We’ve all seen the Ancestry.com ads for DNA tests that reveal your ethnic mix. Harmless enough. But what if a similar test indicated you had a low risk for coronary heart disease? Would you start swallowing these 2,000+ calorie bombs at every meal? Not harmless. Consumers are increasingly embracing genetic health risk (GHR) testing to understand their individual risk for developing diseases and the FDA recently released an update to streamline the development and review pathway for GHR tests. These tests can be valuable for drug development (see how Novartis is using genetic testing in an Alzheimer’s trial) and treatment decisions and the CDC has some thoughts on the topic.
And soon it starts to add up. This week the NIH announced a pretty cool partnership with the private pharma industry. The Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies (PACT) is a five-year public-private research collaboration totaling $215 million as part of the Cancer Moonshot project. 11 pharma companies (AbbVie, Amgen, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, Genentech, Gilead Sciences, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Pfizer) will contribute $1M each for five years. The NIH will contribute $160 million. The goal: “to identify, develop and validate robust biomarkers — standardized biological markers of disease and treatment response — to advance new immunotherapy treatments.” Sweet. If you want to read what pharma PR folks have been up to you can read their responses here. For the top 10 private-public immuno-oncology collaborations, look here.
Last week, the FDA approved Novartis’ Kymriah—a “living drug” that works by making immune cells realize they should get rid of those pesky leukemia cells making a mess of things. We’ve been following this story since June, because it’s really cool for a couple reasons. First, it marks the first time a gene therapy has been approved for use in the US, although more CAR-T treatments are in the pipeline. Second, the treatment is designated for the most prevalent form of childhood cancer in the US—acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). There is a bit of worry that the treatment is prohibitively expensive, which is what sunk the first gene therapy approved in the EU, but maybe competition will help drop prices.
Many people feel constantly under attack from gastrointestinal issues like IBS, IBD and gastritis. However, not all GI symptoms are what you might think. Drug manufacturer, Novartis, has recently launched a campaign entitled, What Am I Wrestling With, encouraging people to get to know and ask more questions about their symptoms. The campaign features a pesky professional wrestler who they hope will bring awareness to knowing your symptoms and talking to your doctor about carcinoid tumors. Carcinoid tumor symptoms can mimic the symptoms of IBS and proper diagnosis is critical for treatment. Hopefully, the campaign is a success and no one will have to endure a German Suplex from a carcinoid tumor.
The answer is Beau. How do we know? Because the Cancer Moonshot has been renamed the “Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot” in honor of the VP’s late son who died from brain cancer. Armed with $1.8B in funding, VP Biden recently gave an update on the project. One highlight is how the National Cancer Institute created the Genomic Data Commons, which archives cancer patient data using Amazon’s cloud computing software. Researchers have accessed this information about 80 million times, so that is a lot. In another initiative, companies like AZ, Novartis, Pfizer, and Celgene, just to name a few, are contributing to the Blood Profiling Atlas in Cancer (BloodPAC) consortium. Go team.
Greek authorities are looking into allegations of corruption and bribery by a number of local Novartis officials. An investigation had been in the works for nearly two months but the matter escalated when a Greek Novartis executive attempted suicide last week; however, police thwarted his effort. According to a source, the Switzerland-based company has similar ongoing investigations in South Korea and Turkey, and had settled for $370 million after a 2014 investigation by the US FBI. “There are a lot of holes in this cheesy story.” “Someone get Roger Federer to serve the subpoenas.” “They will need an army knife to get out of this one.” All Swiss jokes, all very funny. InsightCity apologizes to the good people of Switzerland. But only the good ones.
Maybe you should talk to your doctor to see if a HealthyDose™ of biosimilars is right for you. Side effects include: euphoria caused by an acute awareness of feeling yourself getting smarter, accusations of being a know-it-all by your colleagues, and more euphoria due to objectively knowing you are in fact smarter than your colleagues.
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