Sunday, August 28, 2016

Off Topic: Now Only About One Month Until "Hamilton" Makes It To The City Of Big Shoulders...


I just narrowly-missed seeing Lin-Manuel Miranda (imaged at right) -- by five days -- at the Rodgers Theater in Hell's Kitchen, a month or so ago. Damnation.

But I positively will not miss it, here -- where the sublime show will first stop, as it tours the nation.

For a bit of excellent Sunday fare, watch the below 13 minute YouTube.



Simply jaw-slacking -- do go out and enjoy all the Universe offers, people -- go out and explore: your cities, your national and municipal parks, your bayous, your wilderness areas -- and yes, explore our shared history. The improbable story that is. . . America. We are all immigrants here.

And in on a decidely more somber note -- keep the sacrifice made by 14 year old Emmit Till, 61 years ago this night, in your meditations and prayers. His murder help spark the civil rights movement.

नमस्ते

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Juno Signal Acquisition -- Jupiter Imagery Data Downlink Underway, Tonight: Success!


I am immensely pleased to report that all has gone just as planned as Juno skimmed the tops of the polar vortex at Jupiter earlier today, cruising in -- at about 130,000 miles per hour -- as a speed measure, relative to the gigantic Jovian globe. Data -- terabytes of it, actually -- is flowing back to NASA, and to JPL, as I type this in. Very exciting.

We now await some high-res images, hopefully later next week, or after Labor Day weekend. I am grinning ear to ear, at the wonder of the spacecraft science on display here. From NASA's JPL team and the presser, tonight:

. . . ."Early post-flyby telemetry indicates that everything worked as planned and Juno is firing on all cylinders," said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"We are getting some intriguing early data returns as we speak," said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "It will take days for all the science data collected during the flyby to be downlinked and even more to begin to comprehend what Juno and Jupiter are trying to tell us."

While results from the spacecraft's suite of instruments will be released down the road, a handful of images from Juno's visible light imager -- JunoCam -- are expected to be released the next couple of weeks. Those images will include the highest-resolution views of the Jovian atmosphere and the first glimpse of Jupiter's north and south poles.

"We are in an orbit nobody has ever been in before, and these images give us a whole new perspective on this gas-giant world," said Bolton.


So it is, that what was drawn up on a series of design tables and screens with CAD programs loaded has now physically spanned deep space, to bring us startling views of the bellicose, highly gaseous giant -- incessantly spewing various forms of energy and matter toxic to human life, here in our own system (and for once I am not referring to Mr. Trump). Separately, but perhaps celestially related -- I am awash in the gentle tug of a particular shepherd moon, this fine Saturday evening -- just beaming. . . sleep well, one and all.

नमस्ते

Saturday Morning Back-Page Mysteries: European Animal Health Markets Edition


While we wait for signal acquisition, at JPL/NASA, confirming that lil' Juno has survived its 130,000 mph dip, precariously near the polar vortex cloud-tops of Jupiter, I'll post on one "curiosity."

Back in 2010, and earlier, I posted these sorts of items more regularly, when the newly-combined Merck was in full-on trans-national transactional mode. Now that Kenilworth has settled largely into a "steady state" stable of businesses, I look at my automated page analytics/stats from StatCounter (in Europe, at least!) less frequently.

But this one jumped out at me this morning. A series of viewers -- on the Pest side of the river, in what is now called Budapest, Hungary -- have been busily translating my Intervet/Merial posts, images and pages from August of 2009, into Magyar -- the entire month's worth of my analyses of market share in those businesses -- and my advice about, and instructions regarding contacting the EU Competition Commission about them. Fascinating [in part, because the chemists/scientists from way back in my mother's family of origin hail from the Pest side of the river, as well].

It may well just turn out to be academics, doing research on market competition trends in the EU, in veterinary medicine -- for some forthcoming paper. But it may also be someone looking at the animal health markets, with a transaction, or series of transactions, in mind -- given the specific IP addresses involved. And the amount of market share data translated.

As I say -- it is fascinating -- in part because, despite my now distant biological roots, I cannot read Magyar. Smile.

So -- just for grins, I'll re-run the one that's been most heavily and repeatedly translated of late -- in English, right here (in the comments to the original post are the real clues, though -- so do go read them in full, if you are thinking about sleuthing a transaction on this one):

DATELINE August 2009 -- As a public service, I offer the following -- if you need something to write the ECC and ask about, per my post of earlier this morning. . . .

This data is from the European Competition Commission filings made (large 208-page PDF file) when Schering-Plough acquired Organon, and its Intervet Animal Health lines of business (at Pages 88-93), in November of 2007:
. . . .Schering-Plough sells ectoparasiticides for farm animals under the brands Coopers Spot-On, Sputop, Versatrine, Ectoforce, Coopertix, Fly, Zoogama-D and Intervet under the main brand Butox and as well as under the brands Taktic and Topline Suspension. . . .

