Reports + Research
First “Cell-Based Gene Therapy” Approved in the United States
The FDA has approved Kymriah from Novartis for certain pediatric and young adult patients with a form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Kymriah is a customized immune-oncology treatment created using a patient’s own T-cells. Informally known as CAR-T therapy, after the genetic modification, it’s the first treatment approved, but certainly not the last. A number of San Diego biotech companies are working on CAR-T therapies as well as NK therapies, which harness another type of immune cell called the “natural killer cell.” In fact, several of these companies are hiring for scientists for their CAR-T research (Poseida Therapeutics, Sorrento Therapeutics).
Your Computer Can Help Scientists with Microbiome and Autoimmune Disease Research
Scientists at UC San Diego are asking the public to donate their computer’s spare processing power. When your computer is not in use for work or mining for Bitcoin, it could be running virtual experiments to understand how the body’s microbiome may contribute to autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes. The project is made possible by IBM’s World Community Grid, which has supported other research projects on cancer, clean water, and renewable energy. The project is lead by Rob Knight, Ph.D., director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at UC San Diego. Watch his TED talk on the microbiome’s role in human health.
SDVG Venture Summit: Where Tech and Biotech (and Sometimes Surfing) Intersect
Last week, the San Diego Venture Group hosted their annual Venture Summit. This year, 28 local startups pitched their technologies to more than 120 venture capitalists. One of those companies, Nanome, hopes to work with pharmaceutical companies by using virtual reality gear combined with computer modeling software to design new drugs. I met the COO of the company a couple of years ago at the San Diego Surf Film Festival. His parody surf film won the Audience Choice Award at the Hawaii International Film Festival.
UC San Diego Receives $18.2M Grant for Cancer Clinical Trial from CIRM
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) approved an $18.2 million grant to UC San Diego School of Medicine to fund a clinical trial of a combination targeted drug therapy for B-cell cancers. The trial is testing whether a combination of two therapies could knock out certain forms of B-cell leukemia. Currently patients are recommended to take one drug, called Ibrutinib, indefinitely or until the cancer becomes resistant to the drug. In this clinical trial, researchers will test if adding Cirmtuzumab, which targets cancer stem cells, could allow patients to achieve complete remission and stop therapy altogether.
The Face in the Genome
Researchers from Human Longevity use human genome sequence data and machine learning to predict individual faces and physical traits. The study raises serious privacy questions for the genomics industry, since “anonymous” genomes stored on public databases could potentially be linked back to individual persons. The research also has novel applications in forensics and criminal identification.
POW! Podcast of the Week
If you are interested in learning more about the microbiome or other leading-edge health research, head over to N Equals One, a podcast produced and hosted by UC San Diego Health’s Communications team.
It’s Happening Here
Women In Bio SoCal hosts an evening discussion on the use of the human genome to improve health and treat disease.
San Diego: Life. Changing. Night @ Petco Park. Help the San Diego EDC tell our city’s story across the globe. They have 15,000 tickets at $20 each for the September 19 evening game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Happy Hour with San Diego Entrepreneurs Exchange. Stop by New English Brewing Company in Sorrento Valley for happy hour. Registration is free but the beer will be on your own tab.