The Andhra Journal of Industrial News
(An International Electronic Digest Published from the United States of America)
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Chief Editor: Prof. Sreenivasarao Vepachedu
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Issue 61

5111 Kali Era, Virodhi Year, Chaitra month
2067 Vikramarka Era, Virodhi Year, Chaitra month
1931 Salivahana Era
Virodhi Year, Chaitra month
 2009 AD, April





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Alzheimer’s Disease Test
Washington University researchers recently developed a test to find whether an Alzheimer's drug given to healthy volunteers could reduce production of a substance known as amyloid beta. Called A-beta for short, the substance is a normal byproduct of human metabolism that builds up to unhealthy levels and forms plaques in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. Scientists believe it is this buildup of plaque tangles that causes the disease's characteristic mental deterioration.  The drug currently being tested is made by Eli Lilly and is in the third phase of clinical trials. Using stable isotope-lined kinetics (SILK), researchers found the drug reduced the production of the troublesome A-beta.

Until now, determining whether a drug is working has meant measuring a patient's mental functioning over a long period of time. The new measurement tool SILK takes just 36 hours, which should accelerate the development of new treatments, the scientists say.  The study was released online in Annals of Neurology.  Washington University licensed its pending patents on SILK to C2N Diagnostics, a St. Louis company started by Bateman and Dr. David Holzman, the school's chair of neurology.

Propylthiouracil (PTU) Dangers
Doctors usually first try either propylthiouracil or methimazole to treat children with Graves' disease, the most common cause of an overactive thyroid. Other treatments are surgery and radioactive iodine.  But over the past 60 years, reports have popped up linking the use of propylthiouracil in children to liver failure, sometimes fatal or requiring a liver transplant.  Propylthiouracil, or PTU, is also a primary treatment for adults with Graves' disease, but there appear to be fewer liver complications in adults, according to Donald R. Mattison of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
In a letter published in New England Journal of Medicine, the doctors urged colleagues not to give propylthiouracil as an initial treatment to children for an overactive thyroid. They estimate that five to 10 children die each year from complications of the drug, based on reports to the Food and Drug Administration and others.  Methimazole, sold both as a generic and under the brand name Tapazole, also can hurt the liver, but the damage is less severe and causes obvious symptoms. The damage is reversible once use of the drug stops, unlike with propylthiouracil. 

New Arthritis Drug
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a potential blockbuster drug from Johnson & Johnson that fights three forms of arthritis caused by immune-system deficiencies.  The injectable medication is called Simponi. It is essentially a follow-up to the multibillion-dollar medication Remicade, which is marketed in the U.S. by J&J and in Europe by Schering-Plough Corp. Marketing rights for the new drug would be similarly split between the two companies.  Simponi is marketed by Centocor Ortho Biotech Inc., Malvern, Pa.

All three forms of arthritis are chronic disorders in which the immune system attacks joints, causing stiffness, pain and restricted motion.  Other similar drugs include Amgen's Enbrel and Abbott Laboratories' Humira. Simponi is injected under the skin. It is intended for use in combination with the immunosuppressant drug methotrexate in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. It also may be used with or without methotrexate for psoriatic arthritis and alone in patients with ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic inflammatory arthritis of the spine. 

Simponi is in a class of drugs that target and neutralize tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), a protein that, when overproduced in the body due to chronic inflammatory diseases, can cause inflammation and damage to bones, cartilage and tissue. Like other TNF- α blockers, Simponi labeling includes a boxed warning alerting patients and health care professionals to the risk of tuberculosis and invasive fungal infections with use of the drug. The FDA also required a risk evaluation mitigation strategy (REMS) for Simponi, as it required for other TNF-α blockers. The REMS for Simponi includes a Medication Guide for patients and a communication plan to help prescriber’s understand the drug’s risks. The most common adverse reactions to Simponi include upper respiratory tract infection, sore throat and nasal congestion.

Pharmaceutical Research in India 
In January 2008, global pharma major Novartis announced that it would ramp up operations at its India Development Centre located in Hyderabad and would hire 700 over the next year or so.  However, the company reiterated that these were not R&D jobs: “This is not a high-end work and the nature of job is similar to business process outsourcing. We will think of doing high-end R&D work in India only when the patent laws are made totally compatible with WTO norms.”   At issue is efficacy requirement for new salts and other derivatives.  As part of corporate social responsibility, Novartis was spending huge amounts on disease prevention and focusing on comprehensive leprosy care, tuberculosis and cancer with an annual budget of $927 million.
However, a recent partnership between Merck and India’s Nicholas Piramal (NPIL), potentially worth more than $300mm, suggests that Merck is unfazed. In this partnership, NPIL is responsible for essentially the entire drug discovery chain, from candidate identification through pre-clinical and early-stage clinical trials.  Pfizer is also investing strongly in India, announcing their intentions to develop drugs for conditions endemic to India.  Pfizer Inc in April to pay about $136 million to boost its stake in its Indian arm Pfizer Ltd to 75 percent.  Pfizer,which announced plans to buy rival Wyeth for $68 billion earlier this year, said that it would launch a tender offer to buy a 33.77 percent stake in the Indian business at a price of 675 rupees per share.  The offer represents a premium of more than 8 percent to the April 9 closing price for Pfizer Ltd.  Pfizer already owns 41.23 percent of the Indian company. It expects the offer, which is subject to regulatory approvals, to open in June.

