An award worthy innovation: Reprogramming Adult Cells

Speaking of  award-worthy innovations, per the post below on The Scientist‘s new project to name the top 10 life science innovations of 2008, check out the Harvard Stem Cell Institute’s recent work.  They have developed a way to transform “one type of fully developed adult cell directly into another inside a living animal, a startling advance that could lead to cures for a variety of illnesses and sidestep the political and ethical quagmires associated with embryonic stem cell research,” reports the Washington Post

A few good quotes related to the new development:

  • “It’s kind of an extreme makeover of a cell,” said Douglas A. Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, who led the research. “The goal is to create cells that are missing or defective in people. It’s very exciting.”
  • “I see no moral problem in this basic technique,” said Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a leading opponent of embryonic stems cell research. “This is a ‘win-win’ situation for medicine and ethics.”

Scientists and field researchers report being stunned from the new development:

  • “I’m stunned,” said Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer of Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass., a developer of stem cell therapies. “It introduces a whole new paradigm for treating disease.”

Melton projects that studies involving diabetic patients could take shape within the year and that human trials could start within five.  It is hoped that spinal cord injuries and Lou Gehrig’s disease, among others, may benefit from the new innovation as well.

Three cheers from the bioethicist, Go Biotech, Go Science, Way to Heal, Treat and Save the World Responsibly!  (for further reading see www.bioethicsinternational.org)

Mirror, mirror on the wall: Who’s the most innovative of them all?

A message from our friends at The Scientist:

Did your company produce one of the year’s best innovations in life science? Do you know of an innovation that you think qualifies? If so, let us know!

The Scientist — the magazine that produces the annual Life Science Industry Awards, Best Places to Work surveys, and the Salary Survey for the life sciences — is pleased to present, for the first time, the top 10 life science innovations of the year.

At the end of the year, we will count down the top 10 innovations of 2008, as determined by a panel of expert judges.  But in order to be included on the list, we must receive information from you about the innovative product – this includes tools, cell lines, etc.  A product that was released prior to 2008 could be considered one of this year’s innovations if a version released during 2008 is a significant improvement over previous versions.

Entries are due by Monday, September 8, 2008 – with the possibility of an extension, if necessary. To be considered, entries must be no longer than 500 words, and include when the product was released and why it is an “innovation” to the life sciences. We accept multiple entries from one company. Send entries to: innovate2008@the-scientist.com.

The Smell of Politics is in the Air: Biotech and Political Conventions

Well this weekend is labor day and Fall is right around the corner and it’s high season for politics. This weekend the Democrats are in Denver nominating their candidate, Barack Obama and next week the Republicans will be in Minneapolis nominating John McCain.

Some of my colleagues from BIO are in Denver this week, checking out the convention. Josh Boger, Chairman of BIO and President & CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals was even interviewed by BlogHer. Watch the interview.

Why is BIO at the Democratic National Convention you may ask? To sum it up in one word — education. BIO goes to educate public officials at all levels, as well as candidates about the importance of creating policies that promote biotechnology innovation so that we can address the challenges facing our nation in health care, energy security and fuel prices, global food supply, and global warming & environmental sustainability.

BIO will not endorse either candidate and we will go to BOTH conventions, so look for us at the Republican National Convention next week.

For more info on biotechnology, be sure to check out our YouTube channel.

Globalization of Contract Research Organizations: Hope for Pharma Pipelines?

The current “elephant in the room” in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry is the fact that drug pipelines are suffering severely, resulting in a 20% decrease in Investigational New Drug (IND) filings just in the last two years. This is a vicious cycle, as it results downsizing of early R & D, causing many pharmas to lose drug discovery capabilities. However, they can now outsource to their choice of more than 500 contract research organizations (CROs) with wide-ranging clinical and pre-clinical capabilities. Indeed, several CROs have been a direct result of pharma downsizing, as displaced researchers take their specialties and form small companies, often doing quite well. A recent study came out about CROs, indicating that business is booming, with a 12.6% compounded growth rate in the market through 2011, when it will be $29.4 billion. CROs also allow smaller biotech companies to perform drug discovery more easily, allowing them to utilize capabilities only when needed in the development of their candidates. In some cases, such as CHDI, Inc., in Los Angeles, biotech companies don’t have any internal capabilities at all, doing so-called “virtual” drug discovery.

An interesting trend that benefits both CROs and pharma companies is the globalization of CROs. For the CROs, much business can be found in markets such as China and India, where both clinical and pre-clinical research is growing rapidly. Pharma companies benefit from globalization since US full-time equivalent (FTE) rates are high, especially in the biotech hubs. The first “stage” of globalization was the utilization of CROs which were wholly based overseas. However, it was found that sometimes this outsourcing suffered due to the intensive communication and project management needs of drug discovery programs. Now, CROs are becoming more globalized in the sense that while FTE work may be done where the rates are lower, there are strong ties to US or European sites. BioBlocks, a pre-clinical CRO specializing in chemistry services for lead optimization, recently announced a significant expansion of their management team, with senior members at their sites in San Diego, California, and Hungary. BioBlocks keeps it close ties to US drug discovery advancements and has strong project management at both sites, facilitating communication and performing the chemistry with non-US FTE rates.

What will the globalization of CROs mean for drug pipelines? Hopefully, this “new generation” of CROs will mean more capital efficiency and success for IND’s. Perhaps the utilization of these new CROs by smaller biotechs and pharma alike will minimize financial risks and result in more novel, first in class therapeutics for indications that are currently underrepresented in the market.

–Mary Canady, Comprendia, LLC.

BIO Live Learning Center Now…Well, Live…

Yes, you heard it here first. BIO is offering two free download sessions from the 2008 BIO International Convention.

The two sessions:

Confronting the Obesity Epidemic: The Skinny on Innovative New Treatments
Pursuing Multiple Financing and Liquidity Strategies

Go to http://www.cmcgc.com/temp/bio/landingpage.html

It’s easy, it’s free, and you may learn something, live.

 

Calling All Speakers

BIO invites industry leaders to submit proposals for breakout sessions at the 2009 BIO International Convention to be held May 18-21, 2009 in Atlanta, Ga.

The convention will feature more than 150 breakout sessions in 19 educational session tracks.  New tracks for 2009 include Achieving Regulatory Approval, Biomarkers, Exciting Science 2009, Global Biotechnology Issues, Translational Medicine, and Vaccines.  Other tracks will cover various aspects of biotechnology and the life sciences from business and policy issues, to individual subject areas such as industrial and environmental, healthcare, and food and agriculture applications.

Applications for education sessions will only be accepted online at http://www.bio2009.org/cfs.asp.  The online application process closes on Thursday, August 28th at 5:00 pm EDT. All proposals will be reviewed by BIO staff and an International Program Committee composed of biotechnology professionals. Applicants will be notified of the status of their session proposal by November 30, 2008.