Based on data provided by the parties, the transaction gives rise to the following affected markets where Schering-Plough and Intervet would have a combined market share of at least 25% in the EEA at the national level (2006 data):


CompetitorsDenmarkGreeceNorwaySweden
Schering-Plough[5-10]%[10-20]%[40-50]%[60-70]%
Intervet[20-30]%[10-20]%[20-30]%[20-30]%
Combined[20-30]%[20-30]%[60-70]%[90-100]%

The merger would therefore lead to very high market shares of the new entity in Sweden ([90-100] %) and Norway ([60-70] %). In Sweden, the parties would face only one competitor -- Bayer with marginal market share ([0-5] %) and in Norway only two competitors Janssen ([5-10] %) and Pfizer ([20-30] %). Given the barriers to entry, the parties will not face strong competitive constraints in these countries postmerger. . . .

With the objective of resolving the serious doubts identified by the Commission in the market for orally administered ectoparasiticides for farm animals in France and in Belgium/Luxembourg and in the market for endoparasiticides/endectocides for farm animals in Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom, Schering-Plough committed to the EEA-wide divesture to a suitable purchaser of endoparasiticides currently marketed under the brand Systamex and the ectoparasiticides for farm animals currently marketed under the brands Coopers Spot On, Versatrine, Sputop and Coopertix. . . .

[Editor's Note: Does anyone know who bought these lines? Were any of them sold to Merial? That would be a very important development -- given that "New Merck" proposes to transfer all of Intervet to the Merial/Sanofi entity, and still own half of it -- if and when Sanofi-Aventis exercises its call option, should all of these transactions close.]

. . . .Following the market test, Schering-Plough added to the products to be transferred EEA-wide the Autoworm, which is the brand under which Organon BS product is registered and marketed in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Schering-Plough also committed to fully transfer to the purchaser the brand Coopertix. The remedy also includes the grant of a licence for the use of the Coopers trademark for the sale of Coopers Spot On in the EEA by way of a royalty-free exclusive and irrevocable licence. . . .

I'll be back soon, with more examples. [END, ORIGINAL 2009 MATERIAL.]

UPDATED: Signal acquired. Smile. Now you know -- rainy but sweetly warm here -- still awaiting signal acquisition from Jupiter, and that lil' "shepherd moon-let" I've grown so fond of. Smile.


नमस्ते

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Rather Promising Ebola Fight Update: Basic U Penn Research May Now Lead To Small Molecules -- For Acute Treatment


Regular readers will recall that back in February, Gilead's experimental biologic GS-5734 showed excellent effectiveness when deployed on an emergency basis -- to likely save Scottish Nurse Pauline Cafferkey's life. Even so, we plainly need to know whether that (or any other) approach will turn out to be safe enough, for general deployment -- in a much broader human population. In the mean time, work continues on so-called small molecule approaches.

That is, traditional pharmaceutical approaches. This evening, we highlight one of the most promising: a compound that seems to pretty effectively prevent the virus's "jail-break", from a given infected cell. Ebola uses our own cells as its factory, to make copies of itself. The new small molecule approach apparently works by imposing a chemical "lock-down" right at the cellular wall. Clever. Very clever. These are "early days" in basic research, to be sure -- but a nicely encouraging development (and one that might ultimately be shown to well-apply to other viral attackers -- including Zika).

Here is the write up on the research in a pharma processing trade journal -- and, if you are keenly interested, I've also linked the original research paper, in the article snippet, below:

. . . .Scientists may have found Ebola's Achilles' heel: a new kind of chemical compound can block the protein Ebola uses to break out of cells and infect new cells. The compounds, revealed in a new paper in Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters, could potentially be used to treat the disease after infection. . . .

Viruses replicate by hijacking the machinery in the cells of their host -- in the case of Ebola, human cells -- and co-opting the cells to help produce more viruses. Once production is complete, particular virus proteins promote release of viruses from the cell surface, which can go on to infect more cells.

The new compounds target an interaction between the virus and the host cell, inhibiting new Ebola viruses from escaping cells once they have been assembled. The team's results show that the compounds block this interaction without being toxic to the [mammalian line] cells. . . .


Now that is promising news. Of course, showing it works in mammalian line cells is not the same as showing it works safely inside a living breathing human being. So we may be several years from an actual treatment for acute Ebola. This is of course -- as ever -- how pharmaceutical science progresses: in incremental steps. Like relationships; like life itself. Smile. Now you know -- with tunes for the train home.


नमस्ते

Thursday, August 25, 2016

O/T Space Science: NASA's Juno To Dive Just Above Jovian Polar Cloudtops Saturday Morning...


