Breaking Bad With SCLC & NSCLC

Emily BurkeALK, Cancer, Drug Development, Drug Targets, The WEEKLY

Breaking Down Lung Cancer  The hit TV series Breaking Bad features anti-hero Walter White, who starts out as a sympathetic character: a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher with a nagging cough that turns out to be lung cancer. Money problems precipitated by costly treatments, poor insurance, and a modest salary push him to start cooking up meth to ensure the financial security of … Read More

Red Blood Cells: Ready For Double-Duty?

Emily BurkeDrug Delivery, Drug Development, Drug Discovery, Edited by Sarah Van Tiem, The WEEKLY

RED BLOOD CELLS: READY FOR DOUBLE-DUTY? Biotech Primer WEEKLY talks a lot about white blood cells, with good reason. These powerful immune cells defend us against pathogens and have recently been adapted to fight cancer as CAR-T cells. What about the body’s other major type of blood cell–red blood cells (RBCs)? Although they receive less media attention, scientists have long … Read More

Rare Disease Focus: PKU

Emily BurkeDrug Approvals, Drug Development, Edited by Sarah Van Tiem, Orphan Disease, Orphan Drugs

Biopharma To The Rescue: PKU The ubiquitous soda can. Who hasn’t seen one? Ever look on the back, at the disturbingly long paragraph of ingredients? The list of ingredients on the back of a can of diet soda are perhaps even more unsettling. Underneath it, there’s a warning in bold: “Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine.” Phenylalanine doesn’t harm most people. But what’s … Read More

Groundbreaking Migraine Drug Explained

Emily BurkeAuthor Emily Burke PhD, Drug Approvals, Drug Development, Drug Discovery, Drug Targets, Edited by Sarah Van Tiem, Migraine

FIRST IN CLASS MIGRAINE APPROVAL Last month the FDA approved Amgen’s (Thousand Oaks, CA) new migraine drug Aimovig, the first drug shown to prevent the onset of migraines. The drug significantly reduces the number of migraine days in difficult-to-treat (those that have failed 2 to 4 prior treatments) patient populations. In some patients dubbed “super responders”, migraines occurrence went from several times/month to no occurrence for 6 … Read More

Exploring Different Strategies to Fight Alzheimer’s

Emily BurkeAlzheimer's Disease, Drug Development, Drug Discovery, Drug Targets

TAKE THAT, ALZHEIMER’S Alzheimer’s pernicious amyloid-beta plaques and tau tangles, discussed last week, remain important targets for the biotech industry. In the past few years, however, companies have begun to search more broadly for new treatments. This Weekly looks at products in development that use different strategies to fight this heartbreaking illness. REVIVING THE BRAIN? Loss of neurons is Alzheimer’s … Read More

From Drug Development to Approval: A Recap

Emily BurkeClinical Trials, Drug Approvals, Drug Development, Drug Discovery, Drug Targets, FDA

From The Lab To The Patient In this issue of the Biotech Primer WEEKLY we will recap the past seven issues that highlight the journey a molecule takes from the lab to the patient. Beginning in the 1980’s, scientists took a new tack in developing drugs. They adopted an approach known as rational drug discovery. Using this methodology, researchers first … Read More

From Drug Development To Approval: Phase IV

Emily BurkeClinical Trials, Cocktail Fodder, Drug Approvals, Drug Development, FDA, Orphan Drugs

Pharma Finish Line: FDA Approval Last week, we focused on the final stage of clinical testing, Phase III trials, where drug developers assess the safety and efficacy of their drug in large patient groups. At the end of Phase III, drug developers face the moment of truth: does the study data support claims that the new drug is both safe … Read More

From Drug Development To Approval: Phase III

Emily BurkeAuthor Emily Burke PhD, Drug Approvals, Drug Development, FDA, The WEEKLY

Phase III Is No Guarantee Our last Biotech Primer WEEKLY explored the riskiest part of the human clinical trials pathway: Phase II. About 70% of drugs that enter Phase II never make it out. Most often, it’s because they fail to demonstrate effectiveness. Even making it to Phase III is no guarantee of success – about 40% of drugs fizzle … Read More

