteria Renewed One of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century is antibiotic resistance, which occurs when a few bacteria in a given population develop a genetic mutation that enables them to survive — even in the presence of antibiotics.How do bacteria become drug resistant? Suppose a particular antibiotic inhibits an enzyme required for bacterial replication. … Read More