science funding


Democracy and Science Have Tea at the White House

The wheels on his navy blue Toyota Prius could be heard squeeling as Science wound down the parking structure in Bethesda.  Yes, it's true, Science's parking spot involved two stories and some undwinding to get out on the open road.  Today Mr. Science was headed to the White House for tea with Ms. Democracy.

As it happens, on this particular day, our Mr. Science is a religious man.  One doesn't know how it happened.  It just happened.

A Republican Staffer on the Gottlieb Hearing

This week at a Senate hearing Scott Gottlieb defended his nomination to be FDA commisioner.  Last night at happy hour we caught up with a Republican staffer who was willing to be candid in exchange for remaining unnamed.

 

Staffer:  Oh, yeah, the Gottlieb nomination.  Sweet little thing.  The nomination, I mean.  Seems like the hearing was weeks ago with this whole “nuclear” warfare going on in the Senate over Gorsuch.  

Mendelspod:  The Republicans looked pretty pleased with Gottlieb, as did some of the Democrats.

Proposed NIH Cuts, Undermining GINA, and Game Changing Drugs: March 2017 with Nathan and Laura

The largest cut to NIH budget ever, rolling back genetic non-discriminatory law—the bad news continues to roll from Washington. But there was great news this month as well.

Both Nathan and Laura are fuming about HR 1313, or a Republican bill to roll back GINA protections. Laura points out that the proposed law builds on an exemption in GINA for wellness programs—a category difficult to define. And Nathan reminds us that families and children could be hurt by the new bill. Theral asks since when did privacy become partisan? GINA passed in ’08 with a vote of 95-0 in the Senate, 414-1 in the House (Ron Paul playing the weirdo there), and it was signed by George Bush.

Then on to some “game changing” drugs for multiple sclerosis and eczema and a successful gene therapy trial for severe sickle cell anemia. Not only are there new therapies, drug manufacturers seem to be getting the message on pricing.

The Saga Continues: Ethan Perlstein, Indie Scientist, Part 3

Today Ethan Perlstein joins us on the program for a third time. His path as a ‘rogue scientist’ has become a bit of a case study here at Mendelspod as we look into alternate paths for scientists and for drug development.

When Ethan was first on the program, he’d just declared his independence, or break from the world of academia. He urged other scientists to do the same and to take to social media to upend a system that was creating the “postdocalypse.” And he didn’t just take a job working for big pharma. He wanted to carry on with the science that intrigued him: a new model of drug discovery.

The second time we featured Ethan he was set up at the QB3 incubator space in San Francisco as the Perlstein Lab, a hybrid of academic lab and regular biotech startup. He had secured some seed funding, and hired five scientists. It was then that he announced a new drug discovery platform using simple animal models (yeast, frutiflies, worms) that would provide proof of concept at a much lower price than what you see with traditional biotechs and pharma.

That was in 2014. Now, at the end of 2016 Ethan has some updates to share. Last month he announced a licensing and investment deal with the drug giant Novartis. He can boast of his first drug candidate, Per101. And he’s a graduate of the Silicon Valley’s business maker, the well known Y Combinator.

Ethan says the Novartis deal is more than just his first revenue generator, it validates the platform of using simple animal models. The deal also boosts what he calls his precision 'business development model.”

“People talk about precision medicine, but they don’t ever talk about precision business development. And that part of the discussion is critical, because you need to think about not only the science that gets the job done, but how the company practically gets put together.”

Working on rare diseases, Ethan is going directly to patients, albeit rich ones at first, with a low cost drug discovery method, creating a new business model that cuts past traditional funding partners and offers a somewhat more academic setting. Perlara, the newest name for Perlstein Lab, is a public benefit corporation.

What was Ethan's experience at the tech dominated Y Combinator? How has being a public benefit corp impacted his decisions this past year? And, come on, if he looks, smells, and acts like a regular old biotech entrepreneur, is he still a rogue scientist?

Here it is. The Indie Scientist, Part 3.

How Is the Brexit Impacting Genomics? with Clare Turnbull and Hadyn Parry

Today's guests have been separately on the program recently. And we've asked them, both Brits, to come back on for a discussion of the Brexit. Clare Turnbull is Clinical Lead for the 100K Genomes Project Cancer Program at Genomics England. Hadyn Parry is the CEO at Oxitec, a company based in Oxford which is already selling their genetically engineered mosquitos into Brazil to deal with viral diseases like Zika and Dengue Fever.