Drug Discovery 201

Emily BurkeDrug Development, Drug Discovery, Drug Targets

WE WANNA NEW DRUG “One that won’t make me sick/ One that won’t make me crash my car/ and make me feel three feet thick…” Huey Lewis is singing about love, but he voices very human concerns when it comes to the medicines that heal bodies and minds. Last time, the Weekly explored how researchers identify drug targets—the molecules in … Read More

Drug Discovery 101

Emily BurkeDrug Development, Drug Discovery, Drug Targets

On the Road to New Medicines For most of the 20th century, we discovered new drugs by trial and error. Scientists investigated countless unrelated compounds in animals to see which improved disease symptoms. For instance, in the 1950s and 60s, British scientists at Boots Laboratories tested hundreds of unrelated chemicals on guinea pigs searching for an alternative to aspirin for … Read More

The Science Behind Opioid Addiction

Emily BurkeBusiness of Biotech, Cocktail Fodder, Drug Development, Drug Targets, Mechanism of Action, The WEEKLY

THE SCIENCE BEHIND OPIOIDS Concerns over the opioid epidemic continue to grow, with deaths from narcotic overdoses the leading cause of death in people under 50 last year. Nearly half of those deaths were attributable to prescription opioids. The directors of both the Center for Disease Control (Atlanta, GA) and the Food and Drug Administration (Silver Spring, MD) have called … Read More

The Multiple Myeloma Landscape

Emily BurkeBiologics, Cancer, Clinical Trials, Drug Development, Drug Targets, Easily Confused, Genetics, Mechanism of Action, Monoclonal Antibodies, Small Molecule Drugs

BLOOD CANCER: MULTIPLE MYELOMA Plasma cells are the antibody-producing cells of our immune system which happen to play a critical role in our defense against infections. In multiple myeloma, plasma cells begin to grow and divide in an uncontrolled manner, forming a cancerous mass known as a plasmacytoma. Marrow — which produces plasma — no longer functions in our defense, it simply takes … Read More

Eye Of The Cytokine Storm

Emily BurkeBiologics, Biotech Basics, Cancer, Clinical Trials, Drug Development, Drug Targets, Mechanism of Action, Small Molecule Drugs, The WEEKLY

THE FLASH OF THE FIRST CAR-T Last week’s much anticipated FDA approval of the first chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy for acute lymphocytic leukemia hails as the first gene therapy on the US  market. Classified as a “cell-based gene therapy,” Novartis’ (Basel, Switzerland) Kymriah works by removing patients’ T-cells, using a viral vector to introduce a gene that will allow the … Read More

Vaccines: Schooling The Herd

Emily BurkeBiologics, Biotech Basics, Clinical Trials, Drug Development, Mechanism of Action, The WEEKLY

VACCINATION NATION Back to school means shopping for new school supplies, adjusting to a new schedule, and making sure all required vaccinations are up to date. Every state requires school-age children to be vaccinated against certain infectious diseases including tetanus, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, pertussis (whooping cough), and chicken pox. Vaccination policies are highly effective at eliminating many … Read More

The Microbiome Magnified

Emily BurkeBiologics, Biotech Basics, Drug Development, Drug Targets

DECODING THE GUT-BRAIN AXIS There is no shortage of microbiome-focused startups in biotech right now. The link between the gut microbiome — the entire collection of microbes living in the gut — and diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease are well-established. New research has made it clear, however, that the gut microbiome also impacts neurological health, leading to the phrase “the gut-brain … Read More

The Science Of CRISPR/Cas9

Emily BurkeBiologics, Business of Biotech, Cancer, Clinical Trials, Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), Drug Development, Drug Targets, Genetics, Genomics, Mechanism of Action, Ribonucleic Acid (RNA)

CRISPR/CAS9 UPDATE As CRISPR/Cas9 adds new indications to its resume, legal battles over its IP continue to be waged in the US and Europe. On the clinical front, CRISPR/Cas9 entered its first human trial at Sichuan University (Chengdu, China) last fall for metastatic lung cancer, and is widely expected to do so in the U.S. by the end of the year. This … Read More