The Dish’s Weekly News Wrap Up – January 11, 2013

This week’s headlines include, pharma deals greater than $10 billion on horizon, exciting new stem cell studies, orphan drug pricing, biotech companies having difficulty securing insurance reimbursement, widespread flu this year, and HPV linked cancers on rise due to low vaccine use.


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“Pharma Deals North of $10 Billion Seen Returning in 2013,” Bloomberg

“Get ready for the return of the $10 billion-plus drug deal. Pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. have spent the last several years digesting earlier acquisitions, refocusing their product development and setting aside cash in anticipation of expiring patents. Now, the expectation is they’re ready to start buying again. Led by Pfizer, in New York, and Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck & Co., five of the largest U.S. drugmakers had more than $70 billion in cash, near cash and short-term investments at the end of the third quarter.”

If you like this story, please see our blog titled “The Top 12 Cell Culture Dish Blogs of 2012

“Inside the Pricing of a $300,000 a Year Drug,” Forbes

“Last night, NPS Pharmaceuticals announced that it was pricing Gattex, its drug for short bowel syndrome, at $295,000 per patient per year, about triple what analysts on Wall Street expected. It is the fourth drug approved in 2012 to be priced at more than $200,000 per patient per year. The others are: Kalydeco for cystic fibrosis (maker :Vertex Pharmaceuticals); Elelyso for Gaucher’s disease (Protalix and Pfizer); and Juxtapid for homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (Aegerion Pharmaceuticals.) That represents 10% of the drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year and a 44% increase in the number of such high-priced rare disease drugs on the market.”

If you like this story, please see our blog titled Innovative Products Featured at the ASCB Conference – Part I”


“Safety of Induced Stem Cells Gets a Boost,” Scientific American

“A paper published in Nature today could dispel a cloud over the hopes of turning a patient’s own cells into perfectly matched replacement tissues. Scientists first reported in 2007 that a person’s cells could be reprogramed to an embryo-like state, and so could form any type of cell in the body. Medical researchers immediately imagined using these ‘induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells’ to create an endless supply of genetically matched replacement tissues to treat a range of diseases: fresh pancreatic tissue for diabetics, for example, or new nerve cells for people with Parkinson’s.”

If you like this story, please see our blog titled “Identifying Options for Stem Cell Based Therapy Scale-up”


“Biotech CEOs See Insurers as the New Boogeymen, Not FDA,” Xconomy

“Biotech CEOs in California, the biggest state for biomedical innovation in the U.S., reported they saw improvements in FDA regulatory processes, and that fewer projects were delayed by regulatory issues in 2012, according to a survey of 157 executives being released today by BayBio, the California Healthcare Institute, and PwC. While the FDA presented a less daunting barrier, more than half of the CEOs said that securing insurance coverage and reimbursement for their products became more difficult in the past year.”

If you like this story, please see our blog titled “The Number of FDA Drug Approvals for the 2012 Fiscal Year Remains High”


“Flu Widespread, Leading a Range of Winter Ills,” New York Times

“The country is in the grip of three emerging flu or flulike epidemics: an early start to the annual flu season with an unusually aggressive virus, a surge in a new type of norovirus, and the worst whooping cough outbreak in 60 years. And these are all developing amid the normal winter highs for the many viruses that cause symptoms on the “colds and flu” spectrum. Influenza is widespread, and causing local crises. On Wednesday, Boston’s mayor declared a public health emergency as cases flooded hospital emergency rooms.”

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


“Totally Blind Mice Get Sight Back,” BBC

“Totally blind mice have had their sight restored by injections of light-sensing cells into the eye, UK researchers report. The team in Oxford said their studies closely resemble the treatments that would be needed in people with degenerative eye disease. Similar results have already been achieved with night-blind mice. Experts said the field was advancing rapidly, but there were still questions about the quality of vision restored. Patients with retinitis pigmentosa gradually lose light-sensing cells from the retina and can become blind. The research team, at the University of Oxford, used mice with a complete lack of light-sensing photoreceptor cells in their retinas. The mice were unable to tell the difference between light and dark.”

If you like this story, please see our blog titled “Culturing hPSC’s from FBS to a Completely Defined Culture System”


“Potent Medicine,” The Economist

““PLURIPOTENT” is a long word that means “able to do many things”. It is the technical term applied to stem cells that can generate many different sorts of bodily tissue, rather than just one sort, which is all that lesser stem cells can manage. But many researchers hope these cells will be pluripotent in other ways, too. Not only might they be used to make replacement tissues and organs for transplantation into those whose existing body parts no longer work properly (an approach known as regenerative medicine), they might also be used to produce pure cultures of cells for the early testing of drugs.”

If you like this story, please see our blog titled How Stem Cells Can Play a Major Role in Developing New Therapeutics”


“Cancers Linked to HPV Rise in U.S. on Low Vaccine Use,” Bloomberg

“Merck’s vaccine, which came on the market in 2006, and Glaxo’s vaccine, approved in 2009, protect against strains of the sexually transmitted virus that are linked to cancer of the anus, cervix, vagina, vulva, and throat. The U.S. recommends use of the shots in boys and girls ages 11 and 12. Only a third of girls ages 13 to 17 have been fully vaccinated as of 2010, well below the 80 percent rate epidemiologists say is needed to significantly reduce the prevalence of infections. “Vaccination rates are still quite low in terms of where we need to be to really impact HPV infections,” said Edgar Simard, an author on the study and senior epidemiologist at the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society, in a telephone interview. “If we don’t address these disparities now they will continue to manifest.””

If you like this story, please see our blog titled “New Vaccines Coming Soon to a Doctor’s Office Near You”

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