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Patent Awarded for Nanoparticle Drug, Cannabis Delivery

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

U.S. Patent and trademark Office (A. Kotok)

27 March 2018. A delivery technology for therapeutic compounds in nanoscale natural oil particles received a U.S. patent, which the company owning the technology says can be applied to drugs, nutritional supplements, and cannabis-based treatments. Patent number 9,925,149 was awarded today to Richard Clark Kaufman, chief scientist at Nanosphere Health Sciences LLC in Greenwood Village, Colorado, by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Nanosphere Health Sciences is developing a drug delivery technology that the company says encases compounds in nanoscale particles — 1 nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter — in lipids, natural oils in the body. This delivery process, says Nanosphere, transports the payloads quickly into the blood stream, improving their efficacy and reducing adverse effects. The company makes few of its own products, but offers the technology and manufacturing process for licensing to other enterprises.

The patent covers various compositions of therapeutic nanoparticles, enveloped or suspended in lipids. While the language in the patent initially refers to “nutraceutical compositions,” the text later defines those compositions to cover a broad range of compounds and biological substances. In addition, the patent covers delivery across a variety of cell membranes including mucous, gastrointestinal, and skin membranes, as well as blood-brain barrier, eye tissue, and other internal organs.

Kaufman notes in a company statement, “This patent extends to our 16 forms of lipid nanoparticle structures, which can be applied across health care sectors for vastly improved medical delivery.” The document text spells out a number of processes and structural formulations of nanoparticles covered by the patent. Those nanoparticles can range in size from 20 to 200 nanometers, although smaller nanoparticles — less than 60 nanometers — and with natural lipid formulations are preferred for avoiding reactions as foreign substances, and pass more easily through cell membranes.

An intriguing part of the patent covers lipid nanoparticles for transporting drug compounds across the blood-brain barrier. The text details “a practical carrier system for delivering compounds to the brain via the transcellular lipophilic pathway.” That pathway with smaller-sized nanoparticles, says the patent, makes it possible to pass through the barrier in sufficient quantities for sustained release, as well as protect the payloads from degradation.

Nanosphere says the patent protects the company’s core technology, which it applies to cannabis-based therapeutics and cosmetics, as well as drug compounds and nutritional supplements. One of the company’s more advanced product lines is called Evolve Formulas, launched in June 2017, designed to deliver cannabis-based compounds through the skin for pain relief, applied to various parts of the body where pain is encountered. Nanosphere says it plans to extend Evolve Formulas for delivery through mucous membranes in the nose and mouth.

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Crowdsourced Project Building Whole Beta Cell Model

Beta cell model graphic

(Yekaterina Kadyshevskaya, University of Southern California)

27 March 2018. A new initiative is seeking participants from the worldwide research community to develop a multi-dimensional online model of the beta cell that produces insulin, found in the pancreas. The project known as the Pancreatic Beta Cell Consortium is led by researchers from University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and described in the 22 March issue of the journal Cell (paid subscription required).

A better understanding of beta cells is becoming more critical as the number of diabetes cases continues to grow. Diabetes is a chronic disorder where beta cells in the the pancreas don’t create enough insulin to process the sugar glucose to flow into the blood stream and cells for energy in the body. According to the International Diabetes Federation, diabetes affects an estimated 425 million people worldwide.

In type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes cases, the pancreas produces some but not enough insulin, or the body cannot process insulin. Type 1 diabetes is an inherited autoimmune disorder where the body does not produce insulin, and is diagnosed primarily in children or young adults. Autoimmune disorders are conditions where the immune system is tricked into attacking healthy cells and tissue as if they were foreign invaders, beta cells in this case.

While the beta cell’s functions are conceptually simple, say the project’s organizers, understanding those functions is proving more difficult, as their complexities become known. Raymond Stevens, a structural biologist at USC and founder of the consortium, says new treatments for diabetes will require a more detailed understanding of beta cells, from a wider range of disciplines, and thus the need for this model. “We are converging to solve a difficult problem to solve a structure at multiple scales,” says Stevens in a university statement, “from the individual atoms, to the small molecules, to the macromolecule, to the cell.”

The consortium aims to build its model from data and images of beta cell components, interacting with each other, and with the rest of the body. The model is expected to capture and organize information on proteins, lipids, and metabolites in beta cells, as transcribed from genes, and the ways they function to produce or not produce insulin in healthy and diseased states. These data will likely be offered in a range of formats and media, including high-resolution graphics, from medical researchers, engineers, chemists, and computational biologists, among others. The project is also enlisting artists and film makers at USC to help integrate and present the visual and kinetic data.