Male Contraceptive
Although female oral contraceptives were developed over 40 years ago and have proven very effective for family planning, no similar pharmacological contraceptive has been developed for males. Surveys conducted by the Medical Research Council Reproductive Biology Unit in the United Kingdom, suggest that men would be willing to use a pharmacological contraceptive if one was available. Presently the only contraceptives available for men are condoms or a vasectomy. A newly discovered genetic abnormality that appears to prevent some men from conceiving children could be the key for developing a male contraceptive, according to University of Iowa researchers reporting their findings in the April 2 online edition of the American Journal of Human Genetics.  Harvard University studies on mouse models that lack the CATSPER1 gene reveal how sperm is affected when the protein is missing or abnormal. These studies show that CATSPER1 mutations affect sperm motility, specifically the very vigorous hyperactive motion the sperm uses when it is entering the egg during fertilization.  Several approaches to male contraception are currently under investigation at other institutions. One approach that could potentially target CATSPER1 is immunocontraception where antibodies are developed that bind to a targeted protein and block its function. Immunocontraception is still in early stages of development and in order to be useful it will need to be proven effective, safe and reversible.

CEO Pay in Pharmaceutical Industry
Big companies often point to their rivals to set (and justify) CEO pay. That may explain the close clustering of pay in the $16 million to $18 million range for most of the Big Pharma CEOs included in the WSJ’s 2008 CEO compensation survey, which is out on April 3, 2009 and includes 200 companies with revenues of more than $5 billion.

Still, when you have a pack of alpha males like this, you want to know who’s No. 1. This year, it’s Abbott’s Miles White (pictured at right, smiling), whose compensation was valued at just over $18 million.  J&J’s Bill Weldon, Merck’s Dick Clark and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Jim Cornelius were close behind, with packages valued at more than $17 million. Pfizer’s Jeff Kindler had a package of more than $16 million.  After that, there’s a bit of breathing room. Eli Lilly’s John Lechleiter, who took over mid-year as CEO, had a package valued at more than $10 million. The CEOs of Amgen and Gilead — both drug companies, but not typically considered among the ranks of Big Pharma — had packages valued at more than $13 million and more than $12 million, respectively.  While Citigroup CEO, Vikram Pandit makes 39 million,  Disney CEO Robert Iger makes 50 million and Motorola CEO Dr. Sanjay Jha makes 104 million.

Huntington Disease
Harvard scientists say they've found a possible way to prevent brain cells from falling victim to the ravages of Huntington's disease.  The work is still in the preliminary stages, and the researchers don't know if the strategy will work in humans. Still, a Huntington's disease expert said the findings could lead to a way to combat the incurable condition.

Huntington's disease is inherited, and children of parents with a single faulty gene have at least a 50 percent chance of developing it. The condition typically develops in middle age, causing the body to move involuntarily, leading to symptoms such as balance and coordination problems, slurred speech, swallowing problems and dementia.  Death typically occurs within 10 to 30 years.  There's no treatment to stop the progression of Huntington's disease or cure it, although patients can take drugs to control their symptoms.  Drugs known as HDAC inhibitors have the same effect and are already being tested as treatments for Huntington's disease and cancer. The drugs are currently used to treat psychiatric disorders. 
Alzheimer's disease, for example, is also caused when cells become clogged and fail to function properly.

Bonding Hormone Oxytocin
A chemical best known for cementing the bond between a mother and her newborn child could also play a part in picking mister (or miss) right. A new study shows that men and women who inhale a whiff of the hormone oxytocin rate strangers as more attractive. This effect adds to the hormone's known role in human relationships. One study found that oxytocin levels spike after new mothers look at or touch their newborns and may help bonding.  Other work has hinted at the importance of oxytocin in social situations between adults too. People administered the hormone make overly generous offers in an economic game that measures trust, while men who got a dose of oxytocin proved better at remembering the faces of strangers a day later, compared to subjects who got a placebo.

