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    December 19, 2023

    Drug Discovery Industry Roundup with Barry Bunin — December 18, 2023

    Barry Bunin, PhD Founder & CEO Collaborative Drug Discovery

    Barry Bunin, PhD
    Founder & CEO
    Collaborative Drug Discovery

    Non-Coding “Junk DNA” Found to Influence Gene Expression in Tumors. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Alabama at Birmingham have analyzed whole genome sequencing and proteomic datasets to investigate how these structural variants influence gene expression in tumors, according to a recent article in Drug Discovery News. Their findings, published in Nature Communications, highlight a key set of genes of particular interest for cancer treatment, revealing new candidates for precision medicine approaches. “It’s impressive on the scale that they leveraged these repositories of all this data that’s out there, genomic and proteomic, and put it all together and did some really interesting analyses to cut to the consequences of what happens because of some of these genomic alterations and how they associate with all these different cancers,” said Timothy Griffin, a multiomics bioinformatician at the University of Minnesota who was not involved in the research. “It’s kind of a tour de force of a study.”

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    “New Drugs Can Fix Teenage Obesity, but Young People Don’t Get Them.” That’s the headline in a recent New York Times article about physician reluctance to prescribe Wegovy despite the fact the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended weight loss drugs like Wegovy for adolescents in January, after the FDA approved it for people age 12 and older. The article notes that 22% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 have obesity. Research shows that most are unlikely to ever overcome the condition — advice to diet and exercise usually has not helped. The reason, obesity researchers say, is that obesity is not caused by a lack of will power. Instead, it is a chronic disease characterized by an overwhelming desire to eat. Of particular concern are the 6% of children and adolescents with severe obesity, which is defined as having a body mass index at or above 120 percent of the 95th percentile for height and weight. “We are not talking about kids who are mildly overweight,” said Susan Yanovski, Co-Director of the Office of Obesity Research at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Such extreme obesity in adolescents, she said, often has “a really severe course.” These  teenagers develop diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney failure and eye damage much earlier than adults with obesity. It is terrifying.” The article says that in addition to insurer reluctance to cover, many pediatricians “worry about the dearth of data on long-term safety.”

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    “Are You a Morning Person? You May Be a Neanderthal Descendant.” That’s the headline in a recent Washington Post article on a study that finds some humans could have obtained gene variants that could influence the circadian clock from Neanderthals. “We found that Neanderthal DNA that remains in modern humans due to interbreeding has a significant and directional effect on modern humans,” said John A Capra, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California at San Francisco, and one of the authors of a study published in Genome Biology and Evolution. “In particular, the Neanderthal DNA that associates with chronotype consistently increases propensity to be a morning person.” In the study, the researchers defined a set of 246 circadian-related genes and found hundreds of genetic variants with the potential to influence the circadian clock. Using artificial intelligence to analyze the genetic variants, they found it was possible that some humans could have obtained circadian variants from Neanderthals. To test this, the researchers utilized a large cohort of several hundred thousand people, using the United Kingdom’s Biobank, a biomedical database. The study found “that these variants consistently increase morningness,” according to a statement about the study. Researchers believe the trait was carried forward because it was beneficial to arise early. But if you are hesitant to add a Neanderthal to your family tree, Capra clarifies that being a morning person is a very complex trait that also involves environmental and culture factors. He adds: “There are plenty of morning people who don’t have any of these Neanderthal variants!”

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    “Five Nobel-Winning Discoveries That Birthed New Medicines.” Forbes carries that headline as it celebrates the recent FDA approval of the first CRISPR therapy and looks back at other Nobel-Prize winning breakthroughs that have opened the door for impactful new medicines. The article provides an overview of the 2006 Nobel for RNAi, the 2012 Nobel for induced pluripotent stem cells, the 2018 Nobel for immune checkpoint inhibitors, the 2020 Nobel for the Hepatitis C virus, and the 2023 Nobel for lab-made mRNA modifications to enable human immune tolerance.

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    Barry A. Bunin, PhD, is the Founder & CEO of Collaborative Drug Discovery, which provides a modern approach to drug discovery research informatics trusted globally by thousands of leading researchers. The CDD Vault is a hosted biological and chemical database that securely manages your private and external data.

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