This too (just like the July 4 orbital insertion) may be a white-knuckle ride -- as this first closest range dip will splatter the Juno craft with radioactive particles moving at near light speed -- and likely at least a few microscopic sized "mini-projectiles", traveling at perhaps a tenth of light speed. At those speeds, and at the right angle of attack, a particle could penetrate the titanium strong box and wreak havoc with the electronics. Not likely, but possible.

So, we will hold a good thought, along with the hot coffee in our coffee mugs, bright and early Saturday. Grin. About this time next week we will see our first high res images of the raging storms at the polar vortex of Jupiter. Whoosh. Here is the NASA mission page update:

. . . .This Saturday at 5:51 a.m. PDT, (8:51 a.m. EDT, 12:51 UTC) NASA's Juno spacecraft will get closer to the cloud tops of Jupiter than at any other time during its prime mission. At the moment of closest approach, Juno will be about 2,500 miles (4,200 kilometers) above Jupiter's swirling clouds and traveling at 130,000 mph (208,000 kilometers per hour) with respect to the planet. There are 35 more close flybys of Jupiter scheduled during its prime mission (scheduled to end in February of 2018). The Aug. 27 flyby will be the first time Juno will have its entire suite of science instruments activated and looking at the giant planet as the spacecraft zooms past.

"This is the first time we will be close to Jupiter since we entered orbit on July 4," said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "Back then we turned all our instruments off to focus on the rocket burn to get Juno into orbit around Jupiter. Since then, we have checked Juno from stem to stern and back again. We still have more testing to do, but we are confident that everything is working great, so for this upcoming flyby Juno's eyes and ears, our science instruments, will all be open. . . ."




Onward then -- listening to Live -- "Dolphin's Cry" -- on a walk home; then get a couple of good nights' sleep, and rise early Saturday -- for some biking, before fly-bys. Smile. Be excellent to one another.

नमस्ते

A Slow News Week At Merck -- Smallish Collaboration With BioThera Announced...


So the dog days of summer are upon us (as all my recent off-topic postings might suggest) -- and it is a slow news week nearly everywhere in the land of bioscience. I too am easy, breezy and in need of nothing new, truth be told. [Nope, I cannot stomach the notion of posting about Martin Shkreli appearing on cable news TV, to defend Epi-Pen price gouging. No feeding the trolls!]

But in keeping with our past practice, here is one smallish Phase II (hoping to make it to Phase III) clinical trial agreement. Do go read it all, as it does involve Merck's single best flagship product:

. . . .Under this new collaboration, a Phase 2 clinical trial is anticipated to enroll up to 95 patients who have either advanced melanoma no longer responding to initial treatment with a checkpoint inhibitor therapy or TNBC whose disease has progressed following treatment with one or more lines of therapy for metastatic disease. Biothera will be the sponsor of the study, which is planned to begin in the fourth quarter of 2016. Merck will provide clinical supplies of Keytruda for the planned studies. Other terms of the collaboration were not disclosed. . . .


Yes -- a slow news week, indeed. But as you might glean, I do spend these slower moments reading science, and connecting it to the sorts of poetry long-forgotten by most. And in mind of that, just three years ago this week, Seamus Haney (that Nobel winner, and grand black Irishman!) left our company. I'll close here -- with a short bit one of my favorites of his, then:

...And after the commanded journey, what?

Nothing magnificent, nothing unknown.

A gazing out from far away, alone.

And it is not particular at all,

Just old truth dawning: there is no next-time-round....


Travel well; and do travel light, my friends.

नमस्ते

Yet Another "Shepherded" Exo-Planet? We Find Proxima b Far More Alluring Than Our Blue Dot...


Ah -- "To burn at a distance, or to freeze nearby. . ." the old poem recites, but in fact, in the hunt for more worlds like ours, the opposite is true.

We are looking for ones that are neither -- neither burning, nor freezing. No, just right. The news of Proxima b is well covered in the video at bottom (and sketched in, to the left of what we Americans call the Southern Cross, in the night sky -- inside the tiny box). Do go watch the video for more. And now permit me a late night tangent:

For my part, this late evening (and countless ones before it) -- I find I prefer the unwasted grace of. . . mystery. Mystery of irises flashing golden flecks at the edges, and dark sienna in the middle -- to the science of blue-eyed Earth-certainty. We are finding that these blue worlds are as common as common might be.

And so in contrast, I will stand with Sweet Will [modified ever so slightly below], and declare that the rarer and darker one -- is most oft' the finer one, thus:

Shakespeare | Sonnet CXXX

My lady's eyes are nothing like the sun

Coral is no more pink than her lips' pink

If snow be white, then her skin cinnamon

If hairs be fine wires, resplendent filamented dark wires grow upon her head

And in no perfume is there more delight

Than in the far-away sighs that from my lady seep

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That no music hath a more pleasing sound

I grant I never saw a goddess go, yet

My lady, when she walks, scarcely treads on ground

So, by heaven, I think my love as rare

As any she belied with false compare. . . .


