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David Baker (University of Washington)

‘A ma­jor step for­ward': Sci­en­tists un­veil new ap­proach for de­sign­ing pro­tein drugs against any tar­get

When Longxing Cao arrived as a postdoc at the University of Washington in 2017, David Baker’s lab was already known as the leader in a niche field of designing new proteins from scratch.

The idea was to replace, or supplement, the usual method for designing new proteins, i.e. borrowing from evolution. To come up with most new biologic therapies for cancer or infectious disease, for example, researchers generally filter out the best antibodies mice or humans develop against a virus or bits of a tumor. Maybe they’ll tinker with it a little.

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Can Mod­er­na ac­tu­al­ly make a vac­cine for the com­mon cold? (And should it?)

Moderna has spent the last year and a half, since their Covid-19 shots first neared authorization, steadily announcing new vaccine projects. Most of these have been welcomed by vaccinologists and public health researchers, who long struggled to get industry interested in certain pathogens such as Nipah or EBV, despite the threat they posed.

But on Tuesday, the mRNA biotech disclosed a new program that had some in the vaccine world scratching their chins.

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Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, Novo Nordisk Foundation CEO

No­vo Nordisk, Gates Foun­da­tion pledge $90M to fund an­tivi­ral re­search for the next pan­dem­ic

When the next pandemic hits, the Novo Nordisk Foundation, Open Philanthropy and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation don’t want the world to be scrambling to develop oral antiviral drugs — or poor countries to be struggling to access them.

That’s why the three charity groups are pooling together $90 million to fund a new initiative called Pandemic Antiviral Discovery, or PAD.

The goal is simple: to help researchers identify and develop Phase II-ready antiviral candidates targeting “pandemic threat viruses, including coronaviruses, paramyxoviruses, and orthomyxoviruses.”

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Chip Wilson, Lululemon founder (via chipwilson.com)

Lu­l­ule­mon founder com­mits $100M to cure his rare dis­ease

Chip Wilson may be best known as the founder of athleisure brand Lululemon. But he’s now coming with another hidden identity: someone diagnosed with a rare disease known as facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy type 2.

The entrepreneur is going public with his own story as he unveils a $100 million commitment into a new venture called Solve FSHD, whose stated goal is to find a cure for the ailment by 2027.

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Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In new re­search pa­per, No­var­tis out­lines how an old SMA pro­gram could al­ter the course of Hunt­ing­ton's

As experimental treatments for Huntington’s disease continue to suffer setbacks, Novartis is outlining a plan for a repurposed SMA drug it hopes can break pharma’s losing streak.

In a new paper published to Nature Communications, Novartis scientists detailed how a small molecule called branaplam lowers the overall level of mutant gene expressed in Huntington’s mouse brains and in neurons taken from Huntington’s patients, potentially helping curb disease progression. On top of that, researchers say the therapeutic effects appear short-lasting and reversible, suggesting the drug may eventually prove safe too.

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Am­gen qui­et­ly kills an obe­si­ty pro­gram, cast­ing bleak fu­ture for once-promis­ing tar­get

Five years ago, in a span of less than two months, four drug companies simultaneously converged on a single new way to treat obesity.

It was a curious scientific journey. More than a decade prior, an Australian immunologist named Sam Breit had shown that cancer patients who lose a lot of weight often have high levels of a protein called GDF-15. Further studies showed it was causative: Knock out the gene in mice, and the same tumors don’t induce weight loss.

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Jo Viney

Two Pan­dion vets jump back in­to the start­up world, this time us­ing ma­chine learn­ing to build bet­ter im­munol­o­gy drugs

As her days as a Merck employee dwindled down and the uncertain next step of her career stared her in the face, Jo Viney felt a sense of a job left undone. Not at Merck, mind you, but at Pandion — the immunology biotech the veteran drug developer co-founded and helped guide into Merck’s arms for $1.85 billion in early 2021.

At first, Viney leaned toward returning to “big biotech” — a route reflected in her past positions at Genentech, Biogen and Amgen — but when the opportunity came to take another stab at a startup, she knew the opportunity was too good to pass.

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Nuclera's eProtein printer (Nuclera)

A faster 'pro­tein print­er' out of the UK earns new round of fund­ing with plans to ex­pand plat­form

Drug discovery, historically, has been no easy task — it’s a lengthy, cost-intensive process hungry for breakthroughs. A UK startup thinks its speedy “protein printer” could be a winner, and the company is looking to press its advantage with some new backers on board.

Nuclera, a startup developing a printer it says can churn out protein models within 24 hours, has closed a $42.5 million Series B round with plans to flesh out a larger platform with the fresh influx of cash, according to a release.

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Carl June (Brian Ach/Getty Images for TIME 100 Health Summit)

Carl June: ‘We can now con­clude that CAR-T cells can ac­tu­al­ly cure pa­tients’

A decade after the first-ever patients were infused with CAR-T, at least two of them remain cancer free and their genetically modified cells still appear active, surveilling their blood for any budding malignancies that dare crop up.

“We can now conclude that CAR-T cells can actually cure patients, based on these results,” Carl June, the University of Pennsylvania immunologist who designed the first treatment, told reporters Wednesday, adding the results came as a surprise. “We did not think that this would be a curative therapy at all in 2010.”

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Surgeons at University of Maryland Medical Center performing the first pig-to-human transplant (University of Maryland School of Medicine)

In his­toric first, sur­geons trans­plant a ge­net­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied pig heart in­to a dy­ing pa­tient

Two and a half months after an NYU team dubiously claimed to have performed the first ever pig-to-human organ transplant, a team at the University of Maryland Medical Center appears to have actually done it.

The center announced Monday evening that surgeons there successfully transplanted a genetically modified pig heart into a 57-year-old patient with terminal heart disease. The patient, David Bennett, was too sick to qualify for a human donor and had run out of other options.