Plants That Heal

Kevin Curran, PhDThe WEEKLY

Nature’s Medicine Cabinet Where does medicine come from? Before it gets to your medicine chest? Before you purchase it from your neighborhood drugstore? Next time you’re hiking through a forest or gazing at your pretty screensaver of the Olympic Peninsula, think of this: the magic that relieves a throbbing headache or lowers your dad’s blood pressure may well have started … Read More

Zinc Finger Nucleases

Emily BurkeGene Therapy, Genetics

CATCHING THE RIGHT BREAK How are ZFNs made? To start, zinc finger proteins (ZFP) are sequence-specific, DNA-binding proteins that activate gene expression. They are engineered to recognize unique sites within the genome. While ZFPs do not have the ability to cut DNA on their own, scientists can fuse a ZFP together with a DNA-cutting enzyme called nuclease—the “N” in ZFN. The marriage of ZFP … Read More

Bye-Bye Opioids? Introducing Electroceuticals

Emily BurkeThe WEEKLY

MEDICINE-FREE PAIN MANAGEMENT Migraine relief without drugs? No “digestive issues” due to pain meds after surgery? Better still, no worry about addiction after that appendectomy or hip replacement? Sounds a bit science-fictiony, does it not? The news reminds us nearly every day of the profound need for pain management without opioids. As you read last week, alternatives to analgesics such … 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

Off-Color: The Science Behind Color Vision Deficiency

Emily BurkeGenetics, Medical Device, Pharmacogenomics, The WEEKLY

You’re at the supermarket, puzzling over whether those peaches for the pie are ripe. Maybe you’re watching your child’s soccer team, and struggling to separate the Green Hornets from the Scarlet Knights. As if determining offsides isn’t hard enough! Or more seriously, you’re approaching a stoplight on a busy street and can’t tell if the signal is red or green. … Read More

Natural Born Cancer Killers

Emily BurkeCancer, CAR-T, FDA, Immunotherapy, The WEEKLY

Further Down the Cancer Treatment Road with CARs This past August, to much fanfare, the FDA approved the first chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy for blood cancer. Called Kymriah (Novartis), it promises to revolutionize treatment by genetically altering a patient’s own cells to fight cancer. Less than eight weeks later, Kite Pharma, now a part of Gilead Sciences (Foster … Read More

DNA Vaccines Explained

Emily BurkeBiotech Basics, Clinical Trials, Cocktail Fodder, The WEEKLY, Vaccine

MORE ON THE POWERFUL, ELEGANT SIMPLICITY OF VACCINES Last week, we overviewed vaccine development and manufacture, focusing on those that use whole pathogens to protect us from a disease. This week, we examine subunit and polysaccharide vaccines, which use different strategies to fight infection. We also take a brief look at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s vaccine approval … Read More

Vaccines: Powerful Simplicity

Emily BurkeBiologics, Biomanufacturing, Cocktail Fodder, The WEEKLY, Vaccine

Vaccines: Elegant, Powerful Simplicity Anyone who’s suffered the aches and fever of influenza has good reason to value the simple flu shot. In fact, millions roll up their sleeves and literally take their medicine. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (Atlanta, GA) estimates that about 146 million doses of influenza vaccine went to doctors’ offices, health departments, and the … Read More

Circadian Rhythm & Disease

Emily BurkeBiologics, Cancer, Diabetes, Mechanism of Action, The WEEKLY

AND THE BEAT GOES ON Earlier this week, the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three American scientists (Jeffrey Hall and Michael Rosbash, of Brandeis University, and Michael Young, of Rockefeller University) for their work in deciphering the molecular basis of circadian rhythm – the 24-hour cycle that governs the inner workings of all life on … Read More

Picturing Disease

Emily BurkeBiotech Basics, Cancer, Clinical Trials, Diagnostics, Term of the Week, The WEEKLY

USING MEDICAL IMAGING TO INVESTIGATE DISEASE Medical imaging — using various modalities to take a snapshot of the body’s interior structure — has been around since 1895, with the discovery of X-rays by Wilhelm Roentgen. X-rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation (more on that later!) that are able to pass through soft tissues such as skin, fat, and muscle … Read More

From Fantasy To Reality: Xenotransplantation

Emily BurkeCocktail Fodder, Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), Genomics

TRANSPLANTING ORGANS FROM ANIMALS INTO HUMANS Every ten minutes, a new person is added to the national transplant waiting list. A little more than 75,000 people are active waiting list candidates — meaning they are medically eligible for transplantation according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Over the past decade, the gap between organ supply and demand has continued to grow; … 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