Brainstorm Health: 3D Printed Heart, Measles Outbreak, SCOTUS Rejects Allergan Tribe Bid
Hello and happy Monday, readers. I hope you enjoyed your weekend.
The prospect of 3D printing organs has, understandably, been a tantalizing one in medicine. Israeli scientists have reportedly come one step closer to that lofty goal—in what is no less critical than the heart itself, according to a release from Tel Aviv University researchers.
“This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers,” says Tel Aviv University’s Professor Tal Dvir, who led the project, in a statement.
The researchers are quick to note that there’s still a ways to go before fully-customized human hearts a reality. The one they developed was just the size of a rabbit’s heart.
But the process behind the mini-heart’s production makes it striking. The heart was created with a patient’s own blood vessels, cells, and other various biological materials. That means that, theoretically, such technology could lead to fully personalized organs.
I know I’m a broken record on this—but it’s always important to take such reported early-stage advances with a grain of salt. Would such a printed heart, grown to a larger level suitable for humans, actually work (and work over an extended period) in a wide-scale clinical trial? It’s a critical question that shouldn’t be lost amidst understandable excitement.
Read on for the day’s news.
Catalent-Paragon deal highlights the gene therapy rush. One of the most interesting gene therapy deals of the year was just announced—and you may have never even heard of either company. New Jersey’s Catalent is snatching up Baltimore-based Paragon in a proposed $1.2 billion cash bid. So what makes the deal special? Catalent, what’s known as a contract manufacturing organization (CMO) in the pharma world, is one of the larger third-party firms that drug makers rely on for their on-the-ground needs. These kinds of companies help scale complex treatments—and, with the Paragon deal, Catalent is making a clear play in the gene therapy development space. That makes sense; gene therapies are the kind of treatments that pharma companies absolutely need expert partners to manufacture if they’re ever going to make a profit off of them.
Medidata launches A.I. company. Life sciences tech firm Medidata has launched a new A.I.-centric firm called Acorn AI, the company announced Friday. This is one of a wave of all-purpose artificial intelligence upstarts that wants to shepherd drug makers from “molecule to market” with a healthy boost from algorithmic helpers. Some big names will be heading up Acorn, including former Medidata, FDA, and IBM Watson Health executives.
SCOTUS smacks down Allergan’s Native tribe gambit. The Supreme Court has followed lower court rulings in one of the stranger pharmaceutical gambits of the past few years—Botox maker Allergan’s attempt to shield one of its best-selling drugs’ patents from rival competition by selling the patents to, and then licensing them back from, a Native American tribe in northern New York. The thinking here was that Native tribes’ sovereignty would help smack down legal challenges. Allergan has argued that the current patent challenge system amounts to double jeopardy (since rivals can challenge them both in court and through a federal patent board); the unusual proposition has now fallen flat. (Reuters)
THE BIG PICTURE
The measles outbreak is getting worse. Much worse. In fact, the number of reported cases jumped 20% in just one week between April 4 and April 11, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) figures, bringing the total count up to 555 people since the beginning of the year and cementing the current outbreak as the second worst since measles was mostly eradicated nearly two decades ago. (Fortune)
New Study Reveals the Dangers of Long Commutes During Pregnancy, by Emma Hinchliffe
Commentary: A.I. Bias Isn’t the Problem. Our Society Is, by Alex Salkever & Vivek Wadhwa
Julian Assange’s Fate Has Nothing to Do With Press Freedom, by Robert Hackett
|Produced by Sy Mukherjee|