So it is, all in the eye of the beholder, to the edited Sweet Will. . . and to me, as well.



And the science of Proxima b? Right here (as advertised):




नमस्ते

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

O/T -- A Wide Smile: 25 Years Ago This Morning, A Preposterously Generous Open Invitation Was Offered...


On this day in 1991, Internaut Day No. 1: August 23, 1991 -- Tim Berners-Lee, later Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee -- first opened what he came to call the world wide web. . . to, well. . . the world. For free.

What an audacious gift of benevolence that was.

He opened it to new users -- all of us, that is. All that appears here, for good or ill, is a result of his original largesse.

So, Happy 25th Anniversary, to you -- oh venerable "www"! It is now hard to imagine (for most of us), how we ever got along without you. Here's to hoping we will never have to.

And as peculiar as it may sound, many -- if not most -- of the people I have come to love dearly, are and remain deeply connected to me through (and at least in part, because of) this astonishing innovation.

Yet it is by voice and by sight and by deed that those bonds remain strong. So, I say thank you, Sir Berners-Lee!

Onward. Ever. . . onward.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Explaining The Price Ian C. Read Just Paid For Medivation...


Eye-watering. That's how much cream -- or premium -- is in this price.

But as I said last night, Mr. Read simply had to play defense here. He could not let any of the other majors get these assets. Even if the Medivation pipeline doesn't pan out -- he had to keep the candidates out of the hands of the rivals Merck, BMS and Roche in particular. Why? On the chance that the Medivation pipeline does perform.

If these were to become next gen oncology blockbusters -- in the others' hands -- Pfizer would be relegated to the back of the bus, for yet another decade -- in oncology. So he is overpaying (in my opinion) -- to play lock-out defense. Here's Tracy Staton on it:

. . . .But at $14 billion, Pfizer is paying a huge premium. At $81.50 per share, the price beats analyst estimates of a "best-case" deal for Medivation. It's a 30% premium to Friday's closing price--and a stunning 180% more than Medivation's stock price when the deal talk first emerged, as Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson pointed out in a Monday investor note. "This is a hefty bid," Anderson said. . . .


The pharma world is a place where history doesn't exactly repeat, but it sure does. . . rhyme. And the rest of the world is a surreal, strange, new and wonderfully familiar place this cloudless morning. . . smile.

Local Planetary Science: Where You'll Want To Be -- Exactly One Year From Yesterday, Starting At 11:15 AM CDT...


For a planetary event that happens only every 250 years or so, it is probably worth taking the day off, and getting on a plane to go see it. At least I think so.

Not since almost a decade before our founders met in Philadelphia, and signed our Declaration, has there been a full solar eclipse centered over North America. It will occur on the morning of August 21, 2017. And the sweetest spot (where the locally-observed solar altitude, relative to the nominal horizon, the full penumbral flaring and high-likelihood of clear skies -- all converge) will be very near Nashville -- just a little north, and east of it, actually.

It is hard to overstate how powerful a sign this sort of a celestial event (last time around) might have been -- in the collective consciousness of the indigenous peoples of North America -- then living on these upper Midwest plains. [But in a bit of reverently-intended historical license, I have at right imaged Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotȟake, whom we refer to as Sitting Bull, the Lakota chief -- circa a century later.] So it is with some considered humility, and at least some reflective silence -- that we probably ought to observe this one, this time around.

[I've included the ghostly figure of Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotȟake to remind us that dozens of these events occurred -- on the same spot, over many millennia -- while we "Americans" were not yet present. And I also mark it to take USA Today to task (gently) -- for edit copy that appears blissfully unconscious of the history of our lands, prior to the arrival of. . . those white men.] In any event, we shall see -- if USA Today revises its copy, eventually:

. . . .The biggest and best solar eclipse in [my edit: Post-Colonial] American history arrives a year from today, and plans for celebrations, parties and festivities are already well underway.

Organizers of the Oregon SolarFest are calling it "a rare, mind-blowing cosmic experience," while Nashville promises visitors "a once-in-a-lifetime celestial event."

On Aug. 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will be visible from coast to coast, according to NASA. It will be the first total eclipse visible only in the USA since the country was founded in 1776. . . .


Check back here -- just under one year from now -- for more (that will be a Monday, as well). It ought to be well worth the trip. Ear to ear grins, as I walk in. . . .

Sunday, August 21, 2016

UPDATED: Pfizer Has Offered A Whopping $14 Billion -- For Medivation


In candor, I generally think Mr. Read tends to overpay for his assets. [Full rewrite and update here.]

And this rumored news has all the earmarks of being another one of those kinds of deals. Financial Times is reporting a rumor tonight -- that Pfizer may announce a $14 billion buyout of Medivation -- as early as tomorrow morning.

