Biotech – The Cutting Edge
CAR-Ts, Cancer Screening & the Underpaid Scientists
Last week we saw an important update from Autolus’ CAR-T Obe-Cel, with results rivalling pharma giant Gilead’s Tecartus. We also saw the approval of ‘Magtrace’ in the US for breast cancer care. We then discuss how scientists’ pay can be a barrier to entry and lastly we saw a marker that suggest we might be at ‘peak’ AI in Healthcare. There’s also an update on primitive humans & something to warm the cold winter re energy.
CAR-T Showdown – Last week, Autolus Therapeutics (a Syncona portfolio company) released pivotal data on its CAR-T therapy known as ‘Obe-cel’ used in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. The treatment was shown to have an overall remission rate of 70% in 50 patients, with very few patients shown to have adverse immune responses such as cytokine release syndrome (commonly associated with all CAR-T). Excitingly, early results suggest efficacy to rival/beat Gilead’s Tecartus which presented an overall remission rate of 65% in 54 patients.
Next Gen Cancer Screening – The company ‘Endomag’ has just seen its product ‘Magtrace’ approved in the US for all breast cancer staging procedures. Magtrace has the potential to change the paradigm, with its technology using a specially designed tracer (rather than the radioactive isotopes currently used) which once injected accumulate in tumour tissue (and show potential spread). The advantages Magtrace has over radioactive tracers include a reduction on side effects such as nausea/vomiting and more flexibility, as it can be injected several weeks before a scheduled appointment.
Support Our Science – We know times are tough for many, but Nature is shedding some light on the travails of being an academic. PhD candidates and postgraduate students have voiced their concerns on surging inflation in their periodic survey. 45% of the respondents have confirmed that inflation is weighing down on their decision to complete their courses and projects. As stipends (career training pay) have failed to keep up with rising rents and the cost of living. For comparison, the minimum stipend for FY22-23 is £17,668 which is below the salary of a full-time worker on the UK real living wage of £10.90.
AI Toilet Bowl – We’ve called ‘peak gene editing’ before (when they started modify bananas to stop them going brown) and perhaps now we have ‘peak AI’ application in Healthcare…Researchers have created an AI that can detect diarrhoea with up to 98% accuracy by listening to sounds coming from toilets, trained using just 350 toilet-based sounds. While it might have the potential to help prevent the spread of diarrheal illnesses such as cholera, we don’t think a microphone in the toilet will be to everyone’s liking
Fire & free energy: maybe not beyond all hominins – Despite having a brain just 1/3 of the size of ours, archaeological evidence suggests Homo naledi (a primitive human species) used fires to cook and see in the dark up to 230,000 years ago. Also something which our descendants may look back on, scientists have made a breakthrough in nuclear fusion, outputting more energy than was put into the reaction (Fire 2.0 for Homo sapiens?). Read more about it here!
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