Grab a free beer and let the science sink in

POSUSBy Elise Byun
May 21,2014

Originally posted on Medill Reports – Chicago

Free beer and science research sounds like an unlikely combination. But it’s just what Chicago needs, according to organizers of the first annual Pint of Science Festival. The Festival makes science fun and easy to digest.

David J. Hofman, physics professor at University of Illinois at Chicago, kicked off the Tuesday night session at Bar Louie with a trek back to the Big Bang. “State of the Universe, less than a second after the big bang,” gave audiences a glimpse of his research reconstructing the universe’s earliest moments. 

“We really are trying to build up what the cosmologists are saying that the early part of the universe could be,” Hofman said. “Can we make that in a laboratory now and study it?” Essentially, they want to go back in time and re-create the first microsecond of the Big Bang, but without leaving the lab.
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Pint of Science: Are you missing out on one of the biggest celebrations of science?

POSUSIf you follow me on Twitter then you have undoubtedly seen a few tweets about Pint of Science. But do you know what you are missing out on?

New scientific discoveries are happening all the time, fascinating developments which will change the future of the human race. But how often are you given the chance to really understand how these discoveries are made and what they mean?

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Scientists look to the Green Arrow for inspiration for new pain killers


Green Arrow

Scientists searching for better painkillers are taking inspiration from an unusual population: people who feel no pain at all.

Research has shown that rare mutations in a gene called SCN9A can give people complete immunity to pain. Now, pharmaceutical companies are aiming to develop drugs to mimic that genetic mutation.

Scientists have struggled to find better treatments for chronic pain, which affects about 1 in 5 people. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen sometimes don’t work very well, while more powerful opiates such as morphine, codeine or oxycodone can be dangerously addictive. People suffering from neuropathic pain tied to nerve damage, meanwhile, often get little relief from current painkillers.

Now Pfizer Inc. PFE +0.51% and a handful of smaller companies such as Canada’s Xenon Pharmaceuticals Inc. and the U.K.’s Convergence Pharmaceuticals Ltd. are working on new methods tied to the SCN9A gene. Instead of muting pain by reducing inflammation, as ibuprofen and similar drugs do, or by switching on the body’s own analgesic properties, as opiates do, the new experimental drugs seek to block the ability of nerve cells to send pain signals.

Read the rest of the WSJ article on their website.

(note: I was referring to Connor Hawke, not the original Green Arrow. I guess I could have gone with Bane, but using a villain just didn’t seem right)

2013 Stellar Girls Teacher Workshop

This week the iBIO Institute EDUCATE Center held their 2013 Stellar Girls Teacher Workshop at Northeastern Illinois University, activities focused on feeding, fueling, healing, and saving the world.

Stellar Girls is a new program focused on inspiring girls’ interest in STEM fields, funded by the Astellas Foundation. Stellar Girls introduces girls in grades 4 through 8 to current, interesting “Big Ideas” in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Through the program, students have the opportunity to interact with STEM professionals and other volunteers to learn about STEM careers, apply STEM skills to real-world problems and employ critical thinking skills through team collaboration. For more information on Stellar Girls and some of the other great STEM initiatives at the iBIO Institute EDUCATE Center, visit:

The iBIO Institute EDUCATE programs are developed and led by Ann Reed and Karen Lindebrekke.

Here are some pictures from the 2013 Workshop:

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Abbott enters laser cataract surgery business with OptiMedica buy

Abbott Labs logo

(Reuters) – Abbott Inc said on Monday that it would enter the laser cataract surgery business by buying privately held OptiMedica Corp for up to $400 million and in a separate deal would pay $310 million for stent maker Idev Technologies.

The deals follow Abbott’s spinout earlier this of its branded prescription business into a separate company, AbbVie Inc. Abbott now focuses on medical devices, nutritional products and generic medicines.

Doctors perform most cataract surgeries by hand, Abbott said, but OptiMedica’s Catalys laser system would allow them to replace some of the manual steps with its computer-guided technology.

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The Culture War in healthcare has gone front and center (and the good side is winning) | MedCity News

The Culture War in healthcare has gone front and center (and the good side is winning) | MedCity News.

