A Killer(-T) Nobel Prize In Medicine

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

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 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

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

Biotech In Space!

Emily BurkeDrug Discovery

Experimenting In Lower Earth’s Orbit Drug discovery in space? If this sounds like a page from science fiction, think again. Leading pharmaceutical companies are now collaborating with NASA to run experiments on the International Space Station (ISS). The focus on bone density, protein structure, vaccine development, immune function, and aging brings a swath of potential to this fascinating endeavor. In this issue, … Read More

Gluten: Protein of Doom

Emily Burkeceliac, Drug Discovery, Edited by Sarah Van Tiem, gluten sensitivity

Celiac Disease Imagine the tantalizing scent of freshly baked bread. Now, think about even a single scrumptious slice wreaking havoc on you: stomach pain, bloating and other digestive consequences. Welcome to Planet Celiac—home to the millions of Americans diagnosed with celiac disease. Today’s WEEKLY looks at this autoimmune disorder and how biotech companies are working to make life a lot … 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

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

Turning On Cellular Garbage Disposals

Emily BurkeDrug Discovery, Drug Targets, Proteasomes

Proteasomes to the Rescue Many drugs work by stopping overactive proteins that cause disease. The leukemia drug Gleevec, for example, is a small-molecule inhibitor (antagonist) of the protein Bcr-Abl, whose over-activity promotes excessive cell division. Humira treats a range of autoimmune diseases by stopping TNF-alpha, a protein that activates inflammation. Such antagonists can be powerful. However, it’s not always possible … 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

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