Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release] NIH to partner with biopharmaceutical companies and nonprofits to diagnose/treat diseases

From the 5 February 2014 (US) National Institutes of Health press release

The Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) is a bold new venture between the NIH, 10 biopharmaceutical companies and several non-profit organizations to transform the current model for developing new diagnostics and treatments by jointly identifying and validating promising biological targets of disease. The ultimate goal is to increase the number of new diagnostics and therapies for patients and reduce the time and cost of developing them.

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[At the risk of breaking copyright, this came via Twitter]

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AMP will begin with three to five year pilot projects in three disease areas:

For each pilot, scientists from NIH and industry have developed research plans aimed at characterizing effective molecular indicators of disease called biomarkers and distinguishing biological targets most likely to respond to new therapies.

Through this cross-sector partnership, which will be managed through the Foundation for the NIH (FNIH), NIH and industry partners are sharing expertise and resources — $230 million — in an integrated governance structure that enables the best informed contributions to science from all participants. A critical component of the partnership is that industry partners have agreed to make the AMP data and analyses publicly accessible to the broad biomedical community. These pilot projects will set the stage for broadening AMP to other diseases and conditions.

AMP Partners

Government Industry Non-Profit Organizations
FDANIH AbbVieBiogen Idec

Bristol-Myers Squibb

GlaxoSmithKline

Johnson & Johnson

Lilly

Merck

Pfizer

Sanofi

Takeda

Alzheimer’s AssociationAmerican Diabetes Association

Lupus Foundation of America

Foundation for the NIH

Geoffrey Beene Foundation

PhRMA

Rheumatology Research Foundation

USAgainstAlzheimer’s

Budget: 5 years [$230 Million (Rounded) Total Project Funding]

($Millions) Total Project Total NIH Total Industry
Alzheimer’s Disease 129.5 67.6 61.9
Type 2 Diabetes 58.4 30.4 28
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus 41.6 20.9 20.7
Total 229.5 118.9 110.6
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February 6, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vinod Khosla: Technology Will Replace 80 Percent of Docs

An astonishing proposal.

Yes, computer algorithms are great tools, but they are just that, tools. These tools are only as good as the data and algorithms they include. Our understanding of diseases and diagnosing is not static. Hence these tools will always be imperfect.
Furthermore, I do not believe the workings of the human body can be reduced to algorithms. Individuals are more than the sum of their parts. The relationship between diseases/conditions and wellness is a bit more nuanced than “solving” a problem. Case in point is the relationship of microbes in the gut and how they affect our immune system.

This article so far has drawn 60 comments..many very worth the time of reading.

From the 31 August 2012 post at The Health Care Blog

 I recently viewed health care through the lenses of a technology entrepreneur by attending the Health Innovation Summit hosted by Rock Health in San Francisco. As a practicing primary care doctor, I was inspired to hear from Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, listen to Thomas Goetz, executive editor of Wired magazine, and Dr. Tom Lee, founder of One Medical Group as well as ePocrates.

Not surprising, the most fascinating person, was the keynote speaker, Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems as well as a partner in a couple venture capital firms.

“Health care is like witchcraft and just based on tradition.”

Entrepreneurs need to develop technology that would stop doctors from practicing like “voodoo doctors” and be more like scientists.

Health care must be more data driven and about wellness, not sick care.

Eighty percent of doctors could be replaced by machines.

Khosla assured the audience that being part of the health care system was a burden and disadvantage.  To disrupt health care, entrepreneurs do not need to be part of the system or status quo. He cited the example of CEO Jack Dorsey of Square (a wireless payment system allowing anyone to accept credit cards rather than setup a more costly corporate account with Visa / MasterCard) who reflected in a Wired magazine article that the ability to disrupt the electronic payment system which had stymied others for years was because of the 250 employees at Square, only 5 ever worked in that industry.

Khosla believed that patients would be better off getting diagnosed by a machine than by doctors. Creating such a system was a simple problem to solve. Google’s development of a driverless smart car was “two orders of magnitude more complex” than providing the right diagnosis. A good machine learning system not only would be cheaper, more accurate and objective, but also effectively replace 80 percent of doctors simply by being better than the average doctor. To do so, the level of machine expertise would need to be in the 80th percentile of doctors’ expertise.

Is it possible technology entrepreneurs can disrupt health care? He challenged any doctor in the room to counter his points.

Silence.

Was it because everyone agreed? Were the doctors in the room simply stunned? Was there a doctor in the house? And where did he get that 80 percent statistic?…

September 7, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , , , | Leave a comment

New Tech for Complex Micro Structures for Use in Sensors and Other Apps


John Fourkas, University of Maryland. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Maryland)

From the 13 July 2012 article at Science News Daily

University of Maryland Chemistry Professor John Fourkas and his research group have developed new materials and nanofabrication techniques for building miniaturized versions of components needed for medical diagnostics, sensors and other applications. These miniaturized components — many impossible to make with conventional techniques — would allow for rapid analysis at lower cost and with small sample volumes.

