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Alzheimer´s Funding; $ 100 millions for start-ups; Eat fiber or be eaten; Open access policy

What has caught my attention in Pharma, Biotech, Biomedicine and Science in the last two weeks? Here is a selection of the news, articles, papers, findings, risings, falls as I have read, heard, discussed, been involved in. Very subjective, not pretending to be comprehensive or representative. Just my selection.

My MedScan in cw 1/2
Freezing weather, a lot of snow, simply winter like I remember from my childhood, such have been recent weeks in my home.

Surprising or not, a sale ban on the novel PCSK9-targeted hypercholesterolemia drug Praluent (Sanofi, Regeneron) was released by the U.S federal judge in USA with a 30-day appeal period.

And, the most “Blue Monday” is already behind us, so it will be only better:-)

Here we go:

Alzheimer´s Funding Analyzer
A little bit older information, but still worthy to have a look. The Alzheimer´s Funding Analyzer (AFA), which is the service launched by the Journal of Alzheimer´s disease (JAD) now includes also grants from the Alzheimer´s Association. ”The AFA allows the end-user to conduct line-of-investigation queries (e.g., tau, ApoE4, vaccine) to look for funding trends and to see which investigators in which countries have been the most successful in obtaining funding for a given area of AD research.” Helpful, for free, and easy to use, however requiring registration and the JAD approval.

$ 100 millions is waiting for seed- and early-stage companies at intersection of math, physics, computing and biology
Digitalis, a venture fund from California, USA, announced launching of a new fund which will finance projects of seed- and early-stage companies at intersection of life sciences and computing. There is a clear gap for funding such projects. “The firm is also actively looking to co-found new companies that demonstrate promise in solving major health challenges”, with 3 investments already happened, as for example the Second genome leveraging a computational microbiome platform.

Your microbiota can eat you unless you do not eat enough fiber
Microbiome-related research and development activities are on rise in recent years. More than 7 000 scientific entries in PubMed in 2016 is more than 7-fold increase in comparison to 2010 on search terms like microbiota or microbiome. We are getting more information on how our microbiome contributes to our health and diseases. But still, we are at the beginning of this way. One cannot imagine that billions of foreign cells with all their genetic information, proteins and metabolites will be inert in our body. And they are not.

According to the paper published in the Cell by Luxembourg researchers, “fiber-deprived gut microbiota promotes aggressive colitis by enteric pathogen” and “low-fiber diet promotes expansion of colonic mucus-degrading bacteria”. Simply said, if we do not feed our microbiota by high-fiber foods, then they will look for nutrients in our mucus and damage our colonic mucus barrier. Interestingly, highly purified fibers like inulin which are often taken as prebiotic supplements, do not alleviate degradation of the mucus layer.

Immatics´ cancer deal with Amgen could be worth more than $ 1 Billion
Another small German biotech signed a deal with a big biotech company. After successful sale of the Ganymed Pharmaceuticals for EUR 422 millions with a possibility on future EUR 866 millions in contingent payments and the BioNTech entering a $ 310 millions plus milestones collaboration with Genentech last year, Immatics is another German biotech company succeeding in signing an agreement worthy possibly millions.

Immatics got thirty millions dollars as an upfront payment with possibilities to get more than $ 500 millions in milestones and further money in two-digit royalties from Amgen on developing next-generation T-cell engaging bispecific immunotherapies for multiple cancers. Both companies bring to this collaboration their unique technologies, Immatics their XPRESIDENT target discovery and T-cell receptor (TCR) platform and Amgen their Bispecific T-cell Engager (BiTE) technology.

Gates Foundation´s ban on publishing results in leading journals
Only a big player could push other big ones to change their rules. One of the most influential health charity does not allow to publish results of work funded by its money in journals which do not have an open-access policy like Nature, Science, New England Journal of Medicine and PNAS.

Gates Foundation argues that results of work funded by the organization should be available to all. Similar requests were in the past asked e.g by NIH and also by The Welcome Trust (allowing certain time embargo).

At the end, any funding body either private or public could ask for something similar which basically means that all papers should be freely accessible. When you think about it, it seems logical. Truth is, however, that open access in most cases does not come for free for authors. Journals could ask thousands of dollars in exchange to publish an article which is open for free for readers. Let´s see how all the activities and issues in many fields of scientific publishing industry end up.