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The week that it was- 27th March to 2nd April, 2017

in ClubSciWri by
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The new week starts, with the cherry blossoms bringing in optimism. And we are steadfast in bringing you the resources that you might need to alleviate your apprehensions, regarding funding, next steps in careers and the cutting edge science happening worldwide.

If you are a researcher in the US, and the NIH budget cuts are keeping you worried, you might want to see what does the proposal say to mitigate the cuts. Will it work or not, is yet to be seen. On the other hand, stable funding and impressive infrastructure attract researchers from all over the world to Canada. Is it your destination next too?

On the medical health and research front, researchers from IIT-Kanpur, India repurpose malaria drug to fight drug resistance in metastatic cancer. While efforts to eradicate tuberculosis are still on – Researchers in Houston, USA come up with a blood-based technique to detect TB, which costs less than 10$ while Serum Institute, India start with trial II/III vaccine trial for TB.

The entrepreneurs are taking health care to the next level with machine learning. Is really Elon Musk hacking the human brain? Or are NVidia graphic processors change the face of health care? Welcome to the future!!

Doudna and Charpentier rewarded on the European front – CRISPR Therapeutics win  a broad CRISPR patent in Europe.

After the last antibiotic developed in 1984, here is funding again in market by BARDA and Wellcome Trust to foster research in the not-so-economics-friendly antibiotic development.

Open science efforts, while are undeniably necessary, are also marred by fake predatory journals. But there are ways to identify them in the pool. Open science gets a boost as now big names start backing it – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Biohub join the league. And if you are a researcher in Europe, do your bit by filling up the EU survey form to help the community understand how should they develop the infrastructure.

Depression and academia: the story isn’t new. It is not surprising that science and engineering population shows aging. The current researchers should know the different measures to prevent/ circumvent depression. And it is high time that we start investing in projecting science as a viable career option for it to thrive. Microsoft joins hands with Nat Geo in the pursuit by getting explorers to encourage girls take up STEM careers.

Ever felt retracting a paper might kill your career? Then you might love to know that the community rather rewards such an effort to correct ‘honest errors’.

Are you planning to further your career in data science? Then you should know what your CV should look like.

If you think that staying at home means a stepback in career, think again. Here is a list to help you pick from the jobs in life science that suit working from home.

Contract jobs are becoming more and more common each day in life science industry. If you are confused how to evaluate them, here is some help.

Max Planck for Molecular Physiology, Dortmund, Germany offers diverse postdoctoral openings for biochemistry, microbiology, mass spectrometry and electron microscopy backgrounds.

For those inclined towards industry-

  • Scientist I/II position at Bioverativ, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA, to work on blood disorders
  • Multiple positions at Entasis, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA
  • Scientist position, Neuroscience at Genentech, San Francisco, USA to work on nervous system diseases
  • Scientist, Electrophysiology at Sanford Burnham Prebys, La Jolla, USA in collaboration with GSK, to work on neurodegeneration
  • Senior scientist, Neuroscience Medicinal Chemistry at Johnson and Johnson, Flanders, Belgium to work in development of large and small molecules
  • Head of Immune Biology at Roche, Munich, Germany to work in protein therapeutics in Large Molecule Research group
  • Director for Research Communications at Spiegel lab at Yale University, USA

And for those who are still in the phase of exploring, here is a list of opportunities –

  • A 3 day insider’s look at management consultancy at McKinsey for those interested in Health Care (from 1st June to 4th June, 2017 at Philadelphia), and Science and Engineering (from 8th to 11th June, 2017 at Washington, DC) – open only for residents of US and Canada, application deadline – 9th April, 2017
  • Want to know more about filing patents? Here is a free webinar by on 5th April that might be of use

And if you still think you are yet to find your right fit, be patient and steady. Take advantage of the resources here to know what suits your aptitude and attitude, and what skills need to be developed for a career appropriate for it.

About the author:

Somdatta Karak works with Club SciWri as a project co ordinator and Corporate Liaison. She is a doctorate in neuroscience from Georg August University, Göttingen, Germany and has been a Teach for India fellow (2014-16). She loves putting her analytical skills to build newer and more sustainable solutions, enjoys traveling and communicating and takes every opportunity to expand her horizon.

