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Glenn Nichols, surrounded by his hospice team. The author is in yellow.

Genetic Linkage

The “Valley of Death” Looms for 8 Kids With a Rare Disease

May 24, 2012

Tags: gene therapy, Hannah's Hope Fund, Valley of Death, Francis Collins, Johnny Depp, Kim Karsdashian, Steve Gray, Brad and Angelina, Bill Clinton, Romney, Obama, FDA, Julie Roberts, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Reeve, giant axonal neuropathy, GAN

Hannah Sames, here with her dog Ginger, awaits gene therapy. (photo: Dr. Wendy Josephs)
The pharmaceutical industry rightly calls the stage in drug development between basic research and clinical trials the “Valley of Death.” This is when a potential treatment that’s worked in mice, monkeys, and the like catapults to a phase 1 clinical trial to assess safety. It’s rare.

Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of the National Institutes of Health, calls this period “where projects go to die.” The reason: $.

Matthew Herper writes in Forbes that the cost of developing a new drug is $4-11 billion, not the $1 billion that Pharma often claims. Yet even that $1 billion is unimaginable, especially when you put a face on a rare disease and witness what the family goes through to leap to phase 1.

For me, that face belongs to 8-year-old Hannah Sames, of Rexford, New York. (more…)

Gene therapy on fetuses?

November 4, 2011

Tags: gene therapy, fetal medicine, fetal surgery, Leber congenital amaurosis, bioethics, The Forever Fix: Gene Therapy and the Boy Who Saved It, Carson Strong, Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park, FDA, phase 1 clinical trial, Ricki Lewis, therapeutic misconception, Lorenzo's Oil, Stop ALD, adrenoleukodystrophy

Gene therapy is experiencing a renaissance, with many of the recent successes in children. For some conditions, the younger the child, the better the genetic correction, because affected tissues degenerate with time. This is the case for adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), the “Lorenzo’s Oil” disease that strips the insulation from brain neurons. One goal of (more…)

Make-up: What's DNA Got To Do With It?

August 21, 2011

Tags: DNA, sunscreen, antioxidant, FDA, DNA Advantage, anti-aging, cosmetics

I couldn’t help but stare at the ad: the sleek double helix winding behind the coiled container of makeup looked eerily like the covers of my human genetics textbook and upcoming book about gene therapy, both of which have DNA as a backdrop to faces. The standard beige goo that is Revlon’s Age Defying with DNA Advantage™ cream makeup swirls symmetrically upward, resembling more a soft-serve ice cream cone before the indentations are licked away than it does the molecule of life. I decided to investigate. (more…)

instruction
Project to engage students in helping families with rare genetic diseases
Book Club Reader's Guide
Many challenging questions to stimulate thought and discussion.
Instructor's Guide
38 discussion questions to get students thinking and talking about gene therapy, including the science, ethical issues, and the drug approval process.
Narrative science
The Forever Fix is the uplifting true story of 8-year-old Corey Haas, who was cured of hereditary blindness just 4 days after gene therapy.
College Textbooks
A spectacularly-illustrated, clearly written human anatomy and physiology textbook, used in pre-health profession programs throughout the U.S.
A highly engaging, clearly written, beautifully illustrated introduction to the science of human genetics for the non-scientist. Now in its 11th edition, 12th to be published in September 2018.
Nonfiction
An ideal starting point for anyone who wants to know more about genes, DNA, genomes, and the genetic ties that bind us all.

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