Scorpion Venom for Cancer

For more than a decade scientists have looked at using chlorotoxin, a small peptide isolated from scorpion venom, to target and treat cancer cells. Chlorotoxin binds to a surface protein overexpressed by many types of tumors, including brain cancer. By combining nanoparticles with the compound already being investigated for treating brain cancer, University of Washington researchers found they could cut the spread of cancerous cells by 98 percent, compared to 45 percent for the scorpion venom alone. Chlorotoxin also disrupts the spread of invasive tumors -- specifically, it slows cell invasion, the ability of the cancerous cell to penetrate the protective matrix surrounding the cell and travel to a different area of the body to start a new cancer. The MMP-2 on the cell's surface, which is the binding site for chlorotoxin, is hyperactive in highly invasive tumors such as brain cancer. Researchers believe MMP-2 helps the cancerous cell break through the protective matrix to invade new regions of the body. But when chlorotoxin binds to MMP-2, both get drawn into the cancerous cell. Other researchers are currently conducting human trials using chlorotoxin to slow cancer's spread.

Cow Genome
The genome of a female Hereford cow has been sequenced, which could be a starting point for major improvements in the industry. The information is likely to have a major impact on livestock breeding. The study, published in the journal Science, was a six-year effort by more than 300 scientists in 25 countries. 

Cattle now join an elite group of animals to have had their genome sequenced - a group that includes humans, other primates and rodents. Although sheep and goats were domesticated earlier, cattle are the most important herd animals in the world. There are about 800 distinct breeds, and together they contribute to the nutrition or income of about 6.6 billion people.
The cow is the first livestock animal whose genome has been sequenced, part of an effort to read and analyze the DNA of organisms that have scientific, medical or economic importance. In addition to dozens of microbes and several plants, those sequenced so far include the chimpanzee, mouse, rat, dog, chicken, mosquito, fruit fly, opossum and platypus.

Of a cow's 22,000 genes, versions of at least 14,000 are common to all mammals. Cows appear to have about 1,000 genes that they share with dogs and rodents but that are not found in people.  The most recently evolved genes tend to be clustered in parts of the cow's 31 chromosomes where stretches of DNA have been duplicated, copied and inserted upside down, or added to by invading viruses. Those events are usually catastrophic and often lead to the fatal breakage of chromosomes. Over evolutionary time, however, a few survive and provide the raw material for new genes -- and new functions.

This clear relationship between chromosome instability and gene formation is giving scientists a new view of one way evolutionary change happens at the molecular level.

There are two types of cattle -- taurine, which have no humps and predominate in Europe, Africa, the Americas and much of Asia; and indicine, which have humps and are in the Indian Continent (South Asia) and East Africa. Both lineages descended from aurochs, a much larger and more aggressive species.  Indicine breeds have much greater genetic diversity than taurine breeds, evidence that they were developed from a larger number of "founder" animals.

Both types of cattle show evidence of natural selection in genes that appear to be involved in making the animals -- large, horned and potentially dangerous -- docile. In some breeds, specific variants of behavior-related genes are "fixed," or seen in essentially every animal. Curiously, some of those genes are in regions that in the human genome seem to be involved in autism, brain development and mental retardation.

Three papers on the cow genome appeared in the journal Science.

Pharma Business is Risky

Pharma is a risky business – including actual or potential litigation on safety as well as the continuing threat of public hostility or indifference. Europe, once the world's pharmacy, produced seven of 10 new medicines only a decade ago; now it's three, even though the EU accounts for 35% of global output and its three biggest firms count among the top five in the world.
Big Pharma is in the throes of convulsive change. A spate of multibillion mergers and acquisitions in the past few months is transforming the landscape, with this week's $3.6bn (£2.5bn) takeover of Stiefel by GlaxoSmithKline the latest and certainly not the last.

Source: The primary sources cited above,  BBC News, New York Times (NYT), Washington Post (WP), Mercury News,, Chicago Tribune, CNN, USA Today, Intellihealthnews, Deccan Chronicle (DC), the Hindu, Hindustan Times, Times of India, AP, Reuters, AFP,  Biospace etc.

Notice: The content of the articles is intended to provide general information. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Copyright ©1998-2009
Vepachedu Educational Foundation, Inc
Copyright Vepachedu Educational Foundation Inc., 2009.  All rights reserved.  All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for special medical conditions or any specific health issues or starting a new fitness regimen. Please read disclaimer.

Om! Asatoma Sadgamaya, Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya, Mrityorma Amritamgamaya, Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih!
(Om! Lead the world from wrong path to the right path, from ignorance to knowledge, from mortality to immortality and peace!)
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