You can reach her here.











Multiple Sclerosis, Single Lead- Medness Focus on Ocrevus

in Medness by

What’s the news?

The multiple sclerosis community has been eagerly awaiting the approval of the drug Ocrevus (ocrelizumab), which will be used to treat patients who have relapsing MS (RMS) and primary progressive MS (PPMS). The FDA’s decision of final approval came on March 28, coinciding with Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week.

Ocrelizumab is the first and only investigational drug

  • to show greater efficacy in both RMS and PPMS in clinical studies.
  • to consistently and significantly reduce disease activity and disability progression compared with a standard-of-care high-dose interferon (Rebif®).
  • to significantly reduce the progression of physical disability in primary progressive MS in a large Phase III study (ORATORIO).
  • that has the potential to address an important unmet need in MS.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

MS is a chronic, typically progressive disease involving damage to the sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

Patients with MS may show paresthesias (tingling sensation), blurred vision, optic neuritis (painful unilateral vision loss), clumsiness, muscle weakness, cognitive decline, and urinary dysfunction. Unfortunately, the neuron in the picture is also feeling some of these signs. The Lhermitte sign is caused when neck flexion creates electric shock-like sensations down the back and limbs.

Types of MS

1.    Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS) First episode of neurologic symptoms caused by inflammation and demyelination in the central nervous system.

2.    Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) is characterized by clearly defined attacks of new or increasing neurologic symptoms.

3.    Primary Progressive MS (PPMS) worsening neurologic function (accumulation of disability) from the onset of symptoms, without early relapses or remissions.

4.    Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS) Most people who are diagnosed with RRMS will eventually transition to a secondary progressive course in which there is a progressive worsening of neurologic function (accumulation of disability) over time.

The History

In the past 20 years, we’ve seen a lot of improvement in the battle against MS to benefit the 2.3 million people worldwide who have this ailment. Notwithstanding these developments, people with RMS continue to need medications that offer the possibility for greater efficacy than standard-of-care interferons, with a favorable safety profile.

For people with PPMS there were no approved treatments before Ocrevus. Previous Phase III trials with investigational medicines have been unsuccessful in demonstrating a significant effect on disability progression in PPMS.

What is the science behind it?


  • targets myelin-attacking B-cells (unlike similar medications attacking T-cells)
  • is an anti-CD20 humanized monoclonal antibody

Image source

How was the drug developed?

Genentech’s Medical Director, Peter Chin, said “The journey of ocrelizumab in MS started about 15 years ago, when Genentech began collaborating with academic researchers at major universities to investigate the importance of B cells in MS and their potential as a therapeutic target. The first small proof-of-concept studies showed that CD20+ B cells appeared to play a more important role in MS than anybody previously thought.”

Read the full interview with Genentech’s Peter Chin here

What was the outcome of the trials?

More than 1,600 MS patients enrolled in clinical trials for Ocrevus and 94 percent of participants had fewer brain lesions during the 96 weeks of treatment.

A summary of the data from the OPERA I, OPERA II and ORATORIO studies that support this approval can be found here.

What are some of the doubts?

There was little increased risk of infection (link). 

The clinical trials for Ocrevus also found that while patients taking the drug did have a slightly increased risk of common colds and flu, they had no significant increased risk of other infections when compared to patients taking the alternative medication, Rebif.

Some concerns like “Targeting B cells in MS patients appears to be Ocrevus’ strength, but depleting B cells also raises safety concerns” were addressed to Dr Chin. He responded saying, “Ocrelizumab selectively binds to CD20, a cell surface antigen expressed by a subset of B cells. CD20 is not expressed on stem cells or antibody-producing plasma cells, and therefore pre-existing humoral immunity and the ability to reconstitute B cells may be preserved. Since the CD20 protein is not found on many other cells of the immune system, they can continue to fight infection and other illnesses.

What should the patients and their families know?