The first question we throw at them is whether they are still in shock over the outcome of the vote. Clare resides in London, and Hadyn in Oxford—both places that voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union. In fact, Hadyn says he doesn’t know a single person who voted “leave.”

Clare says Genomics England is funded through 2020, so in the short term, the 100K Genomes Project is secure. She also has a role in academia where most genomics research takes place. There, she says, they are being hit with an immediate impact. 10-15% of grant funding in the British system comes from the EU.

“People are on grants which are running. People have won grants that not yet been awarded. And people are looking to collaborate on grants in the medium term future. And one becomes a pretty unattractive collaborator on an international, pan-European grant when it’s uncertain whether or not we’ll be in the EU. The uncertainty is pretty immediate,” says Clare.

Hadyn says the uncertainty is certainly affecting business in the short term. But points out that in the longer term, the UK is solid. They have a great tradition of science, and they have four of the top ten universities in the world. And their entrepreneurial culture is strong. It’s much easier to do a startup biotech company in the UK than in the rest of Europe.

“The longer term, I’m quite comfortable with,” he says. "It’s all about the uncertainty in the short term. The sooner we move to understanding the rules of the game, the sooner the short term uncertainty can be removed.

For now, both see a country still in shock and denial.

It’s Not Really Bulls and Bears: John Carroll on His New Gig, the Brexit, and a New Metaphor for the Market

John Carroll has been the editor-in-chief at Fierce Biotech for thirteen years. Now he's moved to a new gig. Two weeks ago, he and a former colleague launched a new and independent life science media site, Endpoints.

In today’s interview, John says that he’s trying to do the impossible with Endpoints. He wants to turn the lights on and have an immediate audience. He thinks he can do it this time because he and his partner, Arsalan Arif, are bringing 35,000 social media followers with them. This gives them an instant audience and a new kind of leverage for building a new media site.

What is John hearing from drug developers about the Brexit? And what is the best metaphor for the market he’s ever come across?

Join us for a unique look at the landscape of life science media with one of the industry’s top journalists as he transitions to this new gig.

April 2016 with Nathan and Laura: Big Money, More CRISPR Studies, Genomic Superheroes, and a Pot Chaser

This month we saw Big Money being infused into genomics and other life science research projects. There’s no question that science is big business, but do we see improved healthcare as a result?

Was the NIH too hasty in it’s ban on gene editing of human embryos?

Superheroes are lurking among us everywhere . . . or so the mainstream media would have us believe in their take on a new study from the Icahn School of Medicine.

Join us for our month-in-review program to hear what our regular commentators, Nathan Pearson and Laura Hercher, have to say about these questions. Stay tuned to the end for a pot chaser.

Framingham for the Modern Era: Josie Briggs on the Precision Medicine Initiative

Josie Briggs is Director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the NIH. She is also currently serving as interim director of the president’s new Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI).

What has happened since the president announced the initiative, what is the proposed timeline going forward, and how much money will there be for the project ongoing?

Josie answers these questions and more in today’s show, comparing the PMI to the well known Framingham Heart Study, probably the nation’s greatest longitudinal study to date. As with the Framingham study, the NIH is hoping that the PMI will engage the general public in biomedical research.

“Having the interest of the public in clinical research, and having people sign up and be engaged and say that they want to be a part of this is, to me, a very important component. In some disease areas, it’s striking how few people participate in clinical research. This is — and the president’s enthusiasm is part of it — this is a way for there to be broader engagement in clinical research,” says Josie.

Does the Reproducibility Project in Cancer Biology Offer a Model for a New Kind of Science Auditing?

Here on the show, we’ve talked about the lack of reproducibility for much of biological research. We’ve bandied around various percentages--is it 50% or up to 90% that can't be replicated? And we’ve poked around various issues that may be causing such poor science.

Nicole Perfito is the manager of the Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology, an effort between Science Exchange and the Center for Open Science. The goal of this project is to take nearly forty “high impact” papers in the field of cancer and try to replicate them.

The team has reproduced several studies already. What are the main issues that are coming up? How helpful are the original authors being? And are there some low hanging fruit which might lead to dramatic improvements to research if adopted?

The project is still underway, but already Nicole and her team have some interesting hunches.



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