Andrej Sali, an early collaborator in the project from University of California in San Francisco and a specialist in data integration and modeling, calls it “the ultimate modeling problem.”  Sali says that the beta cell is a big system that maximizes complexity somewhere between a gas and a crystal. “It’s also hierarchical: atoms, molecules, complexes, organelles, and cells,” he notes. “It will have to be solved by an integrative approach that relies on multiple sources of information.”

So far, some 50 researchers from the U.S. and China are taking part in the consortium, but it is open to contributions from any researchers in the field, working in any related discipline. The initiative is patterned after the Human Genome Project, also an international collaborative endeavor, but the organizers in this project set a 5-year timeline for completion.

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Crispr Enhanced to Find, Edit Tiny Mutations

Crispr-Cas9 illustration

Crispr-Cas9 illustration (LBL.gov)

26 March 2018. A bioengineering lab at Harvard University designed a refinement for genome editing to identify and remove small genetic mutations that can lead to diseases or organisms resistant to current drugs. Researchers from the Wyss Institute, a biological engineering research center at Harvard, describe their process in the 19 March issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (paid subscription required).

A team from the labs of geneticist George Church and systems biologist James Collins, on the faculty at MIT as well as Harvard, are seeking better methods for dealing with point mutations, variations in single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs. These single change in base pairs are the most common type of mutation and generally have little effect on organisms. But in some cases, as when inside genes or regions where genes are regulated, SNPs can play a larger role. One example is bacteria, where even minute variations in their DNA can make the microorganisms resistant to current antibiotics.

The researchers led by Alejandro Chavez, now on the faculty at Columbia University, devised their process as enhancements to the emerging genome editing technology Crispr, short for short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. Crispr is based on bacterial defense mechanisms that use RNA to identify and monitor precise locations in DNA. The actual editing of genomes with Crispr employs enzymes that cleave DNA strands at the desired points, with Crispr-associated protein 9, or Cas9, being the enzyme used most often.

The team’s Crispr-Cas9 technology is able to discriminate in genomic locations down to single SNPs, accomplished by more precisely engineering the RNA to guide Cas9 enzymes to highly specific locations. Without this capability, say the researchers, Crispr edits can result in gain-of-function mutations that can cause unwanted changes in cells or tissue. “By focusing instead on guide RNA features,” says Church in a Wyss Institute statement, “our approach dramatically enhances Cas9’s specificity up to a level where single nucleotide polymorphisms can be clearly distinguished and unwanted genetic variants erased.”

“We hypothesized,” notes Chavez, “that for a given pair of targets that differ by a single point mutation, a set of mismatches could be identified in the guide RNA that would eliminate Cas9’s activity on the normal sequence while maintaining robust activity on the one with a deleterious point mutation.” The researchers tested that hypothesis with E. coli, best known as a bacteria causing intestinal infections, although most types of E. coli are harmless. In lab cultures, the more precise Crispr-Cas9 process found and identified mismatched point mutations in E. coli DNA. But the techniques worked as well in the gastrointestinal tracts of lab mice, a more complex and uncontrolled environment.

The researchers believe these enhanced, more precise genome editing techniques can act as a way to monitor target genomes, such as those in disease-causing bacteria, to identify mutations almost as they occur. One practical application is insuring the integrity of microorganism culture collections used in research labs.

Collins adds that “we are now able to prevent often occurring mutations that confer antibiotic resistance and ask, which other genetic changes could lead to the same result. This may improve our understanding of resistance mechanisms and potentially offer new therapeutic entry points.”

Harvard University filed a patent application on the technology. In addition, Church is a serial entrepreneur and a founder of several companies commercializing genome editing technologies.

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Nerve Stimulation Device Being Tested for Arthritis

rheumatoid arthritis damage

X-ray image of joint damage from rheumatoid arthritis (Camazine Scott, National Institutes of Health)

26 March 2018. A device sending electrical pulses through a main nerve pathway is starting a clinical trial to test the device in people with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease affecting joints and surrounding tissue. The study is testing the safety and effectiveness of the device, made by SetPoint Medical in Valencia, California among a small group of participants with the disorder.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, where the immune system is tricked into attacking healthy cells, that leads to inflammation of joints — in wrists, fingers, feet, and ankles — and surrounding tissue, affecting some 1.3 million people in the U.S., making it the most prevalent autoimmune disease. In addition, a large proportion of people with the disease, as many as half, do not respond to biologic treatments, making other treatment options necessary, according to the company.

