Like secret cinema…but for biopharma

by Admin 21. July 2014 12:14

Total Orphan Drugs invites all UK-based life science professionals to their monthly biopharma industry meet-ups. Held on the first Tuesday of every month, these informal industry networking evenings are hosted at an assortment of secret London locations.

The meet-ups are for all local life science professionals looking to build their networks and meet with like-minded people over a drink.

The next biopharma meet-up will be held  on Tuesday 5th August from 6pm. It’s free to attend and potential delegates can register online to receive an email with information about the secret London location.

Find out more about the events and how to register at


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Drugs | General | News

GSK halts melanoma drug trial early after positive results

by Admin 21. July 2014 11:36

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has stopped its melanoma drug trial early after strong results to date were recorded. 

An independent data monitoring committee recommended that COMBI-v - a phase III study assessing a combination of GSK’s Mekinist plus Tafinlar for the treatment of cutaneous melanoma - should be stopped early.

The combination has been shown to offer a clear overall survival benefit compared to an approved alternative therapy among patients with BRAF V600E or V600K mutation-positive unresectable or metastatic forms of cutaneous melanoma.

Dr Rafael Amado, head of oncology research and development at GlaxoSmithKline, said: "We will continue to analyse this data versus vemurafenib over the coming months and look forward to sharing these with the scientific community once the analysis is complete."

Eligible study patients who were randomised to the control arm will now be able to cross over to receive treatment with the investigational combination.


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Drugs | News

Pharmacists are “key to the survival of the NHS”

by Admin 21. July 2014 11:20

A new report claims pharmacists are “key to the survival of the NHS” and should be a first point of contact for patients with certain health issues.

A report released by Pharmacy Voice, the organisation representing UK’s community pharmacies, argues that pharmacies can take a more central role in the treatment of patients and calls for the establishment of ‘high street health hubs’ to ease the pressure on other services.

The report was backed by a number of other health organisations and urged the NHS to allow pharmacies to become the “high-street health specialists”, serving as the first point of call for patients with certain health issues and problems.  

Professor Robert Darracott, chief executive of Pharmacy Voice, said: “We have to be radical in our thinking and our actions if the NHS is to survive in its current form.”

Darracott stressed that “reducing demand is an imperative” and said pharmacies could “dispense health as well as medicines, helping people stay well, and potentially resulting in billions saved in hospital admissions further down the line.”

The experts suggested pharmacies could be the initial treatment location for patients seeking weight-loss and smoking-cessation services or advice on sexual health and alcohol.

Pressure on local surgeries could be eased if patients with coughs and colds – accounting for 20% of a GP’s workload – were encouraged to visit the pharmacist instead, while the report also claimed that 8% of A&E attendees could have been treated on the high street.

“Primary care isn’t, and shouldn’t be, all about general practice,” said Dr Michael Dixon, chairman of NHS Alliance and one of the organisations backing the report.

“I fully support the notion of high street health hubs and think they have a vital role to play in supporting the NHS as we know it today.” 

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News | NHS

Malaria drug could prevent liver cancer

by Admin 21. July 2014 10:51

An over-the-counter malarial drug could prevent liver cancer and shrink established tumours, British scientists have found.

Scientists at University College London (UCL) have discovered that a commonly-used and inexpensive derivative of quinine, Chloroquine, available from most pharmacists, can also prevent liver cancer.

The discovery could prevent thousands of deaths a year and give hope to the hundreds of thousands of people who are at risk of developing the disease.

Rajiv Jalan, Professor of Hepatology at UCL, said: “I am very excited that we may have a potential way of stopping liver cancer.

“At the moment we can recognise those with cirrhosis of the liver who are at high risk of developing liver cancer but all we can do is wait and watch and we can only act when cancer actually develops. So this might be a strategy for prevention and also delay progression for those who already have it.”

Approximately 4,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with liver cancer each year. One in five of those with the disease survive for a year and one in 20 for five years. A further 600,000 people have hepatitis and are therefore at higher risk of developing liver cancer. 

Chloroquine works by switching off two proteins (Toll-like proteins 7 and 9). The proteins are thought to be turned on when liver cells die, which triggers chronic inflammation, stopping cells reproducing properly and creating cancerous cells. 

The researchers found that the drug prevented cancer occurring in 80 per cent of cases and was also found to shrink tumours.

The research has so far only been conducted on mice and rats; however the research team is optimistic that the same success will be repeated in human clinical trials.

Andrew Langford, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust, said: "This is very exciting but it is still early days. Prevention is better than cure…but people really need to look at their lifestyles and stop liver problems before they begin."


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Drugs | News

Statins for 40% of adults

by Admin 18. July 2014 12:52

The latest NICE guidelines have lowered the threshold for statin usage, recommending 40% of adults be prescribed the drugs to cut deaths from stroke and heart attacks.

 In the latest guidance published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), statins are to be recommended on the NHS for anyone with a 10% risk of developing cardiovascular disease in a decade, taking the number of adults eligible for statins up to 17.5 million.

The guidelines have seen NICE halving the “risk threshold” despite recent warnings from top doctors on the risks associated with taking statins. NICE maintains that statins can save lives, with experts predicting that between 20,000 and 50,000 lives could be saved if all those recommended to take statins did so.

NICE has also urged GPs to increase their efforts to identify patients aged 40-75 that may be at risk of heart disease as it continues to be the biggest cause of death in the country, claiming around 180,000 lives each year.

