Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking
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Good morning, and welcome to the Morning Rounds!

It's a big day for Editas and CRISPR

Editas Medicine, the startup that aims to use CRISPR-Cas9 to repair disease-causing genetic defects, goes public today with a much-anticipated IPO. The company priced its shares at $16 yesterday, raising $94.4 million even though Editas may not have an actual commercial product for some time, with money raised initially going to early-stage research. Editas’ decision last month to go public was surprisingly speedy for a public offering — and a sign of both how quickly gene-editing research has moved and how big the hype has become. The offering comes on the heels of a slow January; last month was the first since September 2011 without any initial public offerings to come out in the US. Chinese immunotherapy company BeiGene also priced an IPO last night in the US and came out with $158.4 million in shares sold. 

Big Pharma's been generous to Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton devotes a good chunk of her stump speech to bashing Big Pharma, but pharma execs don't seem to mind. Her campaign collected $332,016 from the pharmaceutical and health care industries last year, according to new data from the Center for Responsive Politics. That's more than double the amount received by any other candidate. (Jeb Bush was next in line, receiving more than $150,000, followed by Marco Rubio at $132,000.) Clinton's biggest pharma donor was Pfizer; its PAC and employees gave her $40,150 last year. Johnson & Johnson  gave $21,770. And if you're curious which members of Congress are accepting big bucks from Big Pharma, check out the top recipients here

High levels of mercury in fish not tied to dementia

Eating seafood now and then isn’t going to cause dementia  — a concern expressed over the years thanks to high levels of mercury in fish — according to new research published in JAMA. In fact, more seafood consumption is associated with fewer signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain. The study examined the donated brains of 286 deceased individuals who had reported their dietary habits in the years before their deaths.  

“This allays some concerns people have that by eating seafood every week, they’re doing damage to the brain,” lead researcher Martha Clare Morris of Rush University told me. The study found more mercury in the brains of people who ate more seafood, but that wasn’t associated with any additional brain damage. One caveat: The study relied on peoples' reports of how much seafood they ate, which limits the accuracy.

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New medicines in development for cardiovascular disease offer hope to patients, families

Every 40 seconds, an adult dies from a heart attack, stroke or related vascular disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, but thanks in part to innovative medicines developed by biopharmaceutical companies, the death rate has declined 46 percent since 1991. Today, there are 190 medicines to treat cardiovascular diseases in the biopharmaceutical pipeline, giving patients and families more hope than ever before. Learn more here about how biopharmaceutical companies are fighting disease and promoting heart health.

Inside STAT: Blood banks turn away donors over concerns about Zika

Blood banks in the US and Canada are expressing concern over potential donations that might be contaminated with Zika virus. Some have begun turning away prospective donors who have visited Latin America in the past month. The FDA says it's working on plans to make sure that the virus doesn't contaminate the supply of donated blood. More from D.C. reporter Sheila Kaplan here. In other Zika news, a patient in Dallas has contracted the virus through sex, the first such case to be reported in the US. 

How chromosome architecture in eggs changes as women age

A projection of a meiosis I spindle in an oocyte from a young donor (24 years old) stained for microtubules (green), chromosomes (grey) and kinetochores (magenta).

Extra chromosomes in human eggs are responsible for many cases of pregnancy loss and Down syndrome. It's a more frequent problem for older women, but it’s not been clear why. Now, scientists have visualized how the architecture of chromosomes changes with age,  potentially influencing whether extra chromosomes develop. Read the research in the journal eLife.

Are you a morning person? Thank your genes

Great news for early-bird Morning Rounds readers (and this writer): Whether or not you're a morning person is part of your DNA, according to new research published in Nature Communications. Or rather, it's defined by certain genetic variations located near the genes known to regulate circadian rhythm. Those circadian rhythms — the mental and physical changes that respond to light and darkness — follow a 24-hour cycle and affect whether you’d rather be up in the morning or at night. In the study of nearly 90,000 people, run by genetics testing company 23andMe, 56 percent of people identified as night owls. Women were the most likely to identify as morning people. Read the study here.

Health care with a side of waffle fries? 

There are 20 — I repeat, 20 — hospitals in the US that have Chick-Fil-A restaurants in their cafeterias, including one in Mississippi that has a contract saying the hospital has to try and boost the fast food restaurants' sales, according to a new report. Think they have a drive-through for patients rolling the halls on gurneys? 

What to read around the web today

  • Shkreli was right; everyone's hiking drug prices. Bloomberg
  • How the contents of your stomach settle in space. Discover
  • Can surgical residents safely work longer shifts? NPR

More reads from STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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