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Tag Archives: biotechnology
Yesterday, New York Times reporter Andrew Pollack covered the pharmaceutical industry’s recent rush to the lifeboats of the siRNA/RNAi ship: When RNA interference first electrified biologists several years ago, pharmaceutical companies rushed to harness what looked like a swift and … Continue reading
British biotech company Oxitec is at it again: Some 6000 transgenic mosquitoes developed to help fight dengue were released in Malaysia on 21 December, according to a statement issued by the country’s Institute for Medical Research (IMR) in Kuala Lumpur … Continue reading
Count me among those surprised by this: About a year ago, genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes were released into the wild—and they have been flying under the world’s radar screen until last week. On 11 November, British company Oxitec announced that … Continue reading
Researchers at Wake Forest University’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine have developed a really clever strategy to build new livers. They’ll be presenting their work tomorrow morning at the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases meeting in Boston: Our … Continue reading
It certainly won’t bring prices at the pump down anytime soon, but a new paper in the journal Microbiology reports an astonishing new talent of certain fungi: An endophytic fungus, Gliocladium roseum (NRRL 50072), produced a series of volatile hydrocarbons … Continue reading
Way back in the 1990s, a bunch of biotechnology startup companies charged into a field that promised to be the Next Big Thing in disease treatment: antisense DNA. This mini-boom was driven by the discovery that short segments of DNA … Continue reading
Yesterday’s Chicago Sun-Times brings news that should keep some biotech investors up at night:
Lake Forest-based hospital products maker Hospira Inc. said today it landed European authorization to market the biogeneric anemia drug Retacrit in Europe, making the medicine its first marketed biogeneric medicine.
Hospira said it will launch the product, used to treat anemia in cancer and dialysis patients, in Europe beginning with Germany in early 2008, but Hospira executives said earlier that the drug won’t have an impact on Hospira’s bottom line in the next few years.
Retacrit will compete with Amgen’s cash cow Epogen, which has been off patent for awhile now. Unlike conventional drugs, protein-based therapies like Epogen (recombinant human erythropoietin) haven’t had to face generic competition when their patents end. Biotechnology companies have acted accordingly, keeping the prices of protein-based drugs very high. This loophole exists because biological products have historically been things like plant extracts, which are virtually impossible to quantify and standardize, so regulators in most countries hadn’t contemplated anyone making biologically equivalent copies of these medicines. In Europe, at least, those regulations have now been revised to allow the introduction of “biogenerics,” and Hospira is taking advantage of that.
The US FDA is still debating the issue of biogenerics, and of course the makers of brand-name protein therapies have been lobbying hard to maintain the status quo. If Retacrit takes off in Europe next year, it will give biogenerics proponents more ammunition. I wouldn’t place bets on the final outcome of this fight, but I’m pretty sure it will be a boon to civil litigators in either case.
Entomologically-minded readers of the Federal Register (you know who you are) might have noticed an interesting item shortly before Christmas: in the 19 December issue, the Department of Agriculture posted this note asking for the public’s thoughts about genetically modifying insect pests. Specifically, they’re working on inserting some choice genes into fruit flies and pink bollworms, then releasing the re-engineered critters into the environment. I’m sure the usual naysayers will soon be screaming about Frankenflies (which, by the way, would be a good name for a band), but this project could actually be a tremendous boon to the environment.
Pink bollworm life cycle, image courtesy USDA Continue reading
If you thought the public debate over new genetic technologies couldn’t get any more muddled, just watch what happens as this product starts to show up in pet stores nationwide. Yes, that’s right, hypoallergenic cats. Specifically, they’re cats that don’t express the gene for the most significant feline allergen protein. They are not clones, nor are they genetically modified in the same way many of our crops are these days, but they’re also not quite “natural.” Here’s why these distinctions matter. Continue reading