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Why Design Alone Isn’t Enough for a Successful Website

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(3 June 2016) When working on your website, try not to get too caught up in what it will look like. Sure, the overall design and attractiveness of your site is really important, but in order for it to be a true asset to your brand and business, you need to go beyond design.

Web site design

(FirmBee/Pixabay)

Continue reading to learn more about why design alone isn’t enough for a successful website, and why web development plays an integral role in how well your site actually performs.

User experience keeps people on your site

No matter how great your site looks or how unique it is, if the user experience (UX) is poor, visitors won’t stick around. UX boils down to the interaction that a user will have with your website, so you need to make sure that your site makes it easy for a user to find what they’re searching for quickly, regardless of what device they’re on.

When you take user experience into consideration and you combine it with responsive design during the building of your website, you’ll inevitably create a site that truly works for the visitor, and that will keep visitors engaged and coming back.

Content should be useful and engaging

People will be going to your website for its content, whether they want to gain valuable information via your blog or they want to simply learn more about your company. Therefore, in addition to design, you also need to spend quite a bit of time thinking about the content that you’ll post.

Create a strategy that will allow you to write and post content that will appeal most to your key stakeholders and target audience. Think about the needs of these groups and you’re sure to create a site that they’ll want to visit again and again.

Update your website easily with a content management system

If you want to control and update every image and word on your site quickly and easily, you’ll need to use a CMS (Content Management System) like Drupal or WordPress. With this valuable tool, you won’t have to know CSS or HTML, you’ll reduce errors, and you’ll quickly be able to add new content and pages to what’s already there so you can keep your site up-to-date at all times.

Track progress with analytics

The right analytics software will make it easy to determine the number of visitors that your site receives daily, as well as which pages are the most popular and how long visitors stick around. Beyond basic analytics, however, you should also use marketing automation software. In this way, you can learn about the behaviors, sales-readiness, and interests of your leads, and you can target the design and content of your site to those individuals. Make sure you also track call-to-action click-through rates and conduct A/B tests for clear and specific data about your visitors and the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

In the end, there’s a lot more to a great website than its design. So while good design is certainly essential, keep these tips in mind when developing and maintaining your website.

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Industries Where SAP Skills Will Benefit You

Computer room

(Stux/Pixabay)

(3 June 2016) If you are looking to go into business in a specific industry, it pays to know the kind of technology that is used within your sector even if the role you plan to play in your business is not a technical one. If you are planning to consult as an IT specialist to a certain industry, then it goes without saying that your expertise in field-relevant IT systems will be one of the most vital things you can bring to the table, but even in more strategic or managerial roles, some IT training in the most important areas for your industry can pay off.

SAP is a very broad topic in IT, and one where even expert SAP consultants tend to specialize in certain modules and industries. However, it touches on a huge number of industries in a very significant way, and so if you want to go into business in one of those spheres, some skills with the relevant SAP areas will be very beneficial to you. Here are three industries where going in with a knowledge of SAP and how it is implemented can work in your favor:

B2B environments

In B2B environments, SAP is often used as the main way of managing the complexity that these kind of enterprises have, where suppliers and clients all form part of a wider ecosystem of businesses. Using things like SAP supplier portals, which you can find more information about here, B2B enterprises can streamline processes and manage their network of clients, suppliers and partners effectively.

Health care

SAP is used so much in health care that there are even industry specific modules for health care itself and related industries like pharmaceuticals and life sciences. Managing the logistics and records belonging to a hospital or other healthcare institution demands powerful solutions, and SAP by its very nature is exactly right for this kind of challenge. From small private clinics to some of the largest hospitals in the world, and their suppliers, SAP is a vital asset in this industry, and one you can benefit from understanding if that’s where your business or consultancy ambitions lie.

Retail

Retail is another industry where there isn’t really any set of products quite like SAP for handling the complexity and the challenges of managing operations, especially in larger retail organizations. For major retail brands with lots of branches, suppliers, products and partners, as well as huge numbers of staff, manufacturing for their own branded products, and thousands or even millions of customers, SAP is vital. For smaller retailers it still has many advantages too, and so even if you are planning a retail start-up, you should understand something about the modules of SAP that could help and how they are implemented.