Fourkas and his team have created materials that allow the simultaneous 3D manipulation of microscopic objects using optical tweezers and a unique point-by-point method for lithography (the process of using light in etching silicon or other substrates to create chips and other electronic components). As they report in a research article published in the August issue of Chemical Science , the combination of these techniques allows them to assemble complex 3D structures from multiple microscopic components.

This work builds on earlier breakthroughs by Fourkas and his team in the use of visible light for making tiny structures for applications such as optical communications, controlling cell behavior and manufacturing integrated circuits.

“These materials have opened the door to a suite of new techniques for micro and nanofabrication,” says Fourkas. “For instance, we have been able to perform braiding and weaving with threads that have a diameter that is more than 100 times smaller than that of a human hair.” In the paper, Fourkas and his group also showcase 3D structures composed of glass microspheres, a microscopic tetherball pole, and a microscopic needle eye that has been threaded….

July 14, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

NIH establishes National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences

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[From http://www.vetmed.vt.edu/news/vs/may06/index.html]

From the 23rd December 2011 National Institutes of Health (NIH) press release

In a move to re-engineer the process of translating scientific discoveries into new drugs, diagnostics, and devices, the National Institutes of Health has established the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). The action was made possible by Congress’ approval of a fiscal year 2012 spending bill  and the president’s signing of the bill, which includes the establishment of NCATS with a budget of $575 million.

NCATS will serve as the nation’s hub for catalyzing innovations in translational science. Working closely with partners in the regulatory, academic, nonprofit, and private sectors, NCATS will strive to identify and overcome hurdles that slow the development of effective treatments and cures.

“Congressional support for the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences marks a major milestone in mobilizing the community effort required to revolutionize the science of translation,” said NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.  “Patients suffering from debilitating and life threatening diseases do not have the luxury to wait the 13 years it currently takes to translate new scientific discoveries into treatments that could save or improve the quality of their lives.  The entire community must work together to forge a new paradigm, and NCATS aims to catalyze this effort.”

A prime example of the type of innovative projects that will be led by NCATS is the new initiative between NIH, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration  to develop cutting-edge chip technology.  This new technology will allow researchers to screen for safe and effective drugs far more swiftly and efficiently than current methods. A great deal of time and money can be saved testing drug safety and effectiveness much earlier in the process.

To meet the goals of NCATS, NIH is reorganizing a wide range of preclinical and clinical translational science capabilities within NIH into an integrated scientific enterprise with new leadership and a bold new agenda.  While the effort to recruit an NCATS director continues, organizational changes and realignment of resources will move forward under the leadership of Acting Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D., and Acting Deputy Director Kathy Hudson, Ph.D.  Dr. Insel is the director of the National Institutes of Mental Health and Dr. Hudson is the deputy director for science, outreach, and policy at the National Institutes of Health.

The following programs will comprise NCATS:

  • Bridging Interventional Development Gaps, which makes available critical resources needed for the development of new therapeutic agents
  • Clinical and Translational Science Awards, which fund a national consortium of medical research institutions working together to improve the way clinical and translational research is conducted nationwide
  • Cures Acceleration Network, which enables NCATS to fund research in new and innovative ways
  • FDA-NIH Regulatory Science, which is an interagency partnership that aims to accelerate the development and use of better tools, standards and approaches for developing and evaluating diagnostic and therapeutic products
  • Office of Rare Diseases Research, which coordinates and supports rare diseases research
  • Components of the Molecular Libraries, which is an initiative that provides researchers with access to the large-scale screening capacity necessary to identify compounds that can be used as chemical probes to validate new therapeutic targets
  • Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases, which is a program to encourage and speed the development of new drugs for rare and neglected diseases

The budget for NCATS is primarily a reallocation of funds from programs previously located in the NIH Office of the Director, National Human Genome Research Institute, and National Center for Research Resources.  NIH is committed to both basic and applied research and has maintained a relatively stable ratio of funding across these two areas of focus. The funding ratio will not be disturbed by the establishment of this new center.

The formation of NCATS has been a methodical process highlighted by the recommendation of the NIH Scientific Management Review Board in December 2010 to create a new center dedicated to advancing translational science.  This recommendation was followed by a year of intensive feedback and expert insight from all sectors of translational science through advisory meetings and extensive public consultation.

“I am deeply grateful for the expertise and insight provided by the many researchers, industry executives, patients, voluntary organizations, and NIH staff that helped NIH evaluate NCATS’ purpose and crystallize its vision,” said Dr. Collins.

To learn more about the impetus and development of NCATS, go to:

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visitwww.nih.gov.

December 24, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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