SetPoint’s system is an implanted device that stimulates the vagus nerve to treat autoimmune disorders. The vagus nerve pathway extends from the brain stem to the abdomen, connecting other major organs including the heart, esophagus, and lungs. Research by SetPoint’s scientific co-founder Kevin Tracey, now president of Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, revealed a neurophysical mechanism called inflammatory reflex that senses problems such as infections and inflammation. That reflex, says Tracey, sends signals through the nervous system, including the vagus nerve, affecting the different organs in its path. In the spleen, those signals are received by T-cells, white blood cells in the immune system, which in turn reduce production of proteins preventing inflammation, allowing inflammation-causing enzymes to operate unchecked.

The system made by SetPoint implants a device near the vagus nerve that sends electrical pulses along the nerve pathway to activate the inflammatory reflex, and thus restore production of proteins protecting against inflammation in the joints of people with rheumatoid arthritis. In a proof-of-concept study reported in 2016, Tracey and colleagues show most people using the device — 11 of 17 — produced fewer inflammatory enzymes, as well as experienced less inflammation in their joints. In addition, no severe adverse effects were reported.

The new clinical trial is enrolling 15 individuals, age 22 to 75 with rheumatoid arthritis who do not respond or are not able to tolerate available treatments. In the first part of the study, looking particularly at the system’s safety, 3 participants will test the device for 12 weeks, with stimulation to the vagus nerve 4 times a day. In the second part of the study, the remaining 12 participants will be implanted with a device, but be randomized to receive stimulation to the nerve 4 times a day from the SetPoint system, or no stimulation with a sham device. In both parts of the trial, researchers will look primarily for evidence of adverse events from any source, but also track occurrence of rheumatoid arthritis, evaluated by a series of standard assessment scales, as well as MRI images of participants’ hands.

In addition to Kevin Tracey, SetPoint Medical was founded by Shaw Warren, an inflammation and infectious disease specialist at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Wyss Institute, a biomedical engineering center at Harvard. As reported by Science & Enterprise in 2013, SetPoint Medical was the first recipient of financing from a venture fund established by drug maker GlaxoSmithKline to back companies developing treatments harnessing the body’s electrical system.

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Infographic – Fastest Job Growth Seen in Health, Tech

Infographic: The Occupations Growing The Fastest Since The Recession | Statista
You will find more infographics at Statista

24 March 2018. Job creation is a good indicator of the state of the economy and its various sectors. We report on business developments in areas affected by science that includes many aspects of health care and information technology, and which according to a chart released this week by Statista account for the jobs with the fastest growth in the U.S. during the past 10 years, this weekend’s infographic.

The chart, with data from CareerBuilder, shows the fastest growing job category is home health aides, nearly 300,000, likely a result of the growing population of older individuals in the U.S. But growth by the next few job categories — web developers, veterinary technicians, genetic counselors, and health technicians — is probably due to a number of factors, including investment in new technologies.

Among genetic counselors, only about 700 more of these jobs were created, but that represents a 31 percent increase since 2007. As our story yesterday in Science & Enterprise points out, the need for specialists to interpret the results from the growing use of genetic testing is only likely to grow even more.

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Plug The Holes In Your Business Security Right Now

– Contributed content –

Security regulations

(Pixabay)

24 March 2018. With software security risks now reaching a record high, it’s important to ask whether your business is actually secure. Are there holes in your security? Is there more that you can do to protect your assets and indeed the interests of your customers? This is what we’re going to explore today, examining the new ways the businesses are protected themselves from security threats, pre-emptive strikes as well as some of the biggest threats.

It’s important to be aware that not all security risks are going to hurt you financially. At least, not directly. Some security issues are designed to take down a company in other ways. DNS server hacks are a key example of this. With a DNS server hack, the aim is to take a number of websites off the playing field at the same time. Through this hack, customers will no longer be able to find your site online. Now, this would affect your profit levels, but it is also used to create chaos. For instance, the most recent DNS service attacks targeted sites like the BBC News. You can learn more about this type of hack on www.avg.com.

Before we get into some of the most complex areas of business security, let’s explore some of the most basic ways that you can protect your company.

Keeping security simple

Login graphic

(geralt, Pixabay)

Well first, you should make sure that your site is running on https and using an SSL. You will notice, if you are viewing our site through chrome that our site does do this. It’s recommended that any site that asks for login information is operating with this interface which these days means that every site online should be using it. That’s why it’s so surprising when you discover that your bank website isn’t on https. Now, they can say that’s because that particular page is separate from the login area, but it doesn’t matter. It still means that page isn’t secure and it does leave a gap in their security. You should certainly think twice about giving information to a site like this that could impact your finances.