When it comes to knowledge, SAP is one thing well worth researching or getting some training in for a wide range of sectors. It may not be as talked about as Windows, but it is almost as big and for many industries, even more important.

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Patent Given for Non-Invasive Spinal Stimulation Technology

Spine model

(Michael Dorausch, Flickr)

2 June 2016. A New York neuroscientist who invented a device for stimulating the spinal cord from outside the body to relieve muscle spasticity and paralysis, received a patent for his technology. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded patent number 9,283,391 to physical therapy professor Zaghloul Ahmed at College of Staten Island, a division of City University of New York, which was assigned the rights to the invention.

Ahmed is scientific founder of PathMaker Neurosystems Inc. in Boston, the company commercializing the technology. PathMaker is developing systems that harness electronic current stimulation of the spinal cord and muscles to treat muscle paralysis, spasticity, and weakness often found in disorders such as stroke, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injury. Unlike other technologies that require surgical implants to deliver the current, the company’s devices deliver electronic stimulation from electrodes placed on the skin at multiple points on the body.

The patent covers PathMaker’s basic self-contained neurostimulation technology, including connections to address the spinal cord and those targeting specific organs or tissue affected by disease or injury. The patented invention includes the device housing and power source.

Signals from PathMaker devices are sent to muscles through nerve pathways that are damaged, yet still intact. One electrode is placed at a designated position over the spinal cord, while other electrodes are placed at points on the body where muscles require stimulation. The company says preclinical studies with animals and early human feasibility studies indicate the technology can help relieve muscle paralysis and weakness, as well as disorders in muscle tone.

PathMaker says the patent is being applied to the company’s lead device, the MyoRegulator PM-2200 system, providing spinal cord stimulation functions that relieve spasticity in muscles, marked by stiffness and involuntary movements associated with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and stroke, among other conditions. The treatment in this case is aimed at hyperexcitable spinal cord circuits where stimulation can regulate aberrant signals causing the muscles’ spasticity.

The MyoRegulator PM-2200 system is being tested in an early-stage clinical trial at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York testing the device as a treatment for muscle spasticity, which began in April 2016. In October 2015, the MyoRegulator PM-2200 received Expedited Access Pathway designation from FDA. The agency grants this designation to devices intended to treat or diagnose life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating diseases or conditions, and where no other device of its kind exists or one that offers a clinically meaningful advantage over existing systems.

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More Genomic Tests Enhance Personalized Cancer Care

Genomics graphic

(National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH)

2 June 2016. A pilot study with cancer patients shows comprehensive genomic analyses can provide actionable treatment targets in 9 out of 10 cases, exceeding the performance of commercial diagnostic services available today. A team led by genomics professors Rong Chen and Eric Schadt at Mount Sinai medical school in New York published its findings yesterday in the journal Genome Medicine.

Chen, Schadt, and colleagues sought to determine the advantages to cancer patients of a comprehensive genomic analysis of their tumors, at more levels and detail than provided by current commercial diagnostic services. Mount Sinai medical center provides these expanded genomic tests as part of its personalized medicine programs. In addition, Chen and Schadt are scientific advisors or consultants to several companies applying genomic analysis to clinical diagnostics.

The researchers included the following set of tests for 46 patients with solid tumor cancers:

Whole exome sequencing from the tumor and patient-matched samples. Exomes represent about 2 percent of all base pairs in a genome, but still account for about 85 percent of disease-causing genetic variations.

Single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, small variations at specific points in the genome, also from tumor and patient-matched samples.

RNA sequencing, to identify tumor-specific mutations.

Copy number alterations, where sections of the genome are repeated, and patterns of these repeated sections are associated with occurrence of cancer.

Germline variations, mutations passed on from parents to children.

The comprehensive genomic analysis also brought in results from a commercial genomic test, the Ion AmpliSeq Cancer Hotspot Panel that analyzes known mutations associated with cancer, as well as gene fusions and changes in gene expression. The researchers integrated the test results into an individualized analysis for each of the 46 patients. Participants had an average age of 48, and 26 were women.