Last week, I had guessed it would go for between $12 billion and $13 billion, so this is premium pricing again, if the report is accurate.

I suppose one way to think about the high price here is to recognize that Mr. Read cannot afford to spend another decade bringing up the rear, in next gen oncology. That is, he cannot allow any of these other suitors to lock him out of Medivation's pipeline -- and put Pfizer in fourth place (or worse) in oncology for another decade. So, he has to bid over 15 times sales revenue for the asset. Yikes. Here's a bit, from FiercePharma, and the very capable Tracy Staton:

. . . .The Medivation hunt may be all but over. Pfizer is close to striking an agreement to buy the California-based biotech in a deal worth about $14 billion, the Financial Times reports.

If Pfizer and Medivation do finalize a deal, it would wrap up a months-long buyout race that pulled in much of Big Pharma and Big Biotech along the way. With its blockbuster oncology med Xtandi ready to add to a buyer’s sales, plus a much-anticipated late-stage cancer candidate and a pipeline of other prospects, Medivation has been a sought-after prize in an otherwise slow summer for biopharma M&A. . . .


This would mean that Merck has been outbid. And that may turn out to be the very good news. Time will tell. . . now sleep well, all you samba dancers, fondly leaving Rio behind. . . smile. Pssst! A fun one is due up early tomorrow!

O/T: This Is A Great American Story: Flint, Michigan’s Claressa Shields Achieves A Dream


I'll mostly just point you the Detroit Free Press article I've quoted, below. [This concludes our weekend of "girl power" stories.]

But before I so conclude, I will also link you to the excellent long form documentary (on PBS's "Independent Lens") that covers the tough time she's had -- leading up to, and after winning gold last time around -- in London, in 2012. Do watch it -- very well made. And for now, there is this very bright resolution -- to that earlier drama. Hopefully, this time 'round, the folks in Colorado Springs, at the USOC, will get her connected to marketing agents of note. That smile belongs on a Wheaties box.

. . . .Flint’s Claressa Shields made history this afternoon, becoming the first U.S. boxer to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals, defeating the Netherland’s Nouchka Fontijn in the women’s middleweight. . . .

This is gold medal story of survival, escaping from poverty and a difficult childhood, bouncing between 11 homes by the time she was 12, turning all of that pain into a champion boxer.

It is a story of growth and maturity.

After winning the gold at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Shields did not get the money or fame or endorsements that she expected. She was perceived to be strong, tough and fierce but didn’t have a marketing team behind her. After winning the gold medal, life didn’t get easier. When everybody thought Shields had become rich, there she was, going to a collection agency to pay her mother’s past-due water bill. . . .

With this win, Shields becomes the most successful U.S. Olympic boxer in history – the only one to win two gold medals. . . .


That is quite grin-worthy, indeed. Off now, to the train stations. . . keep it spinnin' in good karma, one and all.

Long-Lingering Effects -- On Young Pregnant Girls -- In Ebola Ravaged Areas


As a reminder of how wise our current First Lady is -- in choosing girls' education, globally, as one of her focused priorities -- and as part of the weekend's theme here, of looking to empower young women, in education -- we must report on some ongoing troubling news, out of Sierra Leone. [And this properly resides here, as Merck (among several others) makes and distributes an array of the contraceptives being only-sporadically deployed, in country, as well as the vaccine -- and we've been covering the race for a reliable acute treatment, as well.] Right to it, then:

The effects of the Ebola crisis there will be felt for decades. Even as the education ministers get back to normal enrollment levels (which sadly are around 50 per cent of all school age eligible children), policies on pregnancies are likely to prevent a whole class of ebola survivors -- young girls -- from using formal education as a means to lift themselves out of poverty, and danger.

Here is the story of the continuing shunning of pregnant ebola girls -- in Sierra Leone. Please do read it all.

Only recently has President Koroma relented -- and started to re-admit pregnant teens from ebola ravaged areas back into school. But perhaps nearly half of them are still not being admitted, for the astonishing reason that they were the victims of sexual violence (and thought to be a bad influence in the classroom). It is not clear how many girls were (and are) affected by that portion of the ban. Official figures suggest at least five thousand, but experts mapping the situation indicate that the true figure may be far higher. Here's a bit, from a slightly dated Amnesty International (PDF here) study, on the topic:

. . . .Visibly pregnant girls in Sierra Leone are banned from attending mainstream school and taking exams. This prohibition was declared as official government policy by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in April 2015, just before schools re-opened following the Ebola crisis. The exclusion of pregnant girls from mainstream education and from sitting exams pre-dates the outbreak of Ebola; however, the official declaration of the ban when schools re-opened has sparked renewed debate and concern about this issue in Sierra Leone.

The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone described the ban as discriminatory, stigmatizing and likely to worsen the marginalization of pregnant girls and women. . . .


