For years, scientist have been arguing about whether amyloid protein in the brain is a cause,or just a symptom of condition. Pharma has been confident — or desperate — enough in the science to bet on amyloid clearing drugs, but they haven’t turned out to be very good bets. So far, none has proved effective.
On Tuesday morning, one of the chief proponents of the theory, Harvard’s Dennis Selkoe, will give a talk at McLean Hospital, the storied psychiatric facility in Belmont. Entitled “New Insights into the Protein Biology of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases,” it takes place at 11 am in room 132 of at the hospital’s de Marneffe Building.
And, if those in audience have read the Atlantic piece — in which Selkoe is quoted — they may have questions about Merck’s recent decision to abandon test on what was once considering a promising treatment. .
After Merck’s announcement last week, one neurologist told Bloomberg that “there is mounting evidence—of which this is another piece—that removing amyloid once people have established dementia is closing the barn door after the cows have left.” An advisor to a life-sciences venture-capital firm tweeted, “I’ve been a long-term adherent of the amyloid hypothesis, but starting to feel like this”: “This” was a gif of the Black Knight from Monty Python, arms missing but still adamant he had suffered nothing worse than a flesh wound.
And well, the amyloid hypothesis is not dead yet. Large clinical trials targeting amyloid are still underway—either using new, potentially more powerful anti-amyloid drugs or trying out the previously failed drugs in patients with less advanced Alzheimer’s. These trials will likely affirm the amyloid hypothesis or kill it for good.
The (sometimes messy) science of communicating science
Monday, January 9, 6:30-8:30pm at The Burren (247 Elm Street, Somerville) (directions)
Are you interested in learning more about what the field of science journalism looks like from the inside? Panelists from the Boston-based publication STAT will discuss what led them to a career in health and science journalism, as well as the challenges and value of investigating and reporting in this field. Small group discussions will follow the panel, so you’ll have a chance to ask questions and bring up topics you want to discuss. Members of the panel will represent a broad range of careers within science journalism, including reporting, editing, social media, marketing, multimedia, and graphic design.
About STAT (from statnews.com): STAT is a new national publication focused on finding and telling compelling stories about health, medicine, and scientific discovery. We produce daily news, investigative articles, and narrative projects in addition to multimedia features. We tell our stories from the places that matter to our readers – research labs, hospitals, executive suites, and political campaigns.
The ongoing story of the late Henrietta Lacks, the African-American
woman who unwittingly provided cells for years of medical research, has much to offer those battling disparities
in healthcare, according to family members who spoke in Boston last week.
That message, delivered at a panel discussion, came from Lacks’ grandson David Lacks, Jr. and her great granddaughter Victoria Baptiste, RN, as well as Joseph Betancourt, MD, director of the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.
This event brings industry leaders together with patient advocates and other stakeholders to examine ways in which life sciences companies can more fully incorporate the patient voice into the work they do— not just approaching regulatory applications or at commercialization, but throughout the drug development cycle.
The day-long event will include panel discussions, case study presentations (spotlighting industry/patient partnerships), a keynote address, and awards ceremony, as well as a networking breakfast, lunch and cocktail reception. Expected attendance is 180 patient advocacy professionals, patient organizations and other stakeholders.
Worth noting that the same topic was the subject of yesterday’s panel at HUBweek, a science/tech/arts series ongoing in Boston. The title: “The FDA and the Drug Approval Process: Is it Really Broken?” Some made the point — we should listen to the parents of sick children. Others offered a different perspective: Patients might be better off in clinical trials with informed consent and free drugs, rather paying $300,000 per year for that same, unproven medication with unknown side effects.
Patient perspectives are crucial in helping us understand what scientific data mean, what the benefits and risks both mean to patients. So patients should be part of the process – what should the outcome measures be and how can they be measured?
The FDA is listening to patients who desperately want treatments but they are not listening well to patients who are harmed by ineffective or unsafe treatments. That’s partly because the former are funded by Pharma to attend FDA meetings and to lobby Congress, but the latter are on their own, often don’t have the money to attend FDA public meetings, and wouldn’t even know about them if they don’t read the Federal Register, which is the only place they are announced in advance.
The Globe reports today on the push to make an AIDS prevention drug available. After
many years of struggling to come up with a vaccine, this was a true breakthrough. (We don’t use that word lightly on this page.) But instead of a shot that stays with you for year, here you have to take a pill.
Critics questioned the wisdom of giving powerful drugs to healthy people, and worried that access to a preventive drug would encourage promiscuity or lead to a spike in other sexually transmitted diseases by reducing condom use.
But as study after study — some conducted in Boston — found the drug safe and effective, public health officials came to embrace PrEP, concluding the benefits exceed the hazards. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that some 1.2 million people at risk of HIV infection should at least consider PrEP.
The August 22 edition of The New Yorker includes a story by Siddhartha Mukhergee on Dan Barouch, director, Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at BIDMC. He’s on the hunt for a Zika vaccine and his work on HIV is informing the effort. From the article, which is not behind the NYer pay wall: