The Dish’s Weekly News Wrap Up – December 14, 2012

This week’s headlines include, upcoming stem cell trial without embryo destruction, fiscal cliff could create problems for biotechs, Britain launches genome database, global pediatric market on the rise, and experimental therapy helps girl beat leukemia.


“Stem-Cell Trial Without Embryo Destruction,” The Wall Street Journal

Researchers have been experimenting with treatments derived from stem cells, which can grow into other cell types or tissues. But such cells are typically obtained by destroying human embryos, a controversial practice. Scientists are experimenting with other types of stem cells derived from bone marrow or umbilical cord blood, but such cells are limited in the types of cells they can grow into. The newer approach involves reprogramming mature cells, typically from the skin, without the need to destroy embryos. Two of the researchers who developed the process shared a Nobel Prize this year for the work. Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. of Marlborough, Mass., says it wants to test blood-clotting particles, called platelets, made from such reprogrammed cells. People with certain forms of leukemia, anemia and other conditions need repeat infusions of platelets to avoid bleeding to death, but can develop resistance to the donated cells over time, making them less effective, experts say. Stem-cell derived platelets could overcome that problem because they could be derived from a patient’s own cells.

If you like this story, please see our blog titled “Ten Companies with Innovative Stem Cell Therapies in Clinical Trials Part I”

“Cliff Spells Danger For Biotechs,” Genetic Engineering News

If President Obama and Congress strike out on a budget deal by Jan. 2, biopharma activity will slow down in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. First, the obvious: NIH, FDA, and other nondefense federal agencies face cuts amounting to 8.2% of their budgets. That’s because Obama and Congress agreed last year that absent an accord to cut at least $1.2 trillion in federal spending over 10 years, an equal amount in annual across-the-board budget reductions, or sequestration, would take effect. “In order to avoid the ‘fiscal cliff,’ the Congress must compromise and protect our economic future by cutting costs and raising revenue, without compromising our nation’s support for critical government programs,” BIO President & CEO Jim Greenwood told GEN last week. “Programs vital to the health of our nation—quite literally—should not suffer dramatic cuts. Making cuts to these programs could actually cost our nation more in the long run. The unintended consequences could impact our economic health, as well as our public health.” According to PhRMA, biopharma accounts for about 650,000 jobs nationwide, each job supporting about five additional jobs, and an overall annual economic impact exceeding $917 billion.

If you like this story, please see our blog titled “Venture Capital Investment in the Life Science Sector is Down for 2012 – Is There a Light at the End of the Tunnel”


“Britain Launches Genome Database to Improve Patient Care,” Reuters

Up to 100,000 Britons suffering from cancer and rare diseases are to have their genetic codes fully sequenced and mapped as part of government efforts to boost drug development and improve treatment. Britain will be the first country to introduce a database of genetic sequences into a mainstream health service, officials say, giving doctors a more advanced understanding of a patient’s illness and what drugs and other treatments they need. It could significantly reduce the number of premature deaths from cancer within a generation, Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said in a statement.

If you like this story, please see our blog titled “Is Personalized Medicine the Future? How Genetic Sequencing is Enabling New Treatments”


“Global Pediatric Vaccine Market to Hit $23B by 2015,” Fierce Vaccines

The global pediatric vaccine market will likely hit a value of more than $23 billion by 2015, a market analysis shows. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) leads the charge with nearly a quarter of the global market. From 2005 to 2011, pediatric vaccines doubled their market share, according to a Renub Research analysis, and will continue to shoot upward. Analysts can attribute much of that growth to blockbuster vaccines such as Pfizer’s (PFE) Prevnar 7 and Prevnar 13, Glaxo’s Rotarix and Merck’s (MRK) Rotateq. Pediatric proprietary vaccines will probably lead the vaccine market with just less than 60% market share by 2015, the report says.

If you like this story, please see our blog titled “A First – Cell Culture-based Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Approved by the FDA”


“In Girl’s Last Hope, Altered Immune Cells Beat Leukemia,” The New York Times

It is hard to believe, but last spring Emma, then 6, was near death from leukemia. She had relapsed twice after chemotherapy, and doctors had run out of options. Desperate to save her, her parents sought an experimental treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, one that had never before been tried in a child, or in anyone with the type of leukemia Emma had. The experiment, in April, used a disabled form of the virus that causes AIDS to reprogram Emma’s immune system genetically to kill cancer cells. The treatment very nearly killed her. But she emerged from it cancer-free, and about seven months later is still in complete remission. She is the first child and one of the first humans ever in whom new techniques have achieved a long-sought goal — giving a patient’s own immune system the lasting ability to fight cancer.

If you like this story, please see our blog titled Tumor Cell Panels Help Researchers Develop New Cancer Treatments”

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