Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Battleground narrowed in CRISPR patent case between UC and Broad 

If you think the CRISPR patent battles between University of California and the Broad Institute haven’t, in tennis terms, rallied enough, then here’s more. The U.S. patent office just told the two entities what they were allowed to fight about and the advantage seems to lie with the Broad. The institute can argue that the patent back and forth be thrown out — despite, confusingly, it being the patent office that opened the fight back up in June. In turn, UC and its ally the University of Vienna can argue that the patent filing date be no later than 2013, putting the burden of proof back on the Broad to show that it filed to patent the gene editing technology first. The balls are now back in the court of each institution: UC has until Sept. 5 to file a motion, while the Broad has until the 20th.

Deaths from high blood pressure have been rising since 2011

The number of deaths from heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and high blood pressure have increased since 2011, according to new research. Scientists looked at data between 1999 and 2017, and found that although gains had been made in preventing such deaths — collectively called cardiometabolic deaths — until about 2010, rates began leveling off or rising after that. Deaths due to high blood pressure have been increasing, for instance, while deaths from the other conditions have flattened or slowed in decline. The study also found that rates of cardiometabolic deaths were higher among African Americans than white Americans overall, and higher in black men across all causes. The study authors call for public health policies to help prevent the underlying causes behind such deaths. 

Home emergency button, financial incentive app among addiction technology winners

This year’s Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge winners were announced yesterday. The competition, held since 2017, awards $1 million prizes for solutions to help prevent and treat opioid addiction. Four winners were named this year: 

  • Brave Technology Coop: for developing a button that people struggling with opioid use disorder can install in their homes and push when they need emergency assistance. 

  • DynamiCare Health: for developing an app that financially rewards people when they keep their medical appointments and meet other addiction recovery milestones. 

  • Prapela: The company is working on a vibrating mattress for newborns who are born dependent on opioids. The vibrations help address problems these infants have, including trouble breathing and an irregular heartbeat.  

  • University Hospitals: They developed an app to help people transition more smoothly from hospital-based care back to their communities. 

Inside STAT: FDA warns test companies not to tell patients about gene-drug links 

(Alex Hogan/STAT)

As tests to gauge how genetics affect the way people respond to medications go mainstream, the FDA is beginning to exercise more caution. It’s concerned that patients could start or stop taking medications based on insufficient evidence from such drug-gene links, known as pharmacogenetics. The agency has gone so far as to quietly tell several companies offering tests based on these links to stop reporting results about specific medications. Myriad Genetics, Color, and Genomind all offer physician-ordered pharmacogenetics tests, but confirmed that they recently made or proposed changes in response to pushback from the FDA. Even the major nationwide study “All of Us,” which champions sharing results back with patients, is weighing how best to share information about gene-drug interactions with study participants. STAT Plus subscribers can read more here from STAT’s Rebecca Robbins.

North Carolina suing eight e-cigarette makers

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said yesterday that he was filing lawsuits against eight e-cigarette companies for allegedly marketing to underage youth. The move is an expansion of a previous effort in May, when Stein announced he was suing the e-cig maker Juul Labs, the biggest company in the space. The latest announcement also comes amid increased scrutiny on both local and federal levels to curb the rise in teen vaping. San Francisco earlier this year banned the sale of e-cigs and other flavored tobacco products. And Juul was also called on to testify in front of members of Congress last month over its marketing tactics. The company’s co-founder defended Juul’s practices, saying it was never their intention to target underage users and people who wouldn't have otherwise smoked tobacco cigarettes. 

Amid low surveillance rates, WHO calls for more funding for clean drinking water and sanitation

Only 12% of the countries surveyed in a new WHO analysis reported having regular surveillance of the drinking water supply in cities, leading the agency to urge more funding and investment into clean drinking water and sanitation systems for people around the world. “We call on all countries that lack essential water and sanitation infrastructure to allocate funds and human resources to build and maintain it,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. Of the 115 countries surveyed in the report, more than two-thirds of the countries have plans to reach poorer populations, but only 40% of these countries actually have the funding to routinely act on those plans. Still, some 94% of the countries surveyed have policies in place for drinking water and sanitation, while close to 80% have policies in place for proper hygiene infrastructure. 

What to read around the web today

  • Sacklers would give up ownership of Purdue Pharma under settlement proposal. The New York Times
  • Jeffrey Epstein’s links to scientists are even more extensive than we thought. BuzzFeed News
  • Federal judge blocks parts of Missouri law that bans abortions after eight weeks. NPR
  • 2 largest settlements yet add $9M over deaths tied to doctor. The Associated Press
  • A new Japanese stem cell treatment raises hopes — and ethical questions. Undark

Here's a happy update for you: Last week I wrote about a small group of volunteers — called Maisie's Army — working to ensure kids with spinal muscular atrophy can access the new gene therapy Zolgensma. I just got word that Maddy Bruce, one of the kids featured in the story, has been approved to get the drug. I asked Maddy's mom, Angie, whether this was the doing of the army, and she said, "Totally Maisie's Army! Not possible without them!"

I'll be back with another newsletter tomorrow,


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Wednesday, August 28, 2019


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