Week 40: CPhI Worldwide highlights, canine models in cancer therapies, and “zombie cells” may be linked to aging

Posted on October 14, 2018 in Uncategorized

CPhI Worldwide in Madrid came and went, and we are still recovering from the whirlwind. Thank you to those who took the time to meet with us. We look forward to a bright 2019!

Kicking off our news this week, a quick look at the CPhI annual awards winners is available here. Congratulations to all the winners, particularly Nanobiotix who won both CEO and Pharma Company of the Year—a double dose of winning!

And with Q4 already off to a start, we are looking forward to rounding out the year, and are already prepping for 2019. Now, on to week #40 in the news…

A major breakthrough in the understanding of bacterial resistance was among a number of developments in the field of antibiotic resistance. The topic dominated drug industry news headlines this week, and the most eye catching was a study how bacteria aggregates resist drug treatment.

The research looked at the, until recently, poorly understood mechanism that allows bacterial aggregates to form at sites of chronic infection. According to the results, unlike more common bacterial aggregates that form when a biofilm develops, these aggregates occur due to polymers abundant at chronic infection sites, which can cause bacteria to aggregate by a mechanism known as “depletion aggregation.”

The finding is significant for developers of antibiotics as these aggregates are thought to be important in producing key infection phenotypes such as antibiotic tolerance.

According to the authors “These findings indicate that aggregation could be a default growth mode at infection sites. It might be useful to target mechanisms of depletion-mediated antibiotic tolerance for the treatment of chronic infections.”

Lead researcher, Patrick Secor, told GEN, “it is often the case that if you take bacteria that survive antibiotic treatment from someone’s infected lungs and treat those same bacteria with antibiotics in the lab, the bacteria die. We wanted to understand why.”

In other news, the UK Government that it is working with other G20 countries to test how well they would cope in the event of an antibiotic resistance crisis.

According to the announcement, the G20 leaders will come together to simulate a fictional drug-resistant E. Coli pandemic and evaluate responses.

Elsewhere This Week

Canine oncology research is helping to create advances in human medicine. Dr. Arta Monjazeb, a human radiation oncologist, and Dr. Michael Kent, veterinary oncologist are working in collaboration at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. This study is taking cancer research to a new level by eliminating the use of “lab rats” and utilizing pets as models for tumors.  The report states that spontaneous tumors in dogs provide better subjects than lab-created tumors due to their high complexity and variety, mirroring the complexity of human tumors and how aging impacts the immune system. Henrik Rönnberg, CEO of AdvaVet, Inc., further supports the use of pets in cancer research, stating the drawbacks provided by utilizing lab rats who require to have their immune system suppressed to grow tumors and that immune therapy cannot be used in these subjects, but can be used in pets with normal functioning immune systems. 

Virologists have identified the strains of HPV that are most closely linked to HIV infection. The research – detailed in PLOS One week – is the first to link higher incidence of HIV infection to subtypes HPV16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 52 and 58.

The researchers suggest the findings strengthen the argument for use of the HPV vaccine. Read more in GEN.

The US FDA has shared details of its efforts to improve its cybersecurity measures. The Agency explained that, “Cybersecurity researchers, often referred to as “white hat hackers” have identified device vulnerabilities in non-clinical, research-based settings.

“The FDA isn’t aware of any reports of an unauthorized user exploiting a cybersecurity vulnerability in a medical device that is in use by a patient. But the risk of such an attack persists.”

Right-wing lobbying organization CGCN Group has come forward as the brains behind the Alliance to Protect Medical Innovation, a recently founded organization advocating policies favorable to the pharmaceutical industry.

According to the Washington Examiner while CGCN partner Patrick O’Connor has confirmed he is director of the new group, he has not disclosed details of the organization’s financial backers.

Magic mushrooms may soon be an FDA approved treatment for anxiety and depression according to the New York Times. The research, coming out of Johns Hopkins University, states the potential benefits of using psilocybin (the hallucinogenic compound found in psychedelic mushrooms) to treat depression, anxiety, and even play a role in smoking cessation. There is still a long way to go, with no current evidence to support its use in medicine, which can take up to 5 years. Researchers are pushing to have psychedelic mushrooms moved from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule IV drug and to be used in microdosing, which would entail using psilocybin in small, controlled doses.

The UK National Health Service (NHS) has signed a deal with Gilead that will grant patients access to the CAR-T therapy Yescarta. The drug, which would normally cost £300,000, will be made available to 200 patients a year under an agreement with Gilead Sciences. The new price for these patients has not yet been detailed.

Novartis has acquired a 7% stake in Cellular Biomedicine Group, a Shanghai-based firm that makes the Swiss company’s CAR-T therapy Kymriah for the Chinese market. Read more at Bioprocess International.

Research News

Protein modelling software may result in new protein drugs, scientists say. The new modelling software allows them to split proteins could accelerate the development of new, more effective drugs.

According to a study in Nature Communications, the software tells scientists where they can split proteins into fragments that retain the function of the larger molecule. The selected split sites are also chosen because they prevent the protein from spontaneously reassembling.

In GEN, the authors explain that, “Controlling proteins by splitting them and then rescuing their activity through inducible reassembly offers great potential to control diverse protein activities.

“Building split proteins has been difficult due to spontaneous assembly, difficulty in identifying appropriate split sites, and inefficient induction of effective reassembly.”

Lead author Onur Dagliyan told GEN the ability to control proteins has numerous applications in the development of drugs and cell therapies. “If we want to deliver something—an engineered cell, or stem cell, or engineered bacteria cell, for example—to a body for therapeutic purposes, we might not want them to be active all the time.

“You want to turn them off and turn them on, and people in the field are trying to find ways to control those proteins, just to be able control those cells.”

News You Can Use

‘Zombie cells’ linked to aging could help people live longer according to research unveiled last week.

Senescent cells – nicknamed zombie cells – are viable, non-dividing cells that accumulate in tissues as the body ages. New research covered by the Guardian suggests removing these cells could have a dramatic impact on longevity.

The article looks at firms like Unity Biotechnology as well as Oisin Biotechnologies and Senolytic Therapeutics, all of which are developing drugs that target and kill senescent cells.

The research is at an early stage, however, it is already attracting attention. Unity, for example, counts Amazon and Paypal execs among its backers. More on that here here.