Millions of GMO Insects Could Be Released in Florida Keys

Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes could be released in the Florida Keys if British researchers win approval to use the bugs against two extremely painful viral diseases. Dengue and chikungunya are growing threats in the U.S., but some people are more frightened at the thought of being bitten by a genetically modified organism. More than 130,000 people signed a Change.org petition against the experiment. Even potential boosters say those responsible must do more to show that benefits outweigh the risks of breeding modified insects that could bite people.
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Immunotherapy Inhibits Heroin Effects in Research Animals

Immunotherapy could have a place in the treatment of substance abuse in the future. A specific antibody can reduce the acute effects of heroin, according to a new experimental study at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Researchers investigated whether a monoclonal antibody can block heroin's effects. It is known that heroin itself has a minor intoxicant effect but it is the conversion products that are formed when heroin is metabolized by the body that cause the intoxicant effect.
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George Yancopoulos, Regeneron, to Give Plenary Keynote Presentation at Cytokines & Inflammation Conference

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George Yancopoulos is the company’s Founding Scientist, and currently serves as President and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron. Dr. Yancopoulos has helped invent all three of the company’s FDA-approved drugs and all of the company’s foundation technologies. His success has made him the top-paid executive in biotech.
Regeneron currently has several late-stage candidates. Dupilumab, an IL-4 and IL-13 antibody being developed in collaboration with Sanofi for asthma, atopic dermatitis, and chronic sinusitis, recently showed positive results in its Phase 2b study in patients with asthma. Dr. Yancopoulos will share updates on the company’s work and research, and provide insight on novel approaches in the immunotherapeutics field along with fellow plenary speakers Francisco Leon (Janssen) and Shane Crotty (La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology).
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Groundbreaking Gene Therapy Trial Begins in Philadelphia

Today Spark Therapeutics announced the start of the first U.S. Human Clinical Trials to treat Choroideremia ("CHM"), an inherited and currently incurable genetic condition that progressively leads to blindness by damaging the retina of impacted individuals. Were it not for the persistent efforts of a determined few in the patient community, like Jeff, this day might never have come. "Spark's groundbreaking announcement today brings real hope of a treatment for blindness caused by Choroideremia, and further paves the way for treatments of other retinal diseases impacting people around the world," said Dr. Chris Moen, President of the Choroideremia Research Foundation (curechm.org), the leading advocacy and fundraising organization focused on finding a treatment for CHM. "The Choroideremia Research Foundation is proud to have provided key preclinical funding to Jean Bennett, MD, PhD and her team at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, that has helped bring us to the gene therapy human clinical trials being announced today."
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Merck, Bristol Heat up Immunotherapy Race in Lung Cancer

Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck & Co broke further away from rival drugmakers in the race to treat lung cancer with a new generation of immune system therapies, adding pressure on the likes of Roche and AstraZeneca to play catch-up. Merck said it would file an application with U.S. regulators in the middle of this year seeking expanded use of its new Keytruda treatment for non-small cell lung cancer, the most common form of the deadly disease.
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Tailor-Made Vaccine set to Banish Africa’s Meningitis Epidemics

The website of a global partnership formed to wipe out deadly meningitis epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa is closing down with a simple message: "Thank you and goodbye!". Barely five years after the team began rolling out a tailor-made vaccine in Africa's "meningitis belt", the disease has all but disappeared there and the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP) is closing down after pioneering what may be a model for tackling infectious diseases in developing countries.
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Immunotherapy Trials Show Renewed Application for Breast Cancer

Douglas Yee, MD, director of the Masonic Cancer Center, as well as professor of medicine and pharmacology at the University of Minnesota, and a HemOnc Today Editorial Board member, outlines clinical data presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium demonstrating potential for the use of immunotherapy drugs for the treatment of breast cancer.

“I think one of the more interesting and exciting themes around this program has been immunotherapy,” Yee told HemOnc Today. “Many of our colleagues in other diseases, particularly melanoma and renal cell cancer, have understood that by actually dealing with immune checkpoints, patients can have a more robust response to treatment. In breast cancer, I think we have been a little slow to address this concept; however, some data presented at this meeting have been particularly exciting.”
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Scientists Tackle Deadly Ebola Virus with Two Experimental DNA Vaccines

Scientists may have come up with a way to tackle the deadly Ebola virus. They've created two experimental DNA vaccines to prevent Ebola and the closely related Marburg virus that are not only safe, but generated a similar immune response in healthy Ugandan adults as reported in healthy U.S. adults earlier this year.

In the phase 1 trial, the researchers enrolled 108 adults between the ages of 18 and 50 from Uganda. Each volunteer was randomly assigned to receive an intramuscular injection of either the Ebola vaccine, Marburg vaccine, both vaccines or placebo. In the end, the researchers found that the vaccines given separately and together were safe and stimulated an immune response in the form of neutralizing antibodies and T-cells against the virus proteins. In addition, four weeks after the third injection, just over half of the volunteers had an antibody response to the Ebola Zaire protein.
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Inovio Pharmaceuticals Initiates DNA Immunotherapy Trial for Breast, Lung and Pancreatic Cancers

Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. announced it has initiated a phase I trial of its hTERT DNA immunotherapy (INO-1400) alone or in combination with Inovio's IL-12 immune activator (INO-9012) in adults with breast, lung, or pancreatic cancer at high risk of relapse after surgery and other cancer treatments. Because high levels of hTERT (human telomerase reverse transcriptase) expression are found in 85% of human cancers, Inovio's cancer candidate holds the potential as a broad spectrum cancer therapeutic.

This human trial is an open label, dose escalation study in subjects with breast, lung, or pancreatic cancer at high risk of relapse after surgery and other treatments including chemotherapy and radiation. Approximately 54 subjects will be enrolled into one of six treatment groups and receive INO-1400 alone or in combination with INO-9012, Inovio's immune activator. The study will be conducted at the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center, which will fund all site-specific clinical study costs.
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Researchers Treat Heart Attacks with New Gene Therapy Based on Telomerase Enzyme

The enzyme telomerase repairs cell damage produced by aging, and has been used successfully in therapies to lengthen the life of mice. Now it has been observed that it could also be used to cure illnesses related to the aging process. Researchers at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) have for the first time treated myocardial infarction with telomerase by designing a very innovative strategy: a gene therapy that reactivates the telomerase gene only in the heart of adult mice, thus increasing survival rates in those animals by 17% following a heart attack.
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