  • will be administered by intravenous infusion every six months.
  • will be used for treating primary progressive MS.
  • will also be used for treating relapsing MS patients.
  • may have potential serious side effects which may include infusion reactions, infections and malignancies where only routine screening is required based on age and medical history

Medness Quotient from Imit Kaur

“Analysts forecast annual sales exceeding $3 billion by 2021 as reported by Reuters. After the approval news, Biogen stock fell by 2%, and Roche stock rose by a fraction. Novartis’s drug for MS treatment, BAF312, for secondary progressive MS is expected to receive regulatory approval in the first half of 2017. Until then, Roche can bask in glory  (Reuters, Investor’s Business Daily, FiercePharma).”

Featured image source: Pixabay



Disclaimer: This blog is strictly for news and information. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Got fat ? Let’s migrate !

in Reporting from the Lab by

Targeted cancer therapy, for the most part, focuses on restricting the uncontrolled growth of a tumor. While these treatment strategies have been successful during the early stages of cancer, there is a constant need to identify treatment options for tumors that have undergone metastasis i.e. the tumor cells have dispersed from their primary site and localized to other organs of the body. In a recent study published by Nature, Pascual et al have shed some major insights into the process of metastasis and identified a fatty acid receptor, CD36 as a potential target to impair metastasis.

The researchers  generated tumors in mice by injecting them with oral carcinoma cell lines and patient-derived cells. These cells were stained with a fluorescent label dye, which diminishes with every dividing cancer cell. They were able to identify slow dividing dye-retaining cells as well as rapidly dividing dye-negative cells in the tumors that developed. A transcriptome analysis, to identify differences in the gene signature of these two populations, showed an enhancement of genes involved in metastasis and lipid metabolism in the slow dividing dye-retaining cells. CD36, a cell surface receptor and a crucial component for lipid uptake and metabolism, was one of the top implicated genes in their data analysis. Cell surface receptors communicate with specific molecules in the extracellular environment and transmit signals within the cell, which consequently dictates cellular processes.

How does CD36 affect metastasis? Interestingly, loss of CD36 in mice reduced the ability of tumors to penetrate to other organs by 80-100% while it did not affect primary tumor formation. Consistent with its requirement for metastasis, antibodies that block the CD36 receptor significantly inhibited metastasis in mice without affecting the size of the tumor. Furthermore, the expression of the cell surface receptor, CD36 was greatly increased when mice were fed with a high-fat diet. In a series of subsequent experiments, the authors concluded that the metastatic potential of tumors is increased with a high fat diet in a CD36 dependent manner.

There are several aspects of this study that are interesting.

This work shifts the paradigm of cancer metastasis theories where tumor cells are believed to undergo a transition from an adhering epithelial cell to a migratory mesenchymal cell (EMT) to invade distant sites. These CD36 expressing cells did not exhibit a mesenchymal gene signature. While further experimentation is required to link CD36 and EMT, it is conceivable that these processes are independent of each other to facilitate metastasis. A detailed mechanism of how CD36 initiates and regulates metastasis remains to be determined.

A high fat diet, which included palmitic acid (an essential component of palm oil) enhanced metastasis in a CD36-dependent manner in these mice. Palm oil is a key ingredient in several food products including Nutella. A press release early last year claimed that the breakdown products of palm oil are potentially carcinogenic, therefore correlating Nutella consumption with cancer risk. While these correlative studies require further scrutiny, validation, and support by causation studies in humans, it is imperative to understand the impact of an EXCLUSIVE high-fat diet on health.

The constantly evolving landscape of cancer research has witnessed the discovery of promising molecules to combat the most aggressive forms of the disease. A majority of these molecules are immuno-oncological targets that enhance the anti-tumor immune response and prevent tumor spreading. In 2016, the FDA approved two drugs, Bristol Myers-Squibb’s Opdivo for metastatic head and neck squamous carcinoma and Genentech’s Tecentriq for metastatic non-small cell lung carcinoma. Both these drugs regulate the immune checkpoint PD-1 and PDL-1 respectively. Some other drugs in the pipeline include Bristol-Myers Squibb and ASLAN pharmaceuticals’ ASLAN002, an inhibitor of the receptor tyrosine kinase, RON. RON regulates immune surveillance and its activation enhances tumor metastasis. Innate Pharma‘s, anti-CD73 blocks the enzyme, CD73 whose function contributes to the generation of an immunosuppressed and pro-angiogenic tumor microenvironment. What makes the fatty acid receptor CD36 unique, so far, is that it exclusively affects metastasis without affecting primary tumor formation. While its cross talk with the immune system remains to be investigated, CD36 represents a novel class of potential anti-metastatic targets that requires further validation. Targeting CD36 by itself, or perhaps in combination with the other aforementioned drugs, might have the potential to treat some of the most aggressive forms of tumor and subsequently have a positive impact on patient lives.