The findings show the comprehensive collection of genomic tests returned actionable results for 42 of the 46, or 91 percent of patients in the study. The tests identified on average 5 treatment targets per patient, from their somatic mutations, copy number variations, germline variations, and changes in gene expression. The comprehensive results identified 7.5 times as many targets as the Ion AmpliSeq Cancer Hotspot Panel alone, as well as twice as many targets as commercial cancer genome analytics offered by FoundationOne and the Oncomine Cancer Panel provided by ThermoFisher Scientific.

The authors say all results were returned to study participants and their physicians, which in several cases led to changes in treatment. “We launched this program with the idea that a more comprehensive view of that variant signature would make a difference in patient treatment,’ says Chen in a Mount Sinai statement, “but even we were surprised by just how much is being missed with current testing.”

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Dispensing Device Shown to Boost Meds. Adherence

Medido device

Medido device (Royal Phillips)

1 June 2016. A device that dispenses pills in prescribed dosages at specified times was shown in a user survey to improve adherence to medications for chronic conditions to almost 100 percent. The study by technology company Royal Phillips covered individuals in the Netherlands using the company’s Medido device for up to 1 year. The device is not yet approved for use in the U.S.

Medication adherence is a continuing problem, particularly for older individuals with chronic diseases, who must take multiple medications at different times during the day. A study published in 2011 found about half of chronic disease patients do not take their medications as prescribed, which the authors attribute to a combination of factors ranging from lack of health literacy by patients to ineffective communication by clinicians, and care given by multiple health care providers.

“Proper medication adherence is such a crucial part to managing a chronic illness,” says general manager of Phillips’s home monitoring division Kimberly O’Loughlin in a company statement, “and yet the more complicated a patient’s care plan, the harder it can be to keep track of pills, doses, and the times they need to take their medication.”

The Phillips Medido dispenses pills at home for people with chronic health conditions in dosages and at times prescribed by their physicians. Medido reminds the individuals when scheduled dispensing times arrive, dispenses pills in plastic pouches opened for the patient, and monitors the individual taking the medications. The device is connected to networks, allowing clinicians or caregivers to be notified in case the individual does not take the medications.

The survey asked 1,379 individuals in the Netherlands using Medido to describe their use of the system. Average age of the respondents was 78, and 6 in 10 (61%) were female. Participants in the survey took medications on average 3 times a day, and used the device for 6.7 months.

The results show more than 9 in 10 participants on average (93%), were able to stick to their prescribed medication regimens. In addition, 96 percent of respondents indicate they took their medications 80 percent of the time or more. According to the company, this 80 percent level is the World Health Organization standard for medication adherence.

The findings also show more than 9 in 10 participants in the survey taking 2 or more doses of medications in 1 day (94%) stayed with their medications. The results show as well that adherence rates remained relatively stable over the 1 year period, with few differences found between the first month and subsequent months in which respondents took part.

The Phillips report cites a 2010 study by the company that tracked use of an earlier Medido device among 60 individuals with home care assistance. That study estimates the device can help realize savings to patients of up to 40 percent from shorter home care visits to check on medication use, or even removing the need for home care assistance.

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Computer Model Created for Uterine Contractions

Pregnant woman

(Greyerbaby, Pixabay)

1 June 2016. A medical engineering team developed a computer model that measures muscle activity at various levels in the uterus and can help predict preterm birth. Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, with colleagues from University of Arkansas in Little Rock, describe the model in a PLoS One article appearing at the end of March.

The team from the lab of electrical engineering professor Arye Nehorai at Washington University is seeking to provide obstetricians and gynecologists with better ways of predicting a preterm or full term pregnancy. Preterm birth, before 37 weeks of pregnancy, increases the risk of serious health problems for infants and high continuing medical costs for families. A number of past and current mathematical models of pregnancy measure electrical and physiological factors of muscles in the uterus, while more recent models track activity at the levels of individual cells and tissues, as well as organs.

The new model represents the electrophysiology of uterine contractions, beginning at the level of individual cells in uterine tissue known as myometrium, which according to the authors, represents many unanswered questions for physicians. “We know that the cell starts the electrical activity, but nothing is known about the positions or numbers or how they interact in different places in the uterus,” says Nehorai in a university statement. “In addition, we don’t yet know the directions of the fibers in the myometrium, which is important because the electricity propagates along the muscle fibers, and that direction varies among women.”

