NEWS FEATURE: Breaking the silence

NEWS FEATURE: Breaking the silence

Scientists had long assumed that any genetic mutation that does not alter a protein sequence should have no impact on human health. But recent research has shown that such synonymous DNA changes can trigger disease in a number of ways. Alla Katsnelson talks to scientists and biotech companies who are speaking up about ‘silent’ mutations.  Read more

Q&A: A healthy chat with the Center for Global Development’s health policy leader

Q&A: A healthy chat with the Center for Global Development’s health policy leader

Since its launch in 2001, the Center for Global Development (CGD) has been instrumental in convening working groups and issuing reports that shape the agenda for a range of topics that affect global poverty and people of the developing world. At the helm of its global health effort is Amanda Glassman. As the daughter of US Foreign Service diplomats, Glassman was exposed to disparities in public health in developing countries from a very young age. So it was a no-brainer for Glassman that she would devote her career to tackling those inequalities. She has spent the last two decades at places like the US Agency for International Development, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Brookings Institution. Last year, she joined CGD as the director of its global health policy division.  Read more

Four-in-one HIV pill may be exception among combination drugs

Four-in-one HIV pill may be exception among combination drugs

By Hannah Waters The 1960s cartoon The Jetsons envisioned a future where single pills provided the same nutrition, taste and satiation as food that required chewing. That time-saving tablet remains a pipe dream, but the drugmaker Gilead is trying to deliver a similarly inspired pill for HIV medicines. On 27 October, the California company submitted an application to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its four-in-one HIV pill, which, if approved, would contain more medicines than any pill currently on the US market. The so-called ‘Quad’ pill promises the same virus-controlling ability as the four drugs separately but  … Read more

New HCV drugs trigger race for more tolerable therapies

By Sarah C P Williams The approval this year of the first direct-acting antiviral drugs for the hepatitis C virus has ushered in a new era of treatment. Since the mid-May launch of Incivek (telaprevir) and Victrelis (boceprevir) — both of which disrupt viral replication by inhibiting HCV’s protease protein — physicians have rapidly been prescribing the pills to many of the estimated 180 million people worldwide who are infected with HCV. This is reflected in October earnings reports showing that sales of Incivek reached nearly $420 million in the third quarter of this year alone, which puts it on  … Read more

A retrospective of retractions: the striking record in 2011

John Darsee was a young clinical investigator with a long list of publications in top-tier journals and a promising career ahead of him in cardiology research. Described by a former supervisor as “one of the most remarkable young men in American medicine,” Darsee was offered a faculty position at the Harvard Medical School in Boston at the age of 33. But then his career quickly started to unravel. One day, colleagues caught Darsee fraudulently labeling data for a study into heart attacks; further investigations revealed scientific misconduct on a massive scale, and, eventually, Darsee was fired and barred from receiving federal grant money for ten years. More than 80 of his papers were withdrawn from the literature. He ultimately apologized for publishing “inaccuracies and falsehoods.”  … Read more

Geron abandons stem cell research

Geron abandons stem cell research

A company that pioneered embryonic stem cell research is walking out on the field it helped to create. Geron, based in Menlo Park, California, announced yesterday that it would kill off its stem cell program — and its landmark clinical trial of a treatment for spinal cord injuries — so that it can focus on cancer therapies.  Read more