The good news is that it’s actually easy to get your site up and running on Https with an SSL certificate. If you don’t know how to do this yourself, a business will be happy to help and compared to other costs, they are more than manageable. In a couple hours, your site will be far more secure. The big benefit is that once you have this, all the information transferred through your site is encrypted. This makes it more difficult, though not impossible, for a hacker to steal that info.

You should also make sure that you are using the cloud servers available from a range of different companies. A lot of people avoid using the cloud because they don’t know how it works. If that’s the case, check out www.icloudlogin.com. There you’ll find the key information you need to get your head around cloud servers, ensuring that you know how to use them and how they work.

Some people argue that keeping information on a piece of hardware is more secure, but this is nonsense. When you store data on a piece of hardware, it is in one place, and this makes it easier to steal. The same can be true if you keep the information on a mobile device.

It’s worth thinking about outsourcing here as well. When you outsource, you are trusting another company with the assets or a particular area of your business. It’s important that you do think about their level of security as well. It should match and exceed yours otherwise this is essentially another hole in the fence, and it can impact a number of different areas of your company including customer data. Essentially, a breach in their security could have a ripple effect on yours.

On top of this, you need to make sure that you are keeping communications secure as well. Obviously, for some businesses such as those operating in the health industry, this is going to be more crucial, and that’s why every interaction between doctors and nurses online needs to be completely HIPAA compliant.

New viruses

Laptop suspended

(Pixabay)

There are a variety of new viruses and trojan software online that you need to be aware of when you are running a company. This should determine the type of software you use as a variety of software companies have admitted they are exposed, including Intel. This is something that you should consider when you are arranging the hardware for your company. Intel have revealed that the security issue has been apparent since as early as 1995 and continues to exist in modern models.

It’s also worth pointing out that in this case, there is no chance of correcting the situation. Once developer suggested that the bug in the system could haunt the company for years.

The good news is that with these viruses, there’s always a software that can beat them. It’s a constantly evolving industry, and tech is always able to adapt and improve. But this is why you need 24-hour support for your business on and offline. It’s crucial that if a hack is detected, it is dealt with as soon as possible, without fail.

Future plans

Laptop, help sticky note

(annca, Pixabay)

Of course, with hacks and security issues becoming so prevalent in business industries it is worth taking a preemptive strike. It’s unlikely that you will be able to prevent or avoid every attack. This just isn’t realistic. What you can do, however, is make sure you are covered financially in the wake of this type of problem.

The right insurance coverage will help here. Be aware that not every insurance plan will provide this type of coverage. As such, it is worth getting in touch with the company and making sure that they will provide financial support in the event of a hack. Otherwise, you may end up with nothing when the worst happens to your company. A hack will always impact your bottom line, so you do need to be prepared. You can find out more about insurance for business hacks on  www.bloomberg.com.

Security-hacker graphic

(methodshop, Pixabay)

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Analysis Reveals Ransomware Payment, Support Networks

Hacker

(bykst, Pixabay)

23 March 2018. In a two-year study, engineers and computer scientists trace the networks used by perpetrators to break in, encrypt, and hold for ransom the contents of personal or business computer systems, a growing form of cyber attack. The team from New York University and other institutions and companies plan to describe their analysis at this year’s IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, in May 2018 in San Francisco.

The practice known as ransomware is a form of high-tech extortion where malware, an unwanted malicious file placed on a computer system, locks up the system and encrypts the files. The perpetrator then holds the affected system hostage in exchange for ransom. While the practice of ransomware goes back to 2005, according to Wired magazine, the emergence of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoins are making the practice more common, and thus more of a threat to individuals, businesses, and institutions.

Researchers led by computer scientist Damon McCoy at New York University — joined by colleagues from Princeton University, University of California in San Diego, Google, and the blockchain cybersecurity company Chainalysis in New York — uncovered the payment networks and support ecosystem used by ransomware attackers. The team says it’s the first end-to-end investigation of ransomware networks, tracking not only the revenues paid by ransomware victims, but also the affiliates and infrastructure making the practice happen.