While it seems some 3,000 of those remaining 5,000 have now been re-admitted to schools, an additional approximately 2,000 girls (largely victims of sexual attacks) are still being shunted out of mainstream schooling in Sierra Leone.

From a mid August 2016 report, on this unfolding tragedy, and ongoing crisis:
. . .Teenage pregnancy has long been a problem, but the recent Ebola outbreak saw focus groups comprising of 1,193 children in total report a 47 percent jump in teen pregnancies, according to Save The Children, which trains nurses like Fullah to properly administer contraception and provide vital maternal healthcare services.

The actual reason for the increase in teen pregnancy is a source of contention among the government, NGOs, community leaders, and the girls themselves. But everyone agrees it is a bad thing indeed.

In Freetown, Save the Children health program officer Marget Tucker told Broadly, "During Ebola, schools were closed down, and this put girls at greater risk of teenage pregnancy." Though reliable data in Sierra Leone is difficult to obtain, Tucker estimates that around 20,000 teenage girls became mothers during the Ebola crisis, with poorer girls and those with lower levels of education being more vulnerable to becoming pregnant. . . .

[As many of the girls' mothers and fathers died of ebola, they were left without normal networks of protectors, and stable sources of food and clothing.] "Some of them had to etch out some means of survival and the only means of survival that they resorted to—most of them—was to have sex. Transactional sex, to be specific. . . ."


While there are micro-level financial issues at play here as well (raising the funds to pay school-books fees, etc.), we as members of the UNESCO, and as a nation able to influence WHO policy -- ought to use the power of international aid policies (the purse strings), to more strongly encourage President Koroma to admit all school age pregnant girls to mainstream schooling. Goodnight then, to all here who might "burn at a distance, rather than freeze nearby. . . ." we will smile broadly, just the same -- as it will all be well, in time.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Science Saturdays Post: Girls'-Power -- In STEM "Chicago Icebox Derby" Challenge 2016 -- Powered By ComEd


As I occasionally do on weekends, this morning I'll highlight an important local science initiative, sponsored by the CEO of a utility here.

But it's not just any CEO, and not just any science competition.

As the collage of images at right makes plain (from 2014 to 2016), this is about finding the science talents in all of us. But especially in those (even today), who are not as regularly encouraged to "play" -- in the field of science and tech. This is a wonderful local STEM for girls event -- and since founding in 2014 -- has been largely under-appreciated by the science scene, nationally. So here's my little boost.

In general, I am rarely a fan of the electrical utilities' overall corporate governance structures -- but in this particular case ComEd is getting it exactly right. So, Kudos to the kids, and to ComEd, and its CEO, as well. From the WSJ reporting overnight, then:

. . . .ComEd’s first female chief executive, Anne R. Pramaggiore, introduced the IceBox Derby in 2014 as a way to get more young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields.

“It’s one thing to sit in a classroom to decide if you like math or not,” Ms. Pramaggiore said. “But we see them not only learn about the technical aspects of building a car, they learn about leadership.”

Career aspirations for this year’s racers range from Therese Jaeger, 17, who wants to be an aerospace engineer, to Morgan Jones, 13, who dreams of being a YouTube personality. . . .

Throwing a helmet on over her orange bandana, Taylor Clark sprinted to her race car, slammed down the accelerator and took off—at 15 miles an hour.

That is top speed at the third annual IceBox Derby, which featured battery-powered cars built by teenage girls using recycled fridges and go-kart parts.

“These refrigerator cars are on the move!” an emcee’s voice rang out, as parents and children cheered in the bleachers.

Earlier this month, 30 girls split on six teams vied for prizes including MacBook Airs and $3,000 college scholarships—seed money provided by race sponsor Commonwealth Edison Co., the local utility, meant to steer them toward studies in math and science. . . .


Many of these bright capable kids (Therese included) will almost certainly one day be sitting on the science panels, at NASA -- offering explanations of the science behind their missions to Mars, and Jupiter, and Pluto, and beyond:

. . .a broad and ample road, whose dust is gold, and pavement stars, as stars to thee appear seen in the Galaxy, that Milky Way. . . .

-- Milton

Onward now, with hot coffee at the ready, fresh icy OJ, a banana and cherry yogurt. Even on a gray morning -- these simple pleasures blast sunshine into my attitude (as do the pings, from old friends, near and far). . . smile.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Follow Up Friday: Ebola Edition -- Where Are British Public Health Authorities, On The Delayed £4,000 Bonus For Pauline Cafferkey?


Yet another month has rolled by, and still no service bonus for the Ebola hero and nurse named Pauline Cafferkey. We've been covering it, here -- as an offshoot of stories surrounding Merck's Ebola vaccine candidate.

