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NEWS FEATURE: Breaking the silence

NEWS FEATURE: Breaking the silence

Scientists had long assumed that any genetic mutation that does not alter a protein sequence should have no impact on human health. But recent research has shown that such synonymous DNA changes can trigger disease in a number of ways. Alla Katsnelson talks to scientists and biotech companies who are speaking up about ‘silent’ mutations.  Read more

Q&A: A healthy chat with the Center for Global Development’s health policy leader

Q&A: A healthy chat with the Center for Global Development's health policy leader

Since its launch in 2001, the Center for Global Development (CGD) has been instrumental in convening working groups and issuing reports that shape the agenda for a range of topics that affect global poverty and people of the developing world. At the helm of its global health effort is Amanda Glassman. As the daughter of US Foreign Service diplomats, Glassman was exposed to disparities in public health in developing countries from a very young age. So it was a no-brainer for Glassman that she would devote her career to tackling those inequalities. She has spent the last two decades at places like the US Agency for International Development, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Brookings Institution. Last year, she joined CGD as the director of its global health policy division.  Read more

Four-in-one HIV pill may be exception among combination drugs

Four-in-one HIV pill may be exception among combination drugs

By Hannah Waters The 1960s cartoon The Jetsons envisioned a future where single pills provided the same nutrition, taste and satiation as food that required chewing. That time-saving tablet remains a pipe dream, but the drugmaker Gilead is trying to deliver a similarly inspired pill for HIV medicines. On 27 October, the California company submitted an application to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its four-in-one HIV pill, which, if approved, would contain more medicines than any pill currently on the US market. The so-called ‘Quad’ pill promises the same virus-controlling ability as the four drugs separately but  … Read more

New HCV drugs trigger race for more tolerable therapies

By Sarah C P Williams The approval this year of the first direct-acting antiviral drugs for the hepatitis C virus has ushered in a new era of treatment. Since the mid-May launch of Incivek (telaprevir) and Victrelis (boceprevir) — both of which disrupt viral replication by inhibiting HCV’s protease protein — physicians have rapidly been prescribing the pills to many of the estimated 180 million people worldwide who are infected with HCV. This is reflected in October earnings reports showing that sales of Incivek reached nearly $420 million in the third quarter of this year alone, which puts it on  … Read more

A retrospective of retractions: the striking record in 2011

John Darsee was a young clinical investigator with a long list of publications in top-tier journals and a promising career ahead of him in cardiology research. Described by a former supervisor as “one of the most remarkable young men in American medicine,” Darsee was offered a faculty position at the Harvard Medical School in Boston at the age of 33. But then his career quickly started to unravel. One day, colleagues caught Darsee fraudulently labeling data for a study into heart attacks; further investigations revealed scientific misconduct on a massive scale, and, eventually, Darsee was fired and barred from receiving federal grant money for ten years. More than 80 of his papers were withdrawn from the literature. He ultimately apologized for publishing “inaccuracies and falsehoods.”  … Read more

Straight talk with… Steve Brown

Straight talk with... Steve Brown

For decades, the study of gene function has relied heavily on the creation of ‘knockout’ mice, bioengineered to lack certain genes. But making a rodent without a specific gene is a chore—so much so that doctoral students sometimes dedicate their entire PhD work to generating a single mouse strain. The International Knockout Mouse Consortium (IKMC), launched in 2006, plans to change all that. The consortium, involving scientists from 33 research centers in nine countries, is creating a library of every gene knockout in embryonic stem cell lines, which can be used to produce mouse strains.  Read more

Stanford program gives discoveries a shot at commercialization

By Mike May In the late 1990s, Daria Mochly-Rosen, a protein chemist at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, discovered that a certain class of drugs that inhibit enzymes known as protein kinase C could reduce cardiac damage after a heart attack. Working with Stanford’s Office of Technology Licensing (OTL), she patented the finding with hopes of licensing it to a pharmaceutical company. No one showed any interest. Determined, Mochly-Rosen made the rounds with her colleagues in the pharmaceutical industry. But her pharma contacts wanted a drug to prevent heart attacks, not something to give after them. “They  … Read more

Research organizations push back against clinical trials directive

By Priya Shetty LONDON — European legislation intended to streamline clinical research is so steeped in bureaucracy that it is threatening “the development of potentially lifesaving treatments,” says a consortium of 16 research organizations, including Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and the UK’s Academy of Medical Sciences. In late September, the consortium issued a statement calling on the EU to include changes that would cut red tape and streamline the authorization of clinical trials as part of its planned revision to its European Clinical Trials Directive (ECTD) in early 2012. Instead of smoothing the process, “the directive has increased  … Read more

NEWS FEATURE: A raw nerve

NEWS FEATURE: A raw nerve

By Virginia Hughes At a walkathon one Saturday in September, nearly 5,000 people traced two miles of Chicago’s lakefront to raise money for research into the progressive nerve disease that is thought to have killed baseball star Lou Gehrig. Janice Caliendo was there collecting blood samples from friends of those affected by the incurable disease to be used as controls in future genetic studies. Caliendo, a lab manager at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in the Streeterville neighborhood of the city, often attends these sorts of fundraisers, but this time she was getting more attention than usual. Her lab, headed by Northwestern  … Read more