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


Emily BurkeCRISPR/Cas9, Diagnostics, genome editing

CRISPR’s GENOME DETECTIVES Last week, we reviewed how CRISPR works and its potential to revolutionize genetic therapies. Here we look at how scientists have started using this technology to develop new diagnostics. Media attention has been focusing almost exclusively on how scientists use CRISPR to edit DNA. But as you read last week, the biotech industry has begun to turn … Read More

Taking a Swing at Peanut Allergies

Emily BurkeThe WEEKLY

HOW DO ALLERGIES DEVELOP? Every summer, watching a game at the ballpark and digging into a bag of peanuts is a source of entertainment for many Americans. For the 15 million who suffer from peanut allergies, the idea of being taken out to the ballgame elicits concern — or even anxiety. Food allergies — think tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, … Read More

Papa’s Got a Brand New Lab Coat

Emily BurkeBiosensors, synthetic biology, Zika

Papa’s Got a Brand New Lab Coat Last month, Johnson & Johnson (New Brunswick, NJ) announced the winners of its “Lab Coat of the Future” competition. This contest challenged participants to combine new technology and good design to transform the age-old symbol of science and medicine—the white lab coat—into a symbol of breakthrough innovation. The winners, a group of researchers … Read More

$8.7 Billion SMA Drug Explained

Emily BurkeGene Therapy, Orphan Drugs, SMA

The Science Behind the Deal Earlier this week, news of the $8.7 billion acquisition of gene therapy company AveXis (Bannockburn, IL) by Novartis (Basel, Switzerland) made big biotech headlines. AveXis’ lead candidate, AVXS-101, is now in Phase III clinical studies for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). In this Weekly, we’ll take a look at the science behind these headlines by explaining exactly … 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

Cancer Diagnostic In A Drop

Emily BurkeDiagnostics, Liquid biopsy

THE LATEST IN CANCER DIAGNOSTICS Hearing the words “it might be cancer” paired with your doctor’s perplexed look is enough to send shock waves through your body. Getting to the heart of a diagnosis usually requires a surgical biopsy—removal and examination of the suspected tissue for visible signs of cancer. Less invasive diagnostic tests—called liquid biopsies—might just bring more choices … 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

Alzheimer’s Disease: A Tough Nut To Crack

Emily BurkeAlzheimer's Disease, The WEEKLY

AFFECTING 5.1 MILLION Alzheimer’s disease (AD) ranks as one of the toughest nuts to crack within drug discovery and development. Current treatments merely manage symptoms, so finding a better solution becomes more and more urgent as the aging population grows. Approximately 70 percent of dementia cases are caused by AD. It is a neurodegenerative disorder— neurons progressively lose structure and … Read More

Meatless Meat: Biotech Burger Ain’t No Bean Patty

Emily BurkeGMO, Sustainability

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: MEATLESS MEAT? Imagine biting into a juicy cheeseburger: the flavor, the texture, the smell. Now, imagine the cheeseburger meatless. Impossible? No. Impossible Foods, a Redwood City, CA-based company has used biotechnology to create a plant-based burger amazingly similar to the bovine original. In this edition of the Biotech Primer Weekly, we examine how they did it. UNCOVERING THE … Read More

Who’s Your Daddy? The Science of 23andMe

Emily BurkeDNA Ancestry

Hey—Check Out Those Genes! There’s an old saying, “If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you can’t know where you’re going.” We used to rely on paper birth certificates, marriage licenses and memory to help discover where we’ve come from; but paper gets damaged, people are fallible, and memories fade. Leave it to biotech to come up with a … Read More