Transforming the culture of healthcare has become the most important issue for medical innovation – more so than the innovations themselves.

There are two cultures in healthcare. There’s the dominant, traditional medical culture that moves at the speed of clinical trials and medical research. It stands above the new data-driven, tech-savvy, innovate-and-live-entrepreneurially “new” culture.

It’s pretty clear after a couple days at MedCity CONVERGE this week in Philadelphia that New Culture is ready to take the lead in healthcare. Many of the new approaches are not all-the-way there yet. But the structure is now in place to do so: many leaders from the old have embraced the new approach, new thinkers have moved up the ranks, government policies and other incentives have changed, and technology (with business models) are coming of age.

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Big pharma: Business model choices for the new market

The pharmaceutical industry faces a critical need for change. The unsustainable trajectory of health care spending and a wave of regulatory reforms have triggered forces that are transforming the pharmaceutical landscape and introducing new complexities into the marketplace. Business models that were once highly effective now yield diminishing returns and may not be a good fit for a future market increasingly driven by data, health economics and comparative effectiveness. To make matters worse, many leading companies continue to wrestle with revenue gaps left by patent expiries—and a shortage of high-impact breakthroughs to replace them—making it hard to set a clear path for sustained growth and value creation.

Some pharma companies are trying to address these challenges with traditional strategies such as reloading product pipelines through mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Others are looking for growth “beyond the pill.” And many larger companies are taking a broader approach, pursuing a wide range of growth initiatives in the hope of hitting on something of significant value. However, our experience suggests these strategies are generally not delivering the kind of value shareholders expect. Companies that deviate from their core business in search of growth often add complexity without clear benefits. What’s more, many organizations have not yet done enough to address their operational inefficiencies.

Read Deloitte’s White Paper: Big pharma: Business model choices for the new market.


Biotech stock is hot now, but what’s the prognosis

biotechnology(Reuters) – Biotech stocks are so hot that even some of the bulls are starting to find themselves on edge.An index of biotech drugmakers’ shares has climbed nearly 50 percent in the past 12 months to all-time highs as the industry starts to launch drugs developed by identifying genes associated with disease – a revolution made possible by decoding the first human genome more than 10 years ago.

The rise at such a fast pace is triggering the inevitable talk of a bubble, especially when investors are reminded that more than 90 percent of experimental drugs that reach mid-stage testing in humans do not make it past that point.

“Genetic information is providing a big opportunity for new drug development,” said Rajiv Kaul, portfolio manager of Fidelity Investments Select Biotechnology Portfolio, in Boston. “There are exciting new opportunities, but you also need to be careful because most drugs fail.”

Compared with a year ago, the Nasdaq Biotech Index, which is weighted by market cap, is up 45 percent, the dollar-weighted Arca Biotech Index has risen 35 percent, and the Pharmaceutical Index of large U.S. and European drugmakers’ shares has increased 32 percent. Over the same period, the S&P 500 Index has gained 25 percent.

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Building a Better R&D Model: Personalized Medicine


Problem, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, patient response rates to medicines can be very low, ranging from 20%-75%. Every year 100,000 American’s die from adverse medical reactions with another 2,000,000 hospitalized. Does this seem wasteful to anyone else?  In a time when we are trying to reduce the cost of healthcare, we need to start to invest the research and the small companies that are paving the way for this new model.

Def: Personalized medicine or PM is a medical model that proposes the customization of healthcare – with medical decisions, practices, and/or products being tailored to the individual patient. The use of genetic information has played a major role in certain aspects of personalized medicine, and the term was even first coined in the context of genetics (though it has since broadened to encompass all sorts of personalization measures). To distinguish from the sense in which medicine has always been inherently “personal” to each patient, PM commonly denotes the use of some kind of technology or discovery enabling a level of personalization not previously feasible or practical.

Colin Palmer,  head of pharmacogenomics at Dundee University, explains the pharma industry needs to “try and get rid of the one-size fits all approach to medicine. Instead, he says, the future of medicine lies in creating more effective drugs that are tailored to the individual.

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