Andrew Trister via GitHub

Key Ap­ple dig­i­tal health re­searcher set to join the Gates Foun­da­tion — re­port

Last week, Ap­ple re­vealed it was work­ing with Eli Lil­ly on de­tect­ing de­men­tia in its ear­ly stages — and now a co-au­thor of the study is re­port­ed­ly head­ing to the Bill and Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion.

The sci­en­tist, An­drew Tris­ter, joined Ap­ple in April 2016 in a ‘spe­cial projects’ role — be­fore the tech gi­ant’s big am­bi­tions in health care were thrust in­to the spot­light.

In an in­ter­view with CN­BC on Fri­day, Tris­ter con­firmed he was de­part­ing to take on the role of dig­i­tal health in­no­va­tion at the Gates Foun­da­tion — where he is set to work with en­tre­pre­neurs that are think­ing of bring­ing dig­i­tal health tech­nolo­gies from the Unit­ed States to de­vel­op­ing na­tions, where smart­phones are in­creas­ing­ly be­com­ing all-per­va­sive. In ad­di­tion, he will al­so in­vest in projects lo­cat­ed un­der-re­sourced re­gions, such as rur­al Africa and In­dia, the re­port said.

Af­ter serv­ing as a ra­di­a­tion on­col­o­gist at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton, Tris­ter took on the role of se­nior physi­cian at a non­prof­it that helps en­gag­ing pa­tients in med­ical re­search called Sage Bionet­works. In 2014, he joined Seat­tle’s Fred Hutchin­son Can­cer Re­search Cen­ter as a clin­i­cal re­searcher, be­fore sign­ing on with Ap­ple.

Ear­ly in 2019, Ap­ple $AAPL chief Tim Cook pre­dict­ed that in the fu­ture, his com­pa­ny’s great­est con­tri­bu­tion would be its im­pact on health. The lat­est it­er­a­tion of Ap­ple Watch con­tains a sim­ple elec­tro­car­dio­gram able to de­tect signs of atri­al fib­ril­la­tion (AFib) — a com­mon heart con­di­tion that rais­es the risk of stroke and is typ­i­cal­ly seen in the el­der­ly.

Ap­ple has sunk its talons in­to the health care in­dus­try, hav­ing forged re­la­tion­ships with acad­e­mia, drug/de­vice mak­ers and in­sur­ers. Apart from Lil­ly $LLY, the com­pa­ny has joined forces with John­son & John­son $JNJ to test the di­ag­no­sis and out­comes of AFib pa­tients in a clin­i­cal tri­al; last year it part­nered with med­ical de­vice mak­er Zim­mer Bio­met $ZBH in a bid to use the health da­ta cap­tured by the watch to de­ter­mine why some pa­tients re­cov­er faster from knee and hip re­place­ments; and in 2017, the com­pa­ny tied up with Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty to eval­u­ate pre­vi­ous edi­tions of the watch in a large-scale heart study.

But some of Ap­ple’s health re­cruits have left the iPhone mak­er in re­cent years. Last month, health in­sur­er An­them poached Ap­ple’s War­ris Bokhari; Last year, Ap­ple’s Robin Gold­stein de­part­ed for self-dri­ving start-up Zoox and Anil Sethi left to start health-tech com­pa­ny; and Stephen Friend made his ex­it in 2017 to be­come an in­de­pen­dent en­tre­pre­neur, CN­BC re­port­ed.

Gates en­tered the dis­as­ter-prone field of Alzheimer’s in late 2017, com­mit­ting $50 mil­lion of his non­prof­it foun­da­tion’s funds and a match­ing amount from his per­son­al for­tune to in­vest in a fresh ap­proach to fight the dis­ease — urg­ing re­searchers to go back to the draw­ing board in their quest to un­der­stand the eti­ol­o­gy of the dis­ease. Months ago, Ama­zon’s Jeff Be­zos and his es­tranged wife in­ject­ed $15 mil­lion to the $35 mil­lion haul Bill Gates raised for the di­ag­nos­tics work be­ing done by the Alzheimer’s Drug Dis­cov­ery Foun­da­tion.

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk gestures to the audience after being recognized by President Trump following the successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center. (via Getty Images)

Tes­la chief Elon Musk teams up with Covid-19 play­er Cure­Vac to build 'R­NA mi­cro­fac­to­ries'

Elon Musk has joined the global tech crusade now underway to revolutionize vaccine manufacturing — now aimed at delivering billions of doses of a new mRNA vaccine to fight Covid-19. And he’s cutting right to the front.

In a late-night tweet Wednesday, the Tesla chief announced:

Tesla, as a side project, is building RNA microfactories for CureVac & possibly others.

That’s not a lot to go on. But the tweet comes a year after Tesla’s German division in Grohmann and CureVac filed a patent on a “bioreactor for RNA in vitro transcription, a method for RNA in vitro transcription, a module for transcribing DNA into RNA and an automated apparatus for RNA manufacturing.” CureVac, in the meantime, has discussed a variety of plans to build microfactories that can speed up the whole process for a global supply chain.

