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The NIH Chief Wants to End the ‘Manel’—Brainstorm Health

June 12, 2019, 9:54 PM UTC

Hello and happy hump day, readers!

For those unfamiliar with the term, “manels” are panels at conventions, meetings, and other congregations of business, academic, and sociopolitical leaders that feature exclusively men.

NIH director Dr. Francis Collins says it’s time to break the habit.

“I want to send a clear message of concern: it is time to end the tradition in science of all-male speaking panels, sometimes wryly referred to as ‘manels.’ Too often, women and members of other groups underrepresented in science are conspicuously missing in the marquee speaking slots at scientific meetings and other high-level conferences,” he wrote in an NIH blog post on Wednesday.

Collins went one step further, putting his own speaking agenda on the line. The comments were inspired by a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine titled, “Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequence in Academic Science, Engineering, and Medicine.”

“Starting now, when I consider speaking invitations, I will expect a level playing field, where scientists of all backgrounds are evaluated fairly for speaking opportunities. If that attention to inclusiveness is not evident in the agenda, I will decline to take part,” he wrote. “I challenge other scientific leaders across the biomedical enterprise to do the same.”

While pretty much all industries struggle with the prevalence of manels (full disclosure: I’ve definitely been on a few of them myself, and rightly been called out for it, no matter the quality of panel members), the medical and biopharma industries have a long-festering problem with gender equality. That problem has manifested itself as a lack of representation in the C-suite and cringe-worthy behavior at conferences.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


Intermountain launches a 500,000-person DNA study. Intermountain Healthcare and partner Decode Genetics have launched a massive new DNA study of 500,000 patients in an effort to suss out connections between genomics and various diseases, the companies announced. The "HerediGene: Population" study is a voluntary program available to the hundreds of thousands of patients in Intermountain's Utah- and Idaho-based consumer groups, among others. Decode Genetics is an arm of biotech giant Amgen. “While the 500,000 samples will be collected primarily from patients in Utah, the research is expected to have a global impact as medications, treatments, and healthcare innovations that can benefit patients universally are developed from the findings,” said Lincoln Nadauld Intermountain’s chief of precision health, in a statement.

Dassault wants to buy Medidata. French tech firm Dassault Systemes has bid to buy health tech firm Medidata for $5.7 billion. Dassault wants to build up its footprint in the clinical trial space and, as we've previously covered, Medidata has placed a focus on large-scale clinical trial programs for companies like Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Sanofi. (Fortune)


Catalyst Pharma sues FDA. Catalyst Pharmaceuticals has sued the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the agency's approval of a lower-cost rival to its rare disease drug for Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome. Catalyst alleges the FDA's decision to approve Jacobus Pharmaceutical's Ruzurgi violates exclusivity agreements for its own Firdapse, according to Reuters. You may remember that Catalyst came under heat from U.S. presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders Firdapse's $375,000 list price. (Reuters)


Joe Biden campaigns on a cancer cure. Former Vice President Joe Biden has a pretty... lofty campaign promise as he fights for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. "I promise you if I'm elected president, you're going to see the single most important thing that changes America, we're gonna cure cancer," Biden said during a campaign event in Iowa on Tuesday. Biden has a personal stake in the race for a cancer cure—his own son died of brain cancer while in his 40s. But cancer isn't just one disease, and even the extraordinary advancements of the past few decades rarely represent cures. The statement, though, could very well imply budgetary priorities were Biden to win the presidency—including massive funding increases for the NIH and NCI.


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Produced by Sy Mukherjee
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