Journal article:



Additional newsfeed :








Photo source: Shutterstock

Edited by Abhinav Dey.

About the author 

Radhika completed her PhD from Cornell University and is currently a Postdoctoral fellow at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Her research interests have centered around oncology and neuroimmunology. Among other things, she is striving to effectively communicate scientific discoveries to the community.





Med-Ness-JPM meeting, Epipen and more…..

in SciBiz by

Hi all, its our second week and co-incidentally this week SciWri turned one. Happy Birthday SciWri and may the members continue to spread the light of wisdom through their blog sections!


35th Annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference (JPMHC17)

The annual JPMHC17 took place in San Francisco from Jan9-13. This conference boasts to be one of the largest healthcare conference wherein pharmaceutical companies and small-scale biotech companies present their most recent innovation technology and share their future goals. The major highlights of this year’s conference are as follows:

  • Major focus on Oncology as leading pharmaceutical companies presented their innovative ideas at the pipeline stage or approval stage. CAR-T therapy presentations stole the show.
  • Genomics was another hot topic that was discussed and new therapies and technological advancements were presented. Illumina’s $100 genome was one of the most successful presentations. Illumina’s latest baby NovaSeq was unveiled at JPMHC17. This new machine (available as 5000 or 6000 system) is expected to expedite the experimental plan while reducing the over all cost, although, the real “$100 genome” deal is still far. The introduction of NovaSeq is definitely good for the company’s rising stock.

Head turning business deal: $5.2 billion bid by Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd for Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc. Ariad Pharmaceuticals, specializing in oncology drugs, developed drugs like Iclusig (Ponatinib for chronic myeloid leukemia); AP32788- kinase inhibitor for NSCLC and now Brigatinib for Alk positive NSCLC patients resistant to or who experienced drug progression on Pfizer Inc’s Xalcori (Crizotinib). The deal is expected to close by end of February.


Do we have an alternative to Mylan’s EpiPen?

2016’s most controversial product, EpiPen’s alternative is expected to hit the market with a list price of $4500. Kaleo’s Auvi-Q allergic device will be available for as low as $360 in cash for uninsured patients. However, the company has agreed to cover the full cost for those with a high deductible insurance plan or with household income less than $100,000.


Biosimilar for AbbVie’s Humira accepted for Review

Abbvie’s Humira (adalimumab), indicated for multiple inflammatory conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, adult and pediatric Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, pulls in annual sales of nearly $15 billion. This drug was approved in US and EU. Boehringer Ingelheim introduced their biosimilar to Humira and has been accepted for review by both FDA and EMA.

In September last year, FDA also approved Humira’s first biosimilar version- Amgen’s Amjevita.


Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Future

Cancer Moonshot- an initiative by Joe Biden was a ray of hope for the scientists focusing on cancer research. However, researchers all over the US have feared the thwarting of research after the successful fulfillment of Barak Obama’s presidential term. In one of the last initiative, National Cancer Institute (NCI) is designing a new plan wherein the scientists can pursue new combination therapies. NCI will act as a mediator between the drug makers and the outside researcher’s thus enabling scientists to access new drugs for research.

At the present, six companies including Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Genentech, Kyowa Kirin, Loxo Oncology and Xcovery have participated in the program.

Francis Collins to stay as NIH Director under Trump’s administration

Francis Collins has been asked by the president-elect Donald Trump to stay on his position as National Institute of Health Director. The duration of his stay is still unknown. He has been serving at NIH since last eight years under Obama’s administration.


This was the succinct version of MedRecap, MedNess, MedPol and MedPharm..more to follow next week. Have a great weekend.

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