In previous work Nehorai and colleagues developed a computer model of uterine contractions that account for these multiple activity levels, which while helpful, still in the authors’ opinion oversimplifies the shape and structure of the uterus, and thus reduces its predictive value. The new model offers a more realistic model that measures activity at multiple levels, while incorporating MRI images rather than assuming an arbitrary shape of the uterus.

The new model also makes possible simulation of data from sensitive fetal monitoring equipment, known as a Squid Array for Reproductive Assessment, or SARA, first developed at University of Arkansas in Little Rock. SARA measures electrical signals from magnetic fields in the uterus, some quite weak, with 151 sensors. Colleagues at Arkansas-Little Rock provided SARA data for the model.

The team tested the model against real magnetomyography or MMG data, which show the model simulates magnetic field patterns at different stages of uterine contractions. These data, say the authors, make it possible to test different conditions and scenarios for the pregnancy with the model. In addition, their tests revealed factors such as orientation of the muscle fibers in the uterus that affect magnetic field patterns and electrical signals from the uterus.

The authors plan to add more complete data on uterine muscle activity with MRI images, and introduce electrochemical factors at the cellular level that can influence pregnancies. The team also plans to simulate the full contraction in their simulations, matched to real patient data.

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St. Jude Hospital to Test Nanotech Flu Virus Drugs

H1N1 virus

Electron-microscope image of the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus (CDC.gov)

31 May 2016. A company developing anti-viral drugs delivered in nanoscale particles is partnering with scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to test drug candidates to treat influenza. Financial details of the agreement between NanoViricides Inc. in Shelton, Connecticut and St. Jude hospital in Memphis were not disclosed.

NanoViricides makes drugs that fight dangerous viral infections, by attacking and dismantling virus particles. The company’s technology chemically attaches binding molecules from cell surface of the target virus to nanoscale polymer particles called micelles; 1 nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter. The nanoscale particles then target receptors on the surface of the virus, which the company says do not change when the virus mutates.

The company says its technology allows for development of treatments targeting specific viruses, such as HIV or shingles, as well as those in different types of formulations, such as injections, pills, or ointments. In addition, NanoViricide is developing a broad spectrum antiviral medication to treat a number of viral infections at once, including dengue and Ebola/Marburg viruses. The company says its technology makes it possible to design a single antiviral drug that addresses 90 to 95 percent of all known viruses.

The company says its advanced technology, known as Accurate-Drug-In-Field, makes it possible to design, manufacture, and deploy new antiviral drugs in as little as 3 weeks. Because the underlying NanoViricide technology is designed to address a broad range of viral targets, health authorities could stockpile nanoscale micelles — devices that carries the active agents — in the field, then use those particles to combine with specific antiviral compounds.

One of NanoViricides’ drugs in development, named FluCide, is designed to treat serious influenza cases, with injections planned for hospitalized patients and oral treatments given to people in outpatient clinics. The agreement with St. Jude calls for the lab of virologist Elena Govorkova to test NanoViricides’ influenza candidates in lab cultures with influenza A and B strains on various types of human cells, including cells from the surface of the respiratory tract. Govorkova and colleagues are also expected to test NanoViricides candidates with lab animals for safety and efficacy against H1N1, or swine flu, infections.

Govorkova is lab director in St Jude’s virology department. She studies antiviral drug combinations with different mechanisms for action on various viral proteins. In previous work, Govorkova evaluated antiviral drugs against a number of influenza targets in lab cultures and animals.

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Boehringer, Inventiva Partner on Progressive Lung Disease

CT scan of lungs with IPF

High-resolution CT scan of lungs with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF Editor, Wikimedia Commons)

31 May 2016. Drug maker Boehringer Ingelheim and biopharmaceutical company Inventiva are collaborating on discovery of new treatments for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and related diseases causing fibrosis. The deal is expected to bring Inventiva, in Daix, France, as much as €170 million ($US 189 million), plus royalties on sales.

