Drug Discovery Industry Roundup with Barry Bunin — April 4, 2022
“Complete Human Genome Deciphered for the First Time.” That headline in Science Daily gave me a sense of déjà vu all over again. I’d wondered back when the Human Genome Project was announced back in 2003 (and at talks by Craig Venter that I heard right afterwards)…why we could not have the whole genome sequenced from head to tail—soup to nuts, if you will. Previously, the state-of-the-art left some uncharted areas, and now researchers have generated what they term “adding a whole chromosome's worth of previously hidden DNA.” One researcher described it as “seeing chapters that were never read before” while another said: “There are no longer any hidden or unknown bits.” From a drug discovery standpoint, it will be fascinating to see what potential might be found in these new chapters of DNA.
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Snail Venom + AI . . . A Search for New Pain Relievers. The cone snail, a predatory marine animal, produces a venom which contains chemicals called conotoxins—highly potent neurotoxic peptides which paralyze prey by blocking parts of their nervous systems. Drug Discovery World carries an article about University of Glasgow scientists assessing whether modified peptides based on the venom could form the basis of future drugs capable of safely blocking pain receptors in the human body. They are teaming up with machine learning and artificial intelligence researchers from the University of Southampton to better understand how the cone snail’s venom works to affect human muscles. They then plan to synthesize new peptides that interact with particular types of receptors in the human nervous system known as nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, ornAChRs. Dr Andrew Jamieson, of the University of Glasgow’s School of Chemistry, is quoted saying that the work “could lead to new forms muscle relaxants for anesthesia, or painkillers which are just as effective as opioids but don’t have the same associated potential for addiction. It’s an exciting project and we’re looking forward to getting started.”
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Preventing Cancer Cells from Repairing their DNA after Treatment. Researchers at Duke Cancer Institute are trying to enhance the efficacy of cancer therapies by interfering with the ability of residual cancer cells to repair their DNA by blocking ATM inhibitors. Kris Wood, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke, is quoted in Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News as saying: “We were surprised to find that the ATM pathway was frequently activated by these surviving cancer cells. That finding led to the next question: Could we disrupt the repair process?” The article notes: “The researchers used ATM inhibitors that are currently under investigation, and the answer was yes.”
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COVID-19 Vaccine Helps Place Pfizer at top of 2021’s Best-Selling Pharmaceuticals List. Drug Discovery Trends carries a list of the 50 best-selling drugs for last year. The article notes: “Pfizer alone raked in $36.9 billion in sales from the Comirnaty vaccine it developed jointly with BioNTech. Demand for the COVID-19 vaccine helped catapult Pfizer to be 2021’s top pharmaceutical company. Continued demand for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is likely to keep Pfizer as the biggest pharma firm of 2022 as well. The previous year AbbVie’s injectable biologic Humira was at the top of the list, and it is ranked 2nd for this year. Check the link for a complete listing of the top 50. For a more comprehensive list of all the FDA and EMA non-vaccine approved drugs (Proteins, Antibodies, Small Molecules) with their scientific, clinical, and revenue data trends updated daily for a reasonably priced $49/month online ($99/month to download as JSON, CSV, XLSX, PPT) access to all approved drugs—see BioHarmony self-serve data online (and here showing Humira as an example)
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Can Overworked Mitochondria Lead to Autism? That’s the question Neurologist Richard Frye is trying to answer, according to an article in Drug Discovery News. After noticing that several patients with autism also had mitochondrial disorders, he started researching the connection between autism and mitochondrial function. He expected to find deletions in key metabolic genes and unproductive mitochondria, which appear in canonical mitochondrial disorders like Leigh Syndrome. To his surprise, the mitochondria in patient-derived cells were working overtime, functioning 200% more than expected. “When you are working 200% more than normal, if you put a little bit of stress in there, you fall apart easily,” Frye says. “I think it’s opening a box, and I don’t think it’s only autism. I think there are a lot of other diseases out there [involving mitochondria].” Researchers have long noted the fundamental symbiotic relationship between mitochondria and the rest of the cell—which has been hypothesized as a procaryote-eucaryote merger event, many years ago (without which we may not be alive).
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. CDD Vault® is a hosted biological and chemical database that securely manages your private and external data.