What's new is that the British Health authorities are now saying Ms. Cafferkey concealed her high tempurature, on return to the UK. What's frustrating about that is that eye witnesses have consistently indicated (and PHE is now confirming) that PHE did not follow its own procedures, and encouraged the nurses to take each others' tempurature. After waiting a bit, with an initial high reading, her temprature decreased, and PHE allowed her to fly on. I for one am uncertain how that conduct, even if proven, should merit discipline, of any sort. She was a pure volunteer in Sierra Leone, returning home. From The Guardian (UK), overnight then -- a bit:

. . . .PHE had nurses at the airport to take the temperatures of the travellers, but, the Guardian has been told, not enough were stationed there.

One of the volunteers who returned at the same time as Cafferkey said they were encouraged by PHE staff to take one another’s temperatures and complete the forms.

Cafferkey’s temperature was high, so PHE’s staff were alerted, said the volunteer, who wanted to remain anonymous. Her temperature was taken six more times, but eventually, the volunteer said, Cafferkey was told she could board her flight to Glasgow. . . .

PHE was unprepared and did not follow correct procedure in managing the screening process,” the volunteer told the Guardian. . . .


Now you know -- and, following my theme of yesterday, this too -- volunteering to serve ones' brothers and sisters half a world away, at great personal risk, is another "idea that should live on." I will certainly keep a good thought for her, here. Off now, walking in, on a glorious Friday -- at half past nine, almost on the dot. Grin. . . with fighter jets screaming overhead, in practice runs. . . .

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Just A Short Reminder -- All About "Ideas That Will... Live"


Exactly 39 years ago this afternoon, not far from King William's Town, South Africa, Steve Biko and Peter Jones were stopped by the apartheid era security police, at a road-block.

They were then detained in Port Elizabeth under Section 6 of the then Terrorism Act. What happened after that can only fairly be called murder. Read it all here, from an inside South Africa historical perspective.

But what also happened after that, was a cascading chain of events, that ultimately led to the release from prison of Nelson Mandela, and his eventual presidency.

[That very same day in 1977, I was finishing up a last graveyard shift in the hard rock mines, mailing off all I had earned to the university, and preparing to set off for my first year of college, where a whole new world awaited me -- out of that small mountain town I was then leaving. I had by then received all the benefit of American privilege, no doubt.]

Of course, in August of 1977, I wasn't then even remotely aware of these ongoing struggles in South Africa. But in the ensuing decade, along with most of the rest of planet, I became acutely aware of them, there and here. That was due in no small part to the life -- and death -- of Bantu Steve Biko.

So I'd ask you to stop a moment this afternoon, and ponder which ideas -- here in our nation -- should "live on." Should we remain the most-free nation on Earth? Or should we build walls, conduct religious tests at our borders (and even more ominously, inside them)? The ideas written in our founding charter are too grand, too revolutionary, and hard-won, to sacrifice -- to a thin-skinned petulant man-child.

Please -- we all know so many who have died -- that these ideas might live on: "out of many, one. . ." That is what our currency says (in the original Latin) -- and it is in a very real sense the capital that has distinguished our nation, many times. Don't turn your back on it, America. And do pause to thank Bantu Steve Biko, too. And thank all who came before -- and after -- him, who were willing to die for the ideas of pluralism, and the progress of humankind.





The eyes of the world are watching now... watching now.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"Catfished"?! -- Martin Shkreli Was Invited To Speak In Palo Alto On Pharma Deal-Doing -- By A Major Law Firm. No Longer.


All of this (below) transpired in a little over 30 elapsed hours. As it unfolded of course, we had graphics -- so I've put up four three small version images -- click each to enlarge for full effect. [For now, we will call this whole story our Exclusive -- thanks to PathoPhilia.]

It seems a prominent law firm has asked the CEO of Savant HWP, and an affiliate of Savant Neglected Diseases, to speak on a panel -- about the deal he worked on, to secure an FDA approval for his firm's Chagas candidate (and, it is STILL hoped, secure a coveted PRV, worth potentially hundreds of millions of dollars). [The major law firm hosting the conference had represented Savant in the KaloBios bankruptcy -- as it turns out.]

Next, it seems someone (unknown) also asked Martin Shkreli to describe his side of the deal, and observations on the KaloBios bankruptcy -- a bankruptcy that was filed shortly after his arrest, last December. [The odd part of that is Mr. Shkreli (according to at least some public record documents) didn't even have a binding commitment to do the deal, with Savant, by the time of his arrest.] That part of the story unfolded some time on Monday night, with a BusinessWire newswire press release included.

By this afternoon, all references to the appearance of Mr. Shkreli -- at that confab -- had been scrubbed.

However, Mr. Shkreli's Twitter feed still recites that he is seeking permission from the US District Court, in the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn) -- essentially for relief from his bail conditions -- to travel to Palo Alto to speak at the Dorsey & Whitney conference.