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George Yancopoulos (Regeneron)

UP­DAT­ED: Re­gen­eron co-founder George Yan­copou­los of­fers a com­bat­ive de­fense of the po­lice at a high school com­mence­ment. It didn’t go well

Typically, the commencement speech at Yorktown Central School District in Westchester — like most high schools — is an opportunity to encourage students to face the future with confidence and hope. Regeneron president and co-founder George Yancopoulos, though, went a different route.

In a fiery speech, the outspoken billionaire defended the police against the “prejudice and bias against law enforcement” that has erupted around the country in street protests from coast to coast. And for many who attended the commencement, Yancopoulos struck the wrong note at the wrong time, especially when he combatively challenged someone for interrupting his speech with a honk for “another act of cowardness.”

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Elias Zerhouni (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

Elias Zer­houni dis­cuss­es ‘am­a­teur hour’ in DC, the de­struc­tion of in­fec­tious dis­ease R&D and how we need to prep for the next time

Elias Zerhouni favors blunt talk, and in a recent discussion with NPR, the ex-Sanofi R&D and ex-NIH chief had some tough points to make regarding the pandemic response.

Rather than interpret them, I thought it would be best to provide snippets straight from the interview.

On the Trump administration response:

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

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Sec­ond death trig­gers hold on Astel­las' $3B gene ther­a­py biotech's lead pro­gram, rais­ing fresh con­cerns about AAV

Seven months after Astellas shelled out $3 billion to acquire the gene therapy player Audentes, the biotech company’s lead program has been put on hold following the death of 2 patients taking a high dose of their treatment. And there was another serious adverse event recorded in the study as well, with a total of 3 “older” patients in the study affected.

The incidents are derailing plans to file for a near-term approval, which had been expected right about now.

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Dan Gold, MEI Pharma CEO

De­vel­op­ment part­ners at MEI, Helsinn dump a high-risk PhI­II AML study af­ter con­clud­ing it would fail sur­vival goal

Four years after Switzerland’s Helsinn put $25 million of cash on the table for an upfront and near-term milestone to take MEI Pharma’s drug pracinostat into a long-running Phase III trial for acute myeloid leukemia, the partners are walking away from a clinical pileup.

The drug — an HDAC inhibitor — failed to pass muster during a futility analysis, as researchers concluded that pracinostat combined with azacitidine wasn’t going to outperform the control group in the pivotal.

Pfiz­er shares surge on pos­i­tive im­pact of their mR­NA Covid-19 vac­cine — part­nered with BioN­Tech — in an ear­ly-stage study

Pfizer and their partners at the mRNA specialist BioNTech have published the first glimpse of biomarker data from an early-stage study spotlighting the “robust immunogenicity” triggered by their Covid-19 vaccine, which is one of the leaders in the race to vanquish the global pandemic.

Researchers selected 45 healthy volunteers 18-55 years of age for the study. They were randomized to receive 2 doses, separated by 21 days, of 10 µg, 30 µg, or 100 µg of BNT162b1, “a lipid nanoparticle-formulated, nucleoside-modified, mRNA vaccine that encodes trimerized SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein RBD.” Their responses were compared against the effect of a natural, presumably protective defense offered by a regular infection.

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An ex­pe­ri­enced biotech is stitched to­geth­er from transpa­cif­ic parts, with 265 staffers and a fo­cus on ‘new bi­ol­o­gy’

Over the past few years, different teams at a pair of US-based biotechs and in labs in Japan have labored to piece together a group of cancer drug programs, sharing a single corporate umbrella with research colleagues in Japan. But now their far-flung operations have been knit together into a single unit, creating a pipeline with 10 cancer drug development programs — going from early-stage right into Phase III — and a host of discovery projects managed by a collective staff of some 265 people.

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Joseph Kim, Inovio CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

Pos­i­tive Covid-19 vac­cine da­ta? New mouse study? OWS in­clu­sion? Yep, but some­how, the usu­al tid­bits from In­ovio back­fire

You don’t go more than 40 years in biotech without ever getting a product to market unless you can learn the art of writing a promotional press release. And Inovio captures the prize in baiting the hook.

Tuesday morning Inovio, which has been struggling to get its Covid-19 vaccine lined up for mass manufacturing, put out a release that touched on virtually every hot button in pandemic PR.

There was, first and foremost, an interim snapshot of efficacy from their Phase I program for INO-4800.

Look­ing for 'ex­ter­nal in­no­va­tion,' Boehringer In­gel­heim re­serves $500M+ for new Shang­hai hub

Now that Boehringer Ingelheim’s bet on contract manufacturing in China has paid off, the German drugmaker is anteing up more to get into the research game.

Boehringer has set aside $507.9 million (€451 million) for a new External Innovation Hub to be built in Shanghai over five years. The site will become one of its “strategic pillars” as the team strives to get 71 approvals — either for new products or indications — by 2030, said Felix Gutsche, president and CEO of Boehringer Ingelheim China.