McCoy and colleagues gained access to a variety of data sources, including ransomware victims and databases tracking Bitcoin payments. Their sources cover ransomware binary code, victims’ locations and payments, and a large database of Bitcoin addresses and owners maintained by Chainalysis. While Bitcoins are used by perpetrators to disguise the identities of payments’ recipients, their transactions can be clustered and traced, offering a money trail that the researchers followed. That money trail, from the acquisition of Bitcoins by victims to cashing out Bitcoins by perpetrators, says the team, provides details including geographic locations of victims and intermediaries.

“Ransomware operators ultimately direct Bitcoin to a central account that they cash out periodically,” says McCoy in a university statement, “and by injecting a little bit of our own money into the larger flow we could identify those central accounts, see the other payments flowing in, and begin to understand the number of victims and the amount of money being collected.”

The researchers found during this two-year period an extensive pattern of ransomware, which shows little sign of abating. Their results show nearly 20,000 systems were attacked, with ransom payments totaling some $16 million. Systems in South Korea were particularly common targets of ransomware. The team estimates South Koreans paid some $2.5 million for a type of ransomware known as Cerber, accounting for about one-third (34%) of the funds paid as ransom from these attacks.

The team’s analysis also revealed a Russian exchange known as BTC-e was a favorite among ransomware perpetrators for exchanging Bitcoins into cash. In July 2017, federal authorities fined BTC-e $110 million and indicted its operator Alexander Vinnik for violating money laundering laws. Vinnick was arrested in Greece, where he was on vacation, and BTC-e has since shut down.

The team identified potential intervention points to disrupt the payment flows on which perpetrators rely. However, the authors point out ethical issues that authorities need to consider before taking down ransomware networks. For example, interrupting payment networks could increase ransom demands and financial burdens on victims, and prevent them from acquiring the encryption keys to unlock their files.

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High False-Positive Rate Found in Consumer Genetic Tests

DNA analysis graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

23 March 2018. Follow-up reviews of results from direct-to-consumer genetic tests show 40 percent of the actionable gene variations reported in the tests, including some indicating disease risk, were erroneous. The study, conducted by Ambry Genetics Corp., a company in the business of lab-based genetic testing, is described in yesterday’s issue of the journal Genetics in Medicine.

Genetic tests marketed directly to the consumer are becoming increasingly popular and economical. While many of these tests analyze a person’s genetic ancestry, some tests are offered to highlight the presence of genetic variations indicating predisposition to a particular disease. The company 23andMe, for example, markets a genetic test that indicates the presence of genes indicating a higher risk for Parkinson’s disease, late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and several others. In April 2017, FDA authorized 23andMe to provide these tests, and as reported earlier this month in Science & Enterprise, FDA cleared the company to offer tests for certain variations of genes indicating higher risk of some breast and ovarian cancers.

Ambry Genetics, in Aliso Viejo, California, provides laboratory genetic testing for health care providers, with part of its business coming from physicians asking for confirmation of initial genetic tests given by others, including those marketed to consumers. The study, led by Stephany Tandy-Connor, a genetics counseling supervisor at the company, reviewed 49 cases from 2014 to 2016 referred to the company for confirmation by health care providers, and originally tested by direct-to-consumer services. Nearly all (92%) of the cases were women, with the vast majority (74%) not reporting any disease at the time of the test.

The confirmation analyses used high-throughput Sanger sequencing, the so-called gold standard of genetic testing, with the Ambry team comparing the original test results with the follow-up findings. Nearly 9 in 10 (88%) of the genetic variations reported by the initial tests were linked with increased cancer risks. While the follow-up testing confirmed most of the variations in the direct-to-consumer tests, a large proportion — 40 percent — were false positives. In addition, 8 variations of 5 genes classified as higher-risk of cancer and other diseases in the original test, are considered benign by Ambry and other lab-testing services. In some public genetic databases, such as the Exome Sequencing Project and 1000 Genomes, the variations occur at a rate considered too high to be linked to disease.

The authors note that some of the false positives may result from different testing technologies, and the small sample size indicates that larger numbers of direct-to-consumer or DTC test results should be assessed. In a statement issued by Springer, the journal’s publisher, Tandy-Connor says even with the small sample, the results show consumers should get confirmation and professional interpretation, and not rely only on the initial test results. “While DTC results may lead to healthy changes in lifestyle or diet,” she says, “these could also result in unwarranted emotions, including anxiety when someone obtains unexpected information, inaccurate information, or disappointment when receiving a lack of comprehensive diagnostic analysis.”

Tandy-Connor tells more about the study in the following video.

