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

Putting The CAR-T Before The Horse

Emily BurkeThe WEEKLY

THE STORY BEHIND CAR-T The hottest cancer therapy in the pipeline — chimeric antigen receptor therapy (CAR-T) — got a big boost last month when an FDA advisory panel unanimously recommended approval of the treatment for children and young adults with a severe form of leukemia who have run out of other options. Developed by Novartis (Basel, Switzerland), this elegant … Read More

Chaperoning The Rare Disease Dance

Emily BurkeThe WEEKLY

PROPERLY FOLDING MISFOLDED DISEASE PROTEINS Amicus Therapeutics (Cranbury, NJ) found itself in the news earlier this month when the FDA agreed to review the company’s new drug application for their investigational therapy to treat Fabry’s disease. The drug under consideration, migalastat, has already been approved by the European Medicines Agency. It belongs to a small, but growing class of therapeutics known … Read More

Unpacking Digital Medicine

Emily BurkeCardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, FDA, Medical Device

CAN APPS PROGRAM BETTER HEALTH? Digital medicine is defined by the field’s pioneer Dr. Eric Tool of the Scripps Translational Science Institute (La Jolla, CA) as “the ability to digitize human beings, by a variety of means (sequencing, sensors, imaging, etc.), fully exploiting our digital infrastructure of ever-increasing bandwidth, connectivity, social networking, the Internet of all things, and health information systems.” This new field is changing the way … Read More

Stopping A Big Problem: Blood Clots

Emily BurkeCocktail Fodder, Drug Approvals, Drug Targets, Mechanism of Action, Small Molecule Drugs

MEDS FOR THINNER BLOOD CAN EQUAL FEWER CLOTS, BUT HOW? The FDA’s recent approval of Portola Pharmaceuticals’ (South San Francisco, CA) new blood thinner drug Bevyxxa paved the way for the prevention of blood clots in patients hospitalized for conditions such as heart failure, stroke, and pulmonary disease. The medical term for blood clot is venous thromboembolism (VTE), but if we take it apart: “venous” means relating … Read More

Breast Cancer Subtypes

Emily BurkeBiotech Basics, Cancer, Genetics, Mechanism of Action

FOUR MOLECULAR VARIANTS EXPLAINED Hearing your doctor utter the words HER2-positive, HR-positive, triple-negative, or BRCA mutation can be devastating — even for the most resilient person. Simply put, breast cancer is a complex disease. A diagnosis can be derived from any combination of the factors listed above — or, none at all. The National Cancer Institute (Bethesda, MD) has outlined four molecular subtypes of the disease. … Read More