Syndicate content

Archive - Mar 28, 2017

Genentech Announces FDA Approval of OCREVUS, the First and Only Medicine for Both Relapsing and Primary Progressive Forms of Multiple Sclerosis

Genentech, a member of the Roche Group (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY), announced today (March 28, 2017) that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved OCREVUS™ (ocrelizumab) as the first and only medicine for both relapsing and primary progressive forms of multiple sclerosis. The majority of people with MS have a relapsing form or primary progressive MS at diagnosis. “The FDA’s approval of OCREVUS is the beginning of a new era for the MS community and represents a significant scientific advance with this first-in-class B-cell-targeted therapy,” said Sandra Horning, M.D., Chief Medical Officer and Head of Global Product Development at Genentech. “Until now, no FDA-approved treatment has been available to the primary progressive MS (PPMS) community, and some people with relapsing forms of MS continue to experience disease activity and disability progression despite available therapies. We believe OCREVUS, given every six months, has the potential to change the disease course for people with MS, and we are committed to helping those who can benefit gain access to our medicine.” In two identical relapsing multiple sclerosis (RMS) Phase III studies (OPERA I and OPERA II), OCREVUS demonstrated superior efficacy on the three major markers of disease activity by reducing relapses per year by nearly half, slowing the worsening of disability, and significantly reducing MRI lesions compared with Rebif® (high-dose interferon beta-1a) over the two-year controlled-treatment period. A similar proportion of people in the OCREVUS group experienced a low rate of serious adverse events and serious infections compared with people in the high-dose interferon beta-1a group in the RMS studies.

Nanopore Translocation of Knotted DNA Rings Examined in New Study

Anyone who has been on a sailing boat knows that tying a knot is the best way to secure a rope to a hook and prevent its slippage. The same applies to sewing threads where knots are introduced to prevent them slipping through two pieces of fabric. How, then, can long DNA filaments, which have convoluted and highly knotted structure, manage to pass through the tiny pores of various biological systems? This is the fascinating question addressed by Dr. Antonio Suma and Dr. Cristian Micheletti, researchers at the International School for Advanced Studies (Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati or SISSA) in Trieste, Italy, who used computer simulations to investigate the options available to the genetic material in such situations. The study was published online on March 28, 2017 in PNAS. The article is titled “Pore Translocation of Knotted DNA Rings.” "Our computational study sheds light on the latest experimental breakthroughs on knotted DNA manipulation and adds interesting and unexpected elements," explains Dr. Micheletti. "We first observed how knotted DNA filaments pass through minuscule pores with diameter of about 10 nanometers (10 billionths of a meter). The behavior observed in our simulations was in good agreement with the experimental measurements obtained by an international research team led by Dr. Cees Dekker, which were published only a few months ago in Nature Biotechnology. These advanced and sophisticated experiments marked a turning point for understanding DNA knotting. However, current experiments cannot ‘see’ how DNA knots actually pass through the narrow pore. In fact, the phenomenon occurs over a tiny spatial scale, and is therefore inaccessible to microscopes.

Antagonistic Co-Evolution Between Bacteria and Phages Is a Key Driver of Microbial Diversity in Human Gut, Scientist Suggests in Opinion Piece

What drives bacterial strain diversity in the gut? Although there are a number of possible explanations, an opinion piece published on March 22, 2017 in Trends in Microbiology by Dr. Pauline Scanlan, a Royal Society – Science Foundation Ireland Research Fellow at the APC Microbiome Institute, University College Cork, Ireland, addresses one potentially important and overlooked aspect of this unresolved question. Dr. Scanlan’s article is titled “Bacteria–Bacteriophage Coevolution in the Human Gut: Implications for Microbial Diversity and Functionality.” The human gut is host to an incredible diversity of microbes collectively known as the gut microbiome. Our gut microbiomes interact with us, their human hosts, to perform a myriad of crucial functions ranging from digestion of food to protection against pathogens. While superficially it may seem that the microbes inhabiting the human gut are stable and broadly similar between individuals, recent advances in sequencing technology that allow for high-level resolution investigations have shown that our gut microbiomes are dynamic, capable of rapid evolution, and unique to each individual in terms of bacterial species and strain diversity. This unique inter-individual variation is of crucial importance as we know that differences in bacterial strain diversity within species can have a range of positive or negative consequences for the human host – for example, some strains of a given bacteria are harmless while another strain of the same bacterial species could kill you. A classic example of this is different strains of the gut bacterium Escherichia coli - E. coli Nissle 1917 is used as a probiotic and E. coli O157:H7 has been responsible for a number of deadly food-borne pathogen outbreaks.

Chisholm-Led MIT Study of Tiny Ocean Bacterium May Offer Clues to Evolution of Entire Biosphere; Analysis of “Metabolic Networks” in Marine Ecosystems Provides Evidence for Directional Evolution Toward Increased Resources for Total System

For scientists at MIT the smallest of all photosynthetic bacteria holds clues to the evolution of entire ecosystems, and perhaps even the whole biosphere. The key is a tiny bacterium called Prochlorococcus, which is the most abundant photosynthetic life form in the oceans. New research shows that this diminutive creature’s metabolism has evolved in a way that may have helped trigger the rise of other organisms, to form a more complex marine ecosystem. Its evolution may even have helped to drive global changes that made possible the development of Earth’s more complex organisms. The research also suggests that the co-evolution of Prochlorococcus and its interdependent co-organisms can be seen as a microcosm of the metabolic processes that take place inside the cells of much more complex organisms. The new analysis was published on March 27, 2017 in PNAS in a paper by MIT’s postdoc Rogier Braakman, Ph.D., Professor Michael Follows, and Institute Professor Sallie (Penny) Chisholm (photo), who was part of the team that discovered this tiny organism and its outsized influence. The PNAS article is titled “Metabolic Evolution and the Self-Organization of Ecosystems.” “We have all these different strains that have been isolated from all over the world’s oceans, that have different genomes and different genetic capacity, but they’re all one species by traditional measures,” Dr. Chisholm explains. “So there’s this extraordinary genetic diversity within this single species that allows it to dominate such vast swaths of the Earth’s oceans.” Because Prochlorococcus is both so abundant and so well-studied, Dr. Braakman says it was an ideal subject for trying to figure out “within all this diversity, how do the metabolic networks change?