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Weather and The Impact It Can Have on Your Business

– Contributed content –

23 March 2018. From a business point of view, the weather can be a good thing for business. Take a ski resort, for instance. They are going to profit the most when there is snow and plenty of it. But at the end of the day, the resort could be in place, get a very mild winter, and then it has devastating effects on the business. While weather can be good for business, in a lot of instances the weather can be detrimental. So the key for your business is to know how the weather and climate could impact it.

Railyard in winter

(Pxhere.com)

Customers

You have to think about your customers and their behavior during different times of year. So it is a good question for all industries to understand and look at, not just seasonal or particularly tourist industries. In order to understand the purchasing habits of your customers, knowing the impact that the weather can have can help you to maximize sales. Companies like Subway, Sears, and Panera all do extensive research into weather predictions so that that what they can offer will be of best use to customers.

Products

To understand the impact weather could have on your business, you need to check on the product types that you have, and how in turn, the weather will affect those. Food and agriculture is an obvious one to look at. If weather is colder than usual, it changes what people buy, as well as how well things will grow. So being able to understand and predict these times of year that may be a little worse than others is really important. Having some precautions in place to help can be a good idea too. Having green houses, indoor plantations, as well as looking into things like Calhoun Super Structure salt storage can be a good idea for your business. Then you are prepared for the worst case scenario and can put plans in place to reduce frost or keep temperature steady.

But anything from fruit to oil can be affected by the weather. Oil is in much bigger demand during colder months so can affect transportation costs, making prices suffer a little. So understand what you sell and how even small changes in margin can affect it.

Property

2017 was a particular futile time around the world, not in the least when it came to weather and natural disasters. We can’t forget about how much damage a storm or hurricane can have on us and our business premises. High winds, flooding, frost, and ice can all have a costly impact on our business. So one of the best things to do is to make sure that you have insurance in place, and one that covers this kind of damage as not all of them will. So make sure you’re covered, to give your business some peace of mind should a natural disaster strike.

Have you got any experience of how the weather has impacted your business in a good or bad way? It can do wonderful things for business, as well as cause some trouble.

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Immune Disease Precision Therapy Company Starts Up

T-cells illustration

T-cells (NASA.gov)

22 March 2018. An enterprise to discover biomarkers and precise treatments for individuals with immune system disorders is starting up, founded by six researchers in the U.S. and Europe. The company, Rheos Medicines Inc., in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is staked to $60 million in its first funding round, led by life sciences investment company Third Rock Ventures.

Rheos Medicines plans to discover therapies for diseases resulting from malfunctioning immune system cells that can range from asthma to autoimmune disorders, where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissue, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and treatments for cancer. The company cites published studies and data showing 7 to 10 percent of the population have autoimmune disorders, while 5 to 7 percent suffer from inflammatory conditions related to the immune system.

Rheos is applying advances in understanding the chemical functions of immune systems cells developed by their scientific founders that identify different metabolic processes in these cells, as well as biomarkers providing precise targets for treatments.  Those founders include immunologists …

Richard Flavell, Yale University

Edward Pearce, Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics

Erika Pearce, Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics

Ken Smith, University of Cambridge

E. William St. Clair, Duke University

Laurence Turka, formerly with Harvard Medical School, and now Rheos Medicines’ chief scientist

One of the company’s first tasks is developing what it calls an immune cell encyclopedia that details the metabolic pathways followed by various cells in the immune system, which determine their functions in human health. From these pathways, Rheos plans to focus initially on discovering therapies to correct malfunctioning T-cells, white blood cells in the immune system, including sub-types of T-cells known as CD-4 and CD-8. Among these disorders are inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, and vitiligo that causes loss of skin color, as well as cancer immunotherapies.

The company expects to apply genomic sequencing and metabolomic profiling to samples from patients to better understand precise metabolic pathways of these T-cells, to simultaneously identify biomarkers and new treatment targets. This process, says Rheos, can address factors affecting the progression of immune-related diseases among different sub-groups of patients.

Turka provides an overview of the Rheos technology in a blog post on the company’s web site. “The immune cell encyclopedia at Rheos,” says Turka, “will enable us to compare different types of immune cells and identify pathways and targets that are specific to the cells causing disease.  Importantly, Rheos is simultaneously including patient samples and identifying biomarkers in our encyclopedia, so that we can, for the first time, bring precision medicines to treatment of immune-mediated diseases.”

Third Rock Ventures, in Boston and San Francisco, is providing $60 million in equity financing for Rheos Medicines’ first venture funding round. No other investors were disclosed. In addition to financial support, Third Rock can, as in the case of Rheos, provide interim executives until the start-up enterprise is off the ground.

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