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

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

Putting The NA in DNA

Emily BurkeBiologics, Biotech Basics, Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Clinical Trials, Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), Drug Development, Drug Targets, Mechanism of Action, Monoclonal Antibodies, Ribonucleic Acid (RNA), Small Molecule Drugs, The WEEKLY

Nucleic Acid Therapeutics Small molecule, peptide, and biologic drugs aren’t the only players in the game of drug development. A fourth class of therapeutics differs from all three of these: nucleic acid-based drugs. These drugs are rising in prominence due to their potential to specifically target a wide range of diseases, including various types of cancer, autoimmune, and infectious diseases. Companies … Read More

The Top Tech Of 2016

Emily BurkeBiotech Basics, Cancer, Clinical Trials, Drug Targets, FDA, Mechanism of Action

CAR-T Primer The hottest cancer therapy in the pipeline — chimeric antigen receptor therapy (CAR-T) — continued to mature in 2016 with its first FDA approval for blood cancer patients set to arrive this year. What’s next in the world of CAR-T? A whole lot: Additional cancer and autoimmune disease indications in preclinical development. Added safety features. More affordable “off … Read More

The Uber Of The Human Body?

Emily BurkeBiologics, Business of Biotech, Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), Drug Development, Drug Targets, Mechanism of Action, Ribonucleic Acid (RNA), Term of the Week, The WEEKLY

A Tiny Vesicle With Big Potential Cambridge-based startup Codiak BioSciences made headlines last month with $40M launch funding and another $40M if their technology shows promise. So, what’s the big deal? A tiny little particle—once described as a cellular trash truck—called the exosome. First observed in the early 1980s, exosomes were originally thought to be a way for cells to get rid of … Read More

Is Genetic Variety The Spice Of Life?

Emily BurkeBiotech Basics, Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Cocktail Fodder, Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), Genetics, The WEEKLY

Understanding Basis Of Evolution Take a look at the person closest to you. Compare the color of their eyes, the texture of their hair, even the complexion of their skin to your own. Do you notice a lot of differences? Genetic variation accounts for the dissimilarities we observe between individuals—seemingly trivial ones such as the differences in eye, hair, and … Read More

Feeding Cancer

Emily BurkeBiotech Basics, Cancer, Clinical Trials, Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), Diabetes, Drug Development, Drug Targets, Mechanism of Action, Term of the Week, The WEEKLY

The Metabolics Of Cancer Tackling cancer requires a multi-pronged strategy. Currently, many of the cancer drugs on the market work by inhibiting the signaling pathways that activate cell division. These pathways are often the root cause of cancer—a mutated gene leads to a dysfunctional signaling protein which tells the cell to divide inappropriately. In these cases, the cancer may be treated by inhibiting the … Read More

Ready. Set. CRISPR.

Emily BurkeBiotech Basics, Business of Biotech, Cancer, Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), Easily Confused, Genetics, Genomics, HIV, Ribonucleic Acid (RNA), The WEEKLY

CRISPR/CAS9 TECHNOLOGY BUILDS UP STEAM The world definitely weighed in after Chinese scientists published a paper detailing the use of CRISPR/Cas9 to edit nonviable human embryo genomes. While the embryos used were never intended to become a living human being, this controversial milestone created a firestorm of opinion. Tweets, blogs, and mainstream news stories were abuzz about the opening of Pandora’s box. … Read More

Curing Hepatitis C

Emily BurkeBiologics, Business of Biotech, Cancer, Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), Drug Approvals, Drug Targets, FDA, HIV, Mechanism of Action, Ribonucleic Acid (RNA), Small Molecule Drugs, The WEEKLY

The biotech industry gets its fair share of criticism. Take for example HBO’s John Oliver shining his light on biopharma last week and proclaiming drug companies are like high school boyfriends: more interested in getting into patients’ bodies than actually being effective once they’re inside. That soundbite prompted us at the WEEKLY to wonder: Is a 90% cure rate for a disease afflicting … Read More

Longevity In Biotech

Emily BurkeBiologics, Business of Biotech, Cancer, Clinical Trials, Drug Development, Drug Targets, Genomics, The WEEKLY

Longevity has fascinated mankind for centuries, from ancient myths about fountains of youth to current speculation around caloric restriction. With our increased scientific understanding of aging, clinical validation and commercialization of treatments are near. The goal is to extend lifespan as well as health span, and we may be looking at a future where the norm is to remain mentally and physically active at age 90, or even … Read More

The Bispecific Antibody: A Lethal Hybrid

Emily BurkeBiologics, Cancer, Drug Approvals, Drug Targets, FDA, Mechanism of Action, Monoclonal Antibodies, Term of the Week, The WEEKLY

Amgen’s acute lymphoblastic leukemia treatment, Blincyto, coasted past the FDA bottleneck ahead of schedule, gaining approval earlier this month as a “first of its kind” immunotherapy. The FDA designated Blincyto as a breakthrough therapy and an orphan product on top of granting a priority review, thus propelling the bispecific antibody (BsAb) to the market five months early. The swift approval … Read More

Capturing The Running Backs Of Cancer

Emily BurkeBiologics, Cancer, Drug Development, Drug Targets, Easily Confused, Medical Device, The WEEKLY

After using diagnostic technology to establish the existence of cancer, determining the severity is the next step toward developing a game plan. If metastasis is in the picture, strengthening your defensive line-up is a must. The dissemination of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from the primary tumor to unaffected tissue is a key step of early stage metastasis. CTCs break away … Read More

Mutations And Disease: The Spice Of Life

Emily BurkeBiologics, Biotech Basics, Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Cocktail Fodder, Drug Targets, FDA, Genetics, Mechanism of Action, The WEEKLY

This week’s issue features excerpts from the “Genetic Variation” chapter of The Biotech Primer, our 200-page book that provides an in-depth look at the biotech industry and the science that drives it. In this chapter, we explain the different types and causes of genetic mutations and then explore their relationship to disease and therapeutics. Today, we begin with a discussion … Read More

Playing Detective With Checkpoint Therapies

Emily BurkeCancer, Clinical Trials, Cocktail Fodder, Drug Development, Drug Targets, HIV, Mechanism of Action, Term of the Week, The WEEKLY

PLAYING DETECTIVE WITH CHECKPOINT THERAPIES Over the past two weeks, we have discussed cancer immunotherapies that involve training T-cells (the detective warriors of our immune system) into seeking and destroying cancer cells. This week, we will take a look into another approach that has been creating a lot of recent excitement: checkpoint inhibitor drugs. Simply put, investigators believe they have … Read More

Dissolution Of Cancer Club Wanted

Emily BurkeThe WEEKLY

DISSOLUTION OF CANCER CLUB WANTED If you are part of the “cancer club,” it means that you are personally familiar with the devastation cancer causes. Far too many of us are members, whether it is through supporting loved ones with cancer or enduring and persevering with it ourselves. It has long been the goal of physicians and researchers who specialize … Read More

RNAi Advantage Goes To Dicerna

Emily BurkeThe WEEKLY

THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE IPO CRAZE: OUR FOCUS FOR THE NEXT FEW WEEKS I want to thank you for subscribing to Biotech Primer WEEKLY. Now, imagine yourself on the set of Jeopardy! facing this clue: “We saw 45 in 2013, and there’s been 17 so far this year.” The correct response: “What is the number of biotech IPOs?” Alex quips: … Read More