Boehringer Ingelheim and Inventiva will jointly study a new approach based on Inventiva technology to address fibrotic diseases. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the first target of the partnership, is a chronic, progressive lung disease, usually affecting people between the ages of 50 and 70. The disorder results in fibrosis or scar tissue building up in the lungs, limiting the ability of lungs to transfer oxygen to the blood stream. The most common symptoms are shortness of breath and a dry hacking cough, as well as a loss of appetite and weight loss in some cases. The scarring of lung tissue increases over time, often leading to other serious lung conditions, including lung cancer and blood clots in the lungs.

From 13 to 20 per 100,000 people worldwide experience idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Some 100,000 people in the U.S. have the condition, with 30,000 to 40,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Most patients die within five years following diagnosis. The companies say it is the most common interstitial lung disease encountered worldwide and because of its high mortality rate poses a serious public health threat.

Inventiva discovers treatments for diseases resulting in fibrosis, as well as cancer and rare disorders. Its current anti-fibrosis therapy candidates activate peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors, a type of protein known as nuclear hormone receptors that interact with DNA sequences to turn on and off a set of genes associated with a range of conditions, including inflammation. The company’s lead products, now in clinical trials, are treatments for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, causing fibrosis in the liver, and systemic sclerosis, also known as scleroderma, an autoimmune disorder affecting the skin and other tissues in the body.

Boehringer Ingelheim, in Germany, already offers nintedanib, marketed as Ofev, as a treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Ofev blocks enzymes that synthesize proteins promoting development of fibrosis in the lungs. Under the agreement, Inventiva and Boehringer Ingelheim will investigate and validate a different approach to address idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and other fibrotic disorders based on Inventiva’s technology, resulting in the discovery of new treatments.

While full financial details were not disclosed, Inventiva will receive an initial payment from Boehringer Ingelheim, as well as be eligible for future research and development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments of €170 million if all milestones are achieved. Inventiva could also receive royalties on sales of products developed from the partnership.

As reported in Science & Enterprise, Boehringer Ingelheim and Duke Clinical Research Institute established a patient registry for individuals with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis that expects to enroll up to 300 individuals. Participants in the registry agree to allow the progression of their disease be tracked over this period, as well as provide blood samples for testing, including DNA analysis, every six months. First results from the Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis – PRospective Outcomes registry, reported in October 2015, show most people in the group have limited lung function and experience symptoms for about a year before the disease is diagnosed.

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Memorial Day, 2016

Graves at Arlington

Graves at Arlington Memorial Cemetery (A. Kotok)

30 May 2016. Today is Memorial Day in the U.S., so Science & Enterprise is taking the day off. We’ll resume our regular posting tomorrow.

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Another Chance to Get Serious on Drug Pricing

Stephen Ubl

Stephen Ubl at National Press Club, 25 May 2016 (A. Kotok)

Stephen Ubl, president and CEO of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, told a press and industry event in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday (25 May) that drug makers are eager to develop more individualized treatments for patients, but proposed regulations on drug pricing threaten that progress. Ubl also suggested, however, at the Annual State of Personalized Medicine address at the National Press Club, the industry may be open to pragmatic discussions of value-based drug purchasing.

Just one day later, Science magazine published a commentary with a proposal for calculating the economic value for new gene therapies. This proposal offers the pharma industry an opportunity to show it too is serious about solving this problem.

Personalized medicine, also called precision or individualized medicine, focuses treatments on a person’s own molecular make-up, expressed in chemical biomarkers or mutations in that individual’s genome. Ubl described the industry’s expanding role in advancing personalized medicine, evidenced by 42 percent of new drugs in development using biomarkers as targets in some way, including 73 percent of cancer therapies in the pipeline. He cited, for example, engineered chimeric antigen receptors added to an individual’s T-cells in the immune system, known as CAR-T, and returned to the patient as cancer treatments, which he called “like science fiction.”

In addition Ubl said personalized medicines can play a role in lower costs for patients. “Getting the right drug to the right patient at the right time,” said Ubl, reduces complications and in some cases can lessen the need for chemotherapy, which carries a high human cost on patients as well as system-wide costs. And he pointed out the case of Jimmy Carter, who received immunotherapy to treat metastatic melanoma, an advanced form of skin cancer, that enabled the former president to end treatments for the disease.

