Greetings, readers! This is Sy. I hope you had a wonderful 4th of July weekend—I'll be filling in for Cliff for the rest of this short week.
Scientists from the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT have set out on a quest to map every single cell in the human body. It's an ambitious task, and one that could prove integral to the "precision medicine" movement which seeks to ultimately tailor drug discovery and treatment to a person's genetic makeup.
The goal here is to use "single-cell sequencing to understand how many different cell types there are in the human body, where they reside, and what they do," as Nature reports. Researcher Aviv Regev's "lab has gone from looking at 18 cells at a time to sequencing RNA from hundreds of thousands."
Genomic sequencing is all the rage in biopharma these days, with multiple companies setting out to match disease-causing gene variations with the drugs which may be best-suited to tackle them. Regev's and other scientists' ongoing human cell atlas project could provide some much-needed insights on that front.
Read on for the day's news.
Digital health deals continue their spree in the second quarter. By the end of June, the digital health industry posted 24 deals for the year (a dozen in each quarter of 2017), according to MobiHealthNews. The latest big-name M&As? Pharma giant Roche's acquisition of mySugr. The most prominent deal, perhaps, may be mobile health company Teladoc's acquisition of Best Doctors for $375 million cash. (MobiHealthNews)
Glaxo shares slide on HIV drug competition fears. Shares of pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline have slipped some 1.75% since the end of June—fairly significant for a company with a $100 billion-plus market value. One reason may be investor skittishness over new challenges to the British drug maker's flagship HIV franchise. U.S. biopharma giants Merck and Gilead are both striving for a leg-up on GSK with new generations of HIV drugs. (Reuters)
THE BIG PICTURE
Ethical questions abound in the Pope's and Trump's calls to help a dying child. A heartbreaking story of a child with a rare genetic disorder has gotten wrapped up in global politics. Charlie Gard, an infant who suffers from a DNA depletion syndrome, reportedly may not be moved to a Vatican children's hospital for treatment. U.S. President Donald Trump has indicated support for the child to come to the United States to receive an experimental and controversial treatment for his condition. (Washington Post)
The tick virus that could be worse than Lyme disease. Durland Fish, professor emeritus of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, has a piece up on Fortune warning about the hazards of the Powassan virus, a tick-borne illness that could be even more deadly than the pathogen which causes Lyme disease. Powassan encephalitis (brain swelling) kills about 10% of infected victims. "One would think that after 30 years of epidemic Lyme disease and other new tick-borne diseases, we would have better knowledge of how to manage the increasing population of infected ticks," writes Fish. "But basic field studies on ticks has never been a priority at the National Institutes of Health and the CDC has too little funding to support the major research effort that is needed for our academic institutions to solve the tick problem." (Fortune)
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