23andMe and GSK and you

Home genetics testing leader 23andMe and GSK have teamed up in the drug development business. The two companies have formed an agreement that—in exchange for a $300m investment in 23andMe—affords GSK exclusive rights to develop drugs from the data collected from those who spit into a 23andMe cup. So, here’s the chain of events: you pay money to learn your genetic ancestry or more money to learn your ancestry and some health risks. 23andMe and GSK get your data. 23andMe and GSK develop and commercialize a drug and go all Scrooge McDuck on us. Nice gig if you can get it. To be fair, the consumer has the right to opt out. According to NBC News, Parkinson’s Disease is their first target, so despite this writer casting a little side-eye at the model, it’s still hard to root against them.

Zika update: no one thinks it’s scary anymore

We’ve done a full 360 on Zika. In early 2016, the WHO declared Zika to be a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” Less than two years later we’re just injecting it into brains willy-nilly to see what it does. To be fair, it does seem to kill glioblastomas pretty effectively, so we’ll give mad scientists a pass this time. Still, the Zika crisis did seem to peter out quickly in the Americas, at least quicker than US government investors expected. Without any real epidemic threat from the virus forthcoming, funding for the government and Sanofi’s vaccine development partnership has dried up. There are still two vaccine candidates from GSK and Takeda in development, but the decision has been criticized as short-sighted.

5. Got flu?

Wouldn’t it be great to know who’s got the flu and who doesn’t? Well now there’s an app for that. GSK and MIT Connection Science have partnered to create a crowd sourcing app called Flumoji. The data from the app tracks someone’s social interactions and attempts to match that with when they get the flu. Users can also identify within the app how they’re feeling using Emojis to denote their state of health. Better predictive analysis of health crises is critical and apps like Flumoji might help. Please tell me this will work on a Jitterbug.

5. Some HIV positive news!

GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s ViiV Healthcare announced positive Phase III trial results for its new HIV two-drug regimen, which uses GSK’s dolutegravir and Johnson & Johnson’s rilpivirine. The company wants to change the way the patients have been treated for the past several decades by reducing the number of antiretroviral medications used to control the virus. Now the company has evidence to support this two-drug combo is as effective at suppressing the virus as three- and four-drug combinations. Decreasing the number of medications is a positive too because it lowers the potential for side effects, improves patient compliance and could eventually decrease the cost of care…but not yet, because both drugs for the dual regimen are still under patent protection.

1. Mosquito mayhem no more

Mosquitoes are one of the few creatures in this world where we must ask “Was there a point to this?” While InsightCity can’t explain this insanely wrong turn in evolution, GSK, PATH, and the GAVI Vaccine Alliance are teaming up to combat the blood-sucking treachery. GSK and PATH recently committed to donate the first malaria vaccine candidate -RTS,S- towards a large-scale WHO pilot implementation program in sub-Saharan Africa, researching real-world impact of the game-changing medication. Gavi has announced a $27.5 million donation towards the operation. Sub-Saharan Africa is hit especially hard by the mosquito-transmitted illness resulting in thousands of deaths annually- especially in younger populations. If full funding can be secured by WHO, the program will begin in early 2018. Here are 33 mosquito facts. Because…why not?

5. Uncomfortably cold…and flu

Alongside dropping temperatures, The Weather Channel has dropped its new Cold & Flu Tracker across their website and mobile app. The app’s purpose is to provide real-time virus activity to different areas so that users can act to protect themselves from getting sick. In addition to providing cold & flu information, it also provides some valuable marketing data to its sponsor, GlaxoSmithKline. Knowing which areas are most affected could help GSK decide where to ramp up marketing efforts. They can also use their position as the sponsor to offer suggestions on what to do if your area is suddenly hit with an outbreak… like possibly stopping by your local store to pick-up some Theraflu (©GSK). We see what you did there, clever marketers.

1. Traffic control for your CNS

Galvani Bioelectronics. No, it is not Italian club music.  It’s the new company formed by Verily Life Sciences and pharma giant, GSK. Over the next few years they will invest nearly $700M USD to spearhead the bioelectronic medicine field. That’s a lot of money for a device projected to be smaller than a grain of rice. These miniature, implantable devices are designed to attach to individual nerves to first interpret then correct the irregular electrical signals caused by many chronic diseases. We’re not sure which will hurt more, the arthritis that caused you to get it or the shock you’ll feel every time it kicks in. Ok, we have no idea if it shocks you. Or if it hurts. But it probably does.

3. No GSK exit after Brexit

Brexit, “bad news” for UK based Pharmaceutical companies, right? Well, if you consider a £275m (~$360m USD) investment by GlaxoSmithKline bad news, then sure. Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK and proponent of the “remain” vote in June’s EU referendum, said that the company will be expanding each of its manufacturing plants located in County Durham, Angus, and Hertfordshire. The investment is expected to create jobs at these expanded sites, and it can be largely credited to the UK’s competitive tax system. Witty, who said leaving the EU would be a mistake explained that the “underlying attractiveness in terms of the UK’s economic strengths and its fiscal environment haven’t changed and that’s why we feel very strongly that this investment makes sense.”