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    November 21, 2023

    Drug Discovery Industry Roundup with Barry Bunin — November 21, 2023

    Barry Bunin, PhD Founder & CEO Collaborative Drug Discovery

    Barry Bunin, PhD
    Founder & CEO
    Collaborative Drug Discovery

    Discovering New Antibodies … by Mutating Existing Ones? That’s the concept explored in Derek Lowe’s recent blog for Science, titled “Try This Antibody Over Here.” He writes: “Protein language models (pLMs) have been doing some startling things these last few years. These are conceptually similar to the large language models (LLMs) that have had so much attention recently, but since the language of protein sequences is less complicated than natural human language, these techniques can get a lot more traction a lot more quickly. He points to work published in Nature Biotechnology titled “Efficient Evolution of Human Antibodies from General Protein Language Models,” in which pLMs were used to model mutations to existing antibodies that could enhance their effectiveness. Lowe concludes: “… these results strongly suggest that we should let such software guide us as much as possible in protein optimization. All those existing proteins are trying to tell us something, and we finally have the means to understand what those messages are.”

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    Gene Editing Treatment “Almost Like Science Fiction” Cuts Cholesterol in Small Study. The New York Times, in its coverage of Verve Therapeutics’ announcement suggesting cholesterol can be permanently reduced with a single gene-editing treatment for patients at risk of heart disease, quotes Dr. Martha Gulati, Director of Preventive Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and President of the American Society for Preventive Cardiology, who was not involved in the trial, as saying the treatment “is almost like science fiction.” The New York Times explains: “The gene editing tool acts like a pencil and an eraser. The eraser wipes out one letter of the target gene, and the pencil writes in a new one, turning off PCSK9.” While larger trials will be required, the enthusiasm is palpable. “Even for seasoned veterans of this field like myself, this is a day we will look back on,” Fyodor D. Urnov, a gene editor at the Innovative Genomics Institute in Berkeley, Calif. told The New York Times. “I see today as crossing a Rubicon, in a good way. This is not a small step. It is a leap into new territory.”

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    "Big Pharma Wants to Use AI to Increase Diversity in Clinical Trials." That’s a recent headline from Bloomberg about how Johnson & Johnson and other companies around the world are using AI to enroll and retain under represented minorities in clinical trials. The article says Johnson & Johnson used AI to pinpoint community centers where Black patients with multiple myeloma might seek treatment, which the company says helped lift the Black enrollment rate in five ongoing studies to about 10%. A Johnson & Johnson data scientist explains: “You have claims data, connected to electronic health records data, connected to lab tests, and all of that de- identified and anonymized. The machine-learning algorithm computes and creates a heat map for you as to where the patients eligible for that trial are.” The article says “About 75% of participants in clinical trials for new drugs approved in 2020 were White, 11% Hispanic and 8% Black. But research shows people can react differently to medicines depending on their race, ethnicity, age, gender and sex.”

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    Will Germany Ban Exporting Ozempic to Ensure Availability for Diabetics? Reuters reports that German regulator BfArM is considering banning Ozempic exports as Europe's health systems grapple with shortage of the diabetes drug, which is in high demand for its weight-loss benefits. Reuters notes that data from Affordable Medicines, a lobby group, shows that such bans are already in place in Austria, France, Greece and the Czech Republic, and that Portugal, Poland, Romania, Belgium, Slovakia and Spain, in turn, have rules in place that likely make it impossible to export the drug. Help may be on the way, with a headline in The Washington Post reading “FDA Approves New Obesity Drug from Eli Lilly Named Zepbound.” The article notes that Zepbound has the same ingredient as Eli Lilly’s diabetes drug Mounjaro, but is newly FDA approved to treat obesity. The main ingredient, tirzepatide, mimics two hormones naturally produced in the body, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP), which are involved in the regulation of blood sugar and body weight.

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    “How Ozempic Maker Novo Nordisk’s Very Danish Capitalism Fueled Its Success, and Its Stumbles.” That’s the headline for an article in The Wall Street Journal that explores the company’s “warm and communal Danish work culture and a decades long focus on one area, diabetes, which created room for scientific breakthroughs to take root and thrive—rather than a narrow focus on short-term wins.” The article notes that the 100-year-old company has a market capitalization of $439 billion (nearly half a trillion!) “more than Pfizer, Lockheed Martin and Starbucks combined.” The article also points to supply chain issues the company has faced as it tries to keep up with demand for its popular Ozempic and Wegovy products.

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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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