Problem is, he's no longer speaking. Was he "catfished"? That is, did they (or someone else) prank him? Or, did the equity partners at D&W (after a moment's reflection) vote to "uninvite" him?

Or. . . did his criminal defense lawyer put the brakes on it, when he got wind of the travel request? We will likely never know.

But what a ride it was, over on the KaloBios Reviewed site, during the last two days -- head there for all the blow by blow -- with a sincere hat tip to PathoPhilia, for all the leads -- and the reporting. Now you know.

In other circumstances, I might feel some pity for someone invited to the big Homecoming dance, only to be then left sitting on his doorstep. Tux on; boutonniere already pinned to his lapel. . . .

But not in these circumstances.

To quote an internet meme, of ten years passed, then: "BOOM goes the Dyn-O-Mite"!

Sleep well now, all you science majors, brimming with good will -- this clearly doesn't apply to you. Just the one.

Will Medivation Fetch More Than $12.5 Billion? It Rejected An Earlier Sanofi $10.2 Billion Bid


It is certainly becoming a go-go market for M&A -- in the next gen immuno oncology space, in particular. Medivation's candidates have impressed, as of late -- in trials.

Just look at the pedigree of these names -- orbiting the "nucleus" of Medivation (in 1950s style atomic time, no less!) -- at least according to MSM published rumors.

Here is the Reuters bit on it overnight, but my guess is that something well north of $12 billion will be needed to win the bidding:

. . . .Merck & Co Inc is one of at least five pharmaceutical companies that submitted indications of interest in buying U.S. cancer drug company Medivation Inc earlier this month, according to people familiar with the matter. . . .

Sanofi SA, Pfizer Inc, Celgene Corp and Gilead Sciences Inc also put forward expressions of interest, the sources said. Medivation will have further conversations with potential buyers and ask them to firm up their offers, some of the sources said. . . .

Medivation, best known for its prostate cancer drug Xtandi, said in July it had agreed to share confidential information with potential buyers after France's Sanofi agreed to drop a campaign to oust Medivation's board of directors. . . .


Frothy markets make for big premiums -- but if any sector supports such valuations, it is the oncology wing of the bioscience sector. Onward, for some later-evening cool outdoors symphony listening, then. . . grinning -- as ever, as Mozart, Schubert and Mendelssohn are on tap. . . .

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Last Of "Fast" Fred's "Five Stars" Falls: Merck's Zontivity® Is Done, In US


FiercePharma has done a very nice job of covering this long-developing story, while I've been attending to other matters.

I'll just quote some of theirs, and point you to mine -- of May of 2014, when it was approved in the US with a very narrow label. At least two other strong competitors have come on market (and three more are about to) -- in the US -- since May of 2014. [Prior to May of 2014, Merck had already written off some $1.7 billion on the project -- so this brings the total impairment charges to almost exactly $2 billion, over about five years, or $400 million per year. Ouch.]

Of course, our hearts go out to those families whose incomes and careers are ending here. We will keep them in our morning meditiations. But in truth, this one had long been expected. Here's the FiercePharma item, and a bit:

. . . .Merck acquired Zontivity, or vorapaxar, in its 2009 buyout of Schering-Plough. It was a first-in-class PAR-1 drug designed to compete with the old standby clot fighter warfarin in stroke patients, and analysts had pegged its peak sales as high as $5 billion per year.

But as clinical studies progressed, serious bleeding risks emerged, dashing hopes of an approval for stroke patients and limiting its potential market. Its 2014 approval included a “black box” warning about those bleeding risks. . . .

Since then, newer clot-fighters have hit the market, including AstraZeneca’s Brilinta, approved for post-heart attack treatment, and Eli Lilly’s Effient. There’s also a range of next-gen warfarin rivals, including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer’s Eliquis; Johnson & Johnson and Bayer’s Xarelto; and Boehringer Ingelheim’s Pradaxa. Those drugs have bleeding risks of their own, but reversal agents are nearing the market. . . .


Now you know -- and I do think that is the last of Fred's five favorite candidates -- from the 2008 era. Not one made anything near what Mr. Hassan was literally pounding the table claiming it would. Onward, on a glorious late summer afternoon just the same -- off, to the pop-up farmers' fresh fruit stands, here in the city, on foot. . . . smiling ear to ear.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Federal Propecia® MDL Rescheduled Status Conference In Brookyln: Now October 18, 2016 @ 1 PM EST


A very minor update here -- due to a conflict on the Court's calendar -- the next status hearing on the federal finasteride (branded as Propecia® and/or Proscar®) multi-district litigation has been moved up by a week.

Last week we reported a new slew of dates, this one is one week earlier than originally proposed:

. . . .A Status Conference is scheduled for October 18, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. in Courtroom 322 North before Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo.

Ordered by Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo on 8/12/2016. . . .


Now you know. Onward, on an easy start to the week -- hunting later afternoon fresh food, on foot. . . smile.