Life Sciences stories you may have missed – 06/18/20

Life Sciences stories you may have missed – 06/18/20

For scientists at the bench, COVID-19 testing a daily ritual

In a pilot program, nearly 230 employees from a dozen biotech startups in Cambridge and Watertown, Mass. regularly visit the Broad Institute for COVID-19 testing. The Boston Globe’s Jonathan Saltzman reports that while much of the world has gone remote during the pandemic, biotech companies have been taking precautions to allow scientists back in the lab – from testing and wearing face masks to maintaining social distancing and working in shifts. Could the biotech community offer strategies for other industries seeking to reopen onsite work?

The (virtual) show must go on: ASCO 2020

Pharmaceutical Technology’s coverage on ASCO 2020, the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting, notes a shift in pharmaceutical developers’ focus from tissue-specific to tissue-agnostic drug development. As the use of next-generation sequencing and broad molecular profiling increases in diagnostic labs, targeting niche genetic aberrations with a broad label across multiple solid cancers could be an effective treatment option.

Critical considerations for COVID-19 vaccine development

If you have been infected or vaccinated for coronavirus, are you protected from getting sick again? Not necessarily. In new paper in Nature Biotechnology, co-authors George Church, SmartPharm Therapeutics CEO Jose Trevejo and researchers from HelixNano write that antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) of infection has been observed in coronaviruses. This means patients who have been infected or vaccinated can later be infected by another strain – and potentially suffer even more serious outcomes. “Careful design and testing of vaccines or alternative approaches to prophylaxis will be needed to prevent ADE,” they write.

Life Sciences stories you may have missed – 06/18/20

Life Science stories you may have missed – 01/23/20

Coronavirus and “shoe-leather epidemiology”

Wired’s Megan Molteni has a way of pulling readers inside her stories with colorful and pointed observations. In her piece on 1/21, notes that despite considerable technology advancement since SARS “figuring out how new diseases spread is still an exercise in shoe-leather epidemiology.” Viral DNA analysis is – and perhaps always will be – only one part of an epidemiological picture.

Read more in Wired


Precision medicine mustn’t be about drugs alone

On its surface, Vinay Prasad’s piece in Nature is a story of two ships passing in the night. His ship, enlightened public health policy, is often overshadowed by the bright lights of blockbuster drugs, at least in popular media.  The “concepts” of population health and social determinants of health are esoteric by comparison. But these two ships aren’t on different courses. Medicine isn’t about drugs alone, nor should precision medicine, and Vinay is on to something worth closer scrutiny.

Read Vinay’s piece in Nature


Cardiff University scientists discover T-cell receptor that recognizes and kills multiple cancers

On Monday, researchers from Cardiff University published a study in Nature Immunology about the discovery of a new T-cell receptor (TCR) that “exhibits pan-cancer cell recognition” and could make a patient’s T-cells capable of killing autologous melanoma without affecting healthy cells. The research is still early, but the potential for “pan-cancer, pan-population immunotherapies” to improve health outcomes and health economics is significant.

See study in Nature Immunology


Life Sciences stories you may have missed – 06/18/20

Recent life science news bites you may have missed

From Jen Heady, Vice President at Greenough Brand Storytellers


Prime editing takes the spotlight

Just six years after Feng Zhang and George Church first harnessed the power of CRISPR-Cas9 for genome editing, WIRED magazine has already coined the term “classic CRISPR” to describe this now widely referenced genome editing approach. The term “classic” differentiates CRISPR-Cas9 from a hot new CRISPR technique: prime editing. While critics say prime editing may be less practical than existing methods, the number of new genome editing techniques and studies introduced over the last several years is a testament to the incredibly fast progression of science.

Read Megan Molteni’s coverage in WIRED

Check out the Broad Institute’s handy infographic explaining the prime editing process

For a history of CRISPR, visit the Broad Institute’s CRISPR timeline


VC funding: It’s all about who you know

In her latest for STAT, Kate Sheridan covers how venture capital’s reliance on relationships is contributing to gender, racial and geographic disparities in the biotech space. What can be done to increase diversity? For entrepreneurs, the answer may be as simple as engaging with venture capitalists outside of your own network before launching a company. Bottom line: it’s still about who you know, but don’t limit your network to those in your current circle.

Read the full story


Inside scoop: A former Biogen employee on the company’s “shocking” Alzheimer’s news

Biogen made big headlines by announcing that it will submit aducanumab for FDA approval after halting a study on the Alzheimer’s drug earlier this year. Since the news dropped, journalists, Wall Street analysts and experts have speculated on how the company could have reinterpreted the data so drastically. As a former Biogen employee who “worked on and around aducanumab,” Ted Whitford writes that Biogen hasn’t been afraid to admit failures in the past, and that he hopes the company made a mistake in its earlier analysis. “But if it didn’t,” writes Whitford, “and this is another example of the American public watching big pharma trying to spin bad data, then I can’t help but wonder if Biogen, and perhaps the industry has lost its way.” One thing is certain: all eyes will be on Biogen next time it announces data on the buzzworthy drug. 

Read Ted Whitford’s “First Opinion” piece for STAT


Life Sciences stories you may have missed – 06/18/20

Recent life science articles you may have missed

Recent news bites you may have missed



Move over, biologics. Still room for innovation around the daily pill.

A new study shows that a cheap, daily pill that combines low doses of three blood pressure drugs with a cholesterol drug can lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol. While the 300-person study did not last long enough to measure heart attacks or strokes, a larger five-year study in Iran found that the pill lowered the danger of heart attack, stroke or heart failure by a third. In other countries, the pill has been used to treat heart conditions in places with limited access to medical care – a model the researchers believe could be replicated among vulnerable patient populations in the United States.

Read more on the findings


Expanding access to clinical trials

In a deep dive on cancer clinical trials, Biopharma Dive reports some cancer centers have encountered challenges filling available trials and say there are more open than necessary, creating an “economic drain” on institutions. One of the problems? The bulk of studies are conducted at large academic medical centers. Eric Rubin, vice president of global clinical oncology at Merck Research Laboratories, suggests bringing more clinical trials to community sites could help make them more accessible and efficient.

Read the full story


ICER plays “the price is right”

ICER claims to assess a drug’s “intrinsic value to patients,” but determining a drug’s value to any one individual patient who might benefit is far more subjective. According to a recent article in Managed Healthcare Executive, “the value ICER brings to the discussion is providing clarity around where treatments work and where there’s uncertainty.” While it’s positive to see an increased focus on patient outcomes, putting a price on a treatment’s worth won’t magically clear up the reimbursement controversy.

Read the full story


CAR T primer

For a simple explainer and graphic on CAR T-cell therapies, check out Dana Farber’s blog: