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    January 8, 2024

    Drug Discovery Industry Roundup with Barry Bunin — January 8, 2023

    Barry Bunin, PhD Founder & CEO Collaborative Drug Discovery

    Barry Bunin, PhD
    Founder & CEO
    Collaborative Drug Discovery

    Resurrection Biology” Reviving “Zombie Viruses” the Dodo Bird … and Searching for Ancient Antibiotics. 2024 may prove to be a most interesting year, based on headlines such as this from CNN: “Why ‘Resurrection Biology’ is Gaining Traction Around the World.” While not yet at the Jurrassic Park phase of bringing back dinosaurs, researchers have revived a worm after 46,000 years in the Siberian permafrost. And others are trying to revive extinct creatures including the dodo bird, wooly mammoth, and Tasmanian tiger. The mainstream media warns that thawing of permafrost could unleash “zombie viruses” the world is ill-prepared for. From a drug discovery perspective, César de la Fuente, Presidential Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, leads a machine biology group at UPenn that uses intelligence-based computational methods to mine ancient genetic information to identify or peptide, they believe to have bacteria-fighting powers. He has discovered promising compounds from Neanderthals and Ice Age creatures such as the woolly mammoth and giant sloth.

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    “Startups Are Using AI to Predict Responses to Cancer Drugs.” That’s the headline in a recent Wall Street Journal article about biomedical startups using artificial intelligence to predict the response patients will have to cancer treatments, aiming to increase the success of drugs in clinical trials and tailor therapies to individuals. AI is seen as especially helpful for testing when animals poorly model human disease. One of the startups profiled, Vivodyne, uses lab-grown human organs and AI to uncover proteins that can be targeted with drugs and predict responses to medications. Another startup, Pepper Bio, uses a “transomics” approach that involves analyzing DNA, RNA, proteins and molecular switches on proteins in tumors, tissue in tumors’ immediate surroundings and adjacent healthy tissue. Co-founder and CEO Jon Hu says the goal is to find drugs that act on molecular pathways that cause or sustain cancer and not on pathways that would lead to toxicity. Pepper is looking to acquire drugs that target biological pathways in cancer that it has found to be promising avenues for treatments. Hu said: “We don’t think the right question is if AI will impact drug discovery, but how and when.

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    “The Weight Loss Drug Boom Isn’t Over Yet — Here’s What to Expect in the Year Ahead.” That’s how CNBC introduces an overview of what to expect on the GLP-1 front in 2024. The article predicts 2024 will be “another pivotal year for weight loss drugs, which skyrocketed in popularity despite hefty price tags, mixed insurance coverage and some unpleasant side effects.” The article says much of Wall Street believes the weight loss drug market will only expand, with some analysts projecting that it will be worth $100 billion by the end of the decade. Goldman Sachs analysts expect 15 million U.S. adults to be on obesity medications by 2030. Investors will be watching how the dominant players in the market, Novos!”Nordisk and Eli Lilly, navigate supply issues plaguing their treatments. Patients have been struggling to get their hands on Novo Nordisk’s weight loss injection Wegovy, its diabetes treatment Ozempic, and Eli Lilly’s diabetes injection Mounjaro. Both companies are also expected to release new data that could show other potential health benefits of their drugs beyond weight loss and diabetes management, which may increase insurance coverage down the line. It’s also predicted that Pfizer and Amgen may enter the market with similar drugs. The article notes: “Wegovy made history this year when it slashed the risk of serious heart problem  by 20% in people with obesity and heart disease in a late-stage trial. In 2024, the drug could shake up the pharmaceutical industry again if U.S. and European regulators decide to approve it for that purpose.”

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    “Learning to Sleep Like a Bear Could Save Your Life.” That’s the headline for a Washington Post article about how hibernating bears and squirrels learn to survive long periods of inactivity without developing blood clots, bed sores, and bone loss. Space agencies and militaries are putting money into hibernation research in the hopes of harnessing discoveries to help astronauts endure the rigors of space travel and to treat injured soldiers. One finding, published in Science, is that the protein HSP47, involved in blood clotting, is found in far less abundance when bears are hibernating. Researchers want to learn if this could provide a mechanism for preventing clots. Hannah Carey, a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin at Madison studies hibernating ground squirrels, and published a paper in Science describing how the gut microbes of squirrels recycle waste chemicals and turn them into amino acids that the animals use to maintain muscle. The discovery comes with the potential of probiotic supplements to help not only the elderly and malnourished with muscle wasting, but also allow astronauts to remain strong in zero gravity. Manuela Thienel, a cardiologist at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, who researches hibernating bears, summarized in a Yogi Berra manner: “You can learn really a lot from nature. Far more than we think.”

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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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