Each week, we highlight five things you need to know about in the life sciences industry. Here’s the latest.
1. FTC challenges biopharma merger as antitrust scrutiny grows
Less than two weeks after the Federal Trade Commission announced it would be taking a more stringent look at mergers in the biopharmaceutical industry, the proposed Illumina and Grail merger became only the second vertical merger in 40 years (2017’s proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner) to be legally challenged by the agency. The trial is scheduled to begin in August and is likely to be a focus for life sciences executives as they plan for long-term development of their pipelines.
2. Tiny robots deliver drugs straight to the brain
Researchers at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China published a new study in the journal Science Robotics, showing they were able to combine magnetically controlled nano-particles with an E. coli membrane, and direct those “neutrobots” through the blood brain barrier (BBB) to deliver a cancer fighting drug in mice. Technologies such as microbots, magnetically controlled therapeutics and ingestible diagnostic tools are still cutting edge, but have been around for years. The breakthrough of this research is being able to combine biopharma with medical tech, and penetrate the BBB in an effective manner, which has long posed a challenge to the treatment of brain diseases. Inverse provides a deep dive and digestible visuals into how this technology works and what it may mean for the future of nanomedicine.
3. Middle and high school teens could be vaccinated by next school year
In a study of 2,260 adolescents (aged 12 to 15), the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine “demonstrated 100% efficacy and robust antibody responses, exceeding those reported in trial of vaccinated 16- to 25-year-old participants,” according to a press release from the company. Currently there are no FDA-approved vaccines for anyone under the age of 16, which has been a point of concern in the effort to safely return students back to the classroom. The company also announced the start of a seamless phase 1/2/3 study of the vaccine in children aged 6 months to 11 years. The study will include three arms: 5 to 11 years, 2 to 5 years, and 6 months to 2 years. The 5- to 11-year arm received the first dose at the end of March. The ability to vaccine children not only serves to protect their health and safety, but allows them to return to school, and for their parents to return to work. This could be a significant factor in the speed of economic recovery and the market reopening that is expected to hit full stride this summer.
4. FDA approves the first transcatheter pulmonary heart valve
Last Friday, the FDA granted Medtronic approval for its device used to treat patients who suffer from the congenital heart disease. Traditionally, numerous open-heart surgeries are required to treat this rare condition. Medtronic’s device is implanted through a minimally invasive procedure. It may delay the need for open-heart surgery and has the potential to reduce the number of procedures an individual needs in their lifetime. The approval comes after the device was granted Breakthrough Device Designation. The program is designed to expedite the development and review of devices that may provide for more effective treatment or diagnosis of life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating diseases or conditions, as stated by the FDA.
5. Broad Institute launches $300 million initiative to support AI powered biology research
Last week the Cambridge research center announced the creation of the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Center, named after the Google executive and his wife after their $150 million endowment gift. The goal of the center is to help bridge the divide between machine learning and biology studies. Artificial intelligence continues to play an increasingly important role in the development and understanding of biology research. The creation of this center will help expedite the collaboration of these fields and further our understanding.