While he noted these advances have broad bi-partisan support in Washington, Ubl blamed “uncertainties” in regulations and “myopic proposals” that could hamper access by patients to these new advances. One measure raising objections from PhRMA is a proposed test of a pricing formula for drugs obtained at doctor’s offices and paid for under Medicare part B. The proposal would first cap drug prices at 2.5 percent of an average sales price, plus a fee. In a second phase, the plan would implement value-based purchasing tools used by commercial health plans, pharmacy benefit managers, and hospitals.

Ubl called the proposal “a clear overreach” and pointed out that poorly designed value frameworks conflict with personalized medicine. The idea of reference pricing in the proposal assumes drugs are interchangeable, said Ubl, which runs counter to finding the medication that best meets the patient’s own chemistry. PhRMA is energetically campaigning against the proposed rules both in public and Congress.

He acknowledged, however, that “we’re moving to a value-based world,” and value-based options can be helpful, particularly for patients with multiple treatment options. And while he called value-based models a “nascent science,” he said there are “pragmatic steps the industry can take” to holistically address health care costs.

A holistic, pragmatic proposal

The next day, 26 May, Science magazine published a commentary by Stuart Orkin, pediatric oncologist and hematologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Research Center, and Phillip Reilly, a partner with the life sciences venture capital company Third Rock Ventures, outlining a value-based framework for pricing new personalized treatments that seems to meet Ubl’s conditions. Both Orkin and Reilly are veterans of this field. Orkin studies inherited diseases, including gene-editing targets for inherited disorders like sickle cell disease. Reilly is co-founder or scientific adviser to 4 life sciences companies, including bluebird bio — the company’s name is spelled in all lower-case characters — and Voyager Therapeutics that develop gene therapies.

Orkin and Reilly spell out factors that should go into pricing personalized treatments for genetic diseases, often rare disorders affecting children, that transfer healthy genes to replace faulty genes, or edit genomes to remove disease-causing mutations. They list 4 of these diseases — cystic fibrosis, Gaucher disease, hemophilia A, and sickle cell disease — where managing each disorder costs between $25,000 and $300,000 a year, with lifetime costs totaling as much as $10 million.

As reported in Science & Enterprise, the authors identify several factors to consider for pricing gene therapies, which take into account economic needs:

Costs for current clinical interventions, such as organ or bone-marrow transplants
Complexity of procedures for gene therapy treatments
Development costs
Production costs, such as the expensive manufacture and quality control of benign viruses to deliver gene therapies
Size of the treatment population
Quality of the outcome, defined as efficacy and duration of the treatment

Orkin and Reilly recognize that in many cases gene therapies will be expensive, particularly where the treatments have a long-lasting or even permanent effect. And where treatments are complex or require multiple interventions, those costs need to be covered. But at the same time they argue that companies getting the benefits of incentives, such as those under the Orphan Drug Act, should share those benefits with patients. In addition, where inherited diseases affect very small numbers, government may need to step in to make drugs available for these patients.

No one including the authors claim this is an entire solution, but if the industry is smart it will take advantage of this proposal and start a serious dialog on valuing gene therapies. The ideas come from two individuals who are well versed in both the science and business of drug development, and are equipped to deal with the industry’s complexities. They are trying to provide more transparency to pricing innovative treatments, not score political points or raise money.

Moreover, the pharmaceutical industry needs to start working more proactively and collaboratively with the rest of the health care world to solve the problem of opaque and seemingly unconstrained drug costs. The ideas put forward by Orkin and Reilly may apply to gene therapies, but they can provide a template for other types of drugs. In addition, this more transparent template can establish a framework for negotiations with single-payer health authorities outside the U.S., so they pick up more of the high cost of developing new drugs.

The alternative facing the industry is more political isolation and conflict. While drug companies may try to maintain the status quo, a smart leader like Stephen Ubl should be pointing the industry toward a more sustainable future. Let’s see if he can take advantage of this opportunity.

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