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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

In a first, San Francisco bans e-cigarettes

San Francisco yesterday became the first big U.S. city to ban e-cigarettes following a vote by city supervisors. E-cigarette companies will now have to have their products undergo an FDA review in order to sell them in the city. Some experts say the ban will make it more difficult for young adults and teens to use e-cigarettes, a trend that has caused health leaders including former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to crack down on the products. But others are concerned that banning e-cigarettes will make it more difficult for adult users to move away from tobacco-based cigarettes. The city’s decision comes after a vote last year to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products as well as a vote in 2016 to put a tax on sugary beverages.

‘Here we are again’: The CRISPR patent battle is reopened

New documents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office show that the patent battles between UC Berkeley and the Broad Institute over the gene editing technology known as CRISPR are revving back up. The office declared an interference between a dozen of the Broad's key patents on CRISPR and 10 of UC's patent applications, meaning that the latter describe inventions identical to those covered by the former. In this case, the Broad's patents cover the use of CRISPR in eukaryotes — organisms like us, whose genomes are enclosed within a nucleus. But pending applications filed by UC Berkeley also claim use in eukaryotes. The patent office now has to decide whether the Broad’s patents are still valid, a process that could take up to a year, and would have huge implications for companies looking to leverage CRISPR for clinical use. 

Unlicensed stem cell clinics are still operating with untrained physicians

Despite federal crackdowns on unlicensed stem cell clinics, many such clinics in California, Texas, and Florida are continuing to operate and market unapproved therapies, a new study finds. Nearly two-thirds of medical professionals at such clinics are physicians, although nearly half the clinics did not have a physician who was formally trained in the area the clinic was claiming to treat. This was especially true for non-orthopedic specialties, where only 19% of companies had a physician trained in the appropriate specialty. 

At the same time, a Florida district court yesterday issued a permanent injunction against U.S. Stem Cell and U.S. Stem Cell Clinic, which were involved in a lawsuit brought by the federal government after three women lost their vision following treatment at U.S. Stem Cell. 

Inside STAT: In national first, N.J. program will let paramedics administer buprenorphine


New Jersey’s health commissioner this week authorized paramedics to administer buprenorphine to patients almost immediately after they're revived from an opioid overdose, signaling a possible paradigm shift. The program, the first in the nation, hopes to serve two purposes: one is to curb the withdrawal symptoms that those who are revived from an overdose using naloxone experience, and the other would be to get them on the path to more long-term treatment with buprenorphine, which has become the center of opioid addiction treatment around the country. STAT’s Lev Facher has more here on what one addiction expert called “a potentially brilliant idea.”

Q&A: Surgeon General Jerome Adams on the opioid epidemic and legalizing marijuana

As U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams has made the opioid epidemic a key issue. And as Illinois yesterday became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana, Adams is also cautioning against embracing it too quickly. I caught up with Adams at the Aspen Ideas: Health conference this past weekend: 

Philadelphia could soon be home to the nation’s first supervised injection site. Do you think that’s a good way to deal with the opioid crisis? 

We need more naloxone. We need more syringe service programs. We need more [medication assisted treatment]. And so before we go and stack on something else that's controversial and unproven in that environment, let's make sure we maxed out or at least reached reasonable levels of these other things that are evidence-based. 

Why should we be cautious about the wave of marijuana legalization happening now? 

Folks are thinking of the marijuana of Woodstock. They're not thinking about kids using Shatter [a marijuana concentrate] and vaping it and getting 85-90% THC. There [are] some very real health concerns and the problem is a lot of them you're not going to see ‘til years down the road. 

Young scientist prize names first all-women group

For the first time in its 13-year history, all three winners of the national Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists are women. The prize, which is given out by the New York Academy of Sciences, honors young scientific research faculty with an unrestricted $250,000 prize. This year’s winners were selected from a pool of nearly 350 nominees who are 42 and younger: physicist Ana Maria Ray; Antarctic field biologist Heather Lynch; and Harvard chemical biologist Emily Balskus, who is working on better understanding metabolites in the human microbiome and how they impact health. The winners will be recognized at a September ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

What to read around the web today

  • In touting a therapy's potential, a stem cell firm's media blitz offers a mirage. STAT Plus
  • Beta blockers were a miracle cure for my stage fright. Slate
  • When Lyme kills. Elemental
  • What the U.S. medical system can learn from Estonia. The Atlantic
  • Hospitals earn little from suing for unpaid bills. For patients, it can be 'ruinous.' NPR

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Wednesday, June 26, 2019


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