Professor Mark Baker, director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE, said “prevention is better than cure”.

“One of the mainstays of modern medicine is to use treatments to prevent bad things happening in the future, he said, “it's why we drugs to lower blood pressure to prevent heart attacks, strokes, and kidneys disease and it's why we're using statins now.”


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Drugs | News

Child obesity rising in Northern Ireland

by Admin 18. July 2014 12:17

A survey into child health in Northern Ireland has warned that obesity is rising and must be tackled to prevent future health issues.

A recent survey, conducted by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), revealed that child obesity in Northern Ireland is rising, as the number of child patients being classed as overweight rising.

The survey also found that 20% of children are now overweight or obese before they start primary school and established a between levels of income and obesity.

The results prompted the Royal College to call for more public health messages on healthy lifestyles, especially for young parents and those on low-incomes, “to support and explain to them how to make healthy choices, take more exercise and be more active.

Dr Hilary Cass, president of the RCPCH, said the community “should be worried” about the rising levels of obesity. She warned that without action Northern Ireland would see “unhealthy kids turning into unhealthy adults with diabetes, heart disease and kidney problems”.

“Not only should we be tackling it because morally it is the right thing to do, but it makes economic sense to tackle it now.”

The RCPCH will establish an office in Belfast to work on improving child health but has also called for more public health messages to help educate the public.

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News | NHS

Naughty genes identified in bowel cancer breakthrough

by Admin 18. July 2014 11:26

Scientists have identified two genes that prompt bowel cancer cells to become resistant to drugs, raising hopes for potential new treatments.

A team of researchers at Queen’s University in Belfast have discovered two key genes that cause bowel cancer to become resistant to cancer drugs by promoting the cancerous cells to switch on a “survival mechanism”.

The researchers, led by Dr Sandra van Schaeybroeck, also found that adding a drug that blocked these two genes allowed the bowel cancer cells to be killed, raising hopes for potential new treatments for the aggressive disease.

Professor Patrick Johnston, vice-chancellor at Queen’s University, said: “Understanding the genes that cause bowel cancer is a key focus of our research.

“Our discoveries in this deadly disease have identified a new route to clinical application for cancer patients.”

The research was funded by Cancer Research UK and will be used to inform a clinical trial, due to start in September, that will see personalised treatments administered to patients in nine European countries.

Professor David Waugh, director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University, said: The publication of this research by Dr van Schaeybroeck and her team demonstrates our commitment to performing excellent science here in Belfast that can be directly translated to the clinic.”


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General | News

Lilly and Immunocore are Team Cancer

by Admin 18. July 2014 10:45

Lilly has united with biotechnology company Immunocore to research and develop new cancer therapies.

The pair have entered a new alliance to explore and hopefully develop T-cell based cancer treatments, working with Immunocore’s Immune Mobilising Monoclonal T-Cell Receptor Against Cancer (ImmTAC) technology.

Immunocore’s innovative technology is proven to help direct T-cells towards the cancerous ones, encouraging a patient’s immune system to fight off the disease.

Dr Jan Lundberg, executive vice-president for science and technology at Lilly Research Laboratories, said the pharmaceutical company was attracted to Immunocore’s innovative technology as a means of overcoming the challenges of developing cancer treatments.

Dr Lundberg explained: “The major goal and challenge of cancer immunotherapy is to direct the immune system to recognise and destroy cancer. We believe Immunocore's ImmTAC platform has the potential to do just that.”

Under the terms of the new alliance, Immunocore will receive an upfront fee for each programme and have the option of continuing to develop any potential treatments Lilly may highlight on a cost and profit-sharing basis.


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General | News

Superdrug’s online Doctor Shutl service rolls out

by Admin 17. July 2014 14:31

High street health and beauty retailer Superdrug has launched a nationwide* three hour prescription medication delivery service. 

The courier service option is the latest addition to the Superdrug Online Doctor service’s range of fast delivery options. It is available alongside more traditional delivery methods such as next day delivery** and a click-and-collect service*** which allows patients to pick up their order from a local Superdrug pharmacy within three hours of placing their order.

The aim of the new service is to make life easier for patients - instead of going to a local GP to obtain a private prescription, registered Superdrug Online Doctor patients can now order their prescription medication online and have it delivered by courier in under three hours. 

The Shutl courier option is available for some highly time-critical medications such as the morning after pill, erectile dysfunction products, contraceptives and asthma inhalers. It allows patients access to certain regular or emergency medication without delay.

A pilot that has been running in London since March has had positive feedback, which encouraged Superdrug to roll out Shutl delivery nationwide. The service is available for all orders placed before 4pm. Patients can choose whether they would like to receive their medication immediately or pick a 1hour time slot convenient to them. 

Simon Lea, Senior Business Development Manager at Superdrug, said: “Once our doctor has established that a patient can take a particular medication, we want them to benefit from their treatment as quickly as possible. Offering Shutl delivery enables us to provide the fastest online doctor service in the UK.” 

*Delivery available to selected postcodes within a certain proximity to a Superdrug pharmacy and is served by the Shutl delivery service.
** Most items are dispatched using Royal Mail First Class on the day of the order or on the next working day except at weekends.
*** Many of Superdrug's services offer an in-store pickup (Click & Collect) service. 

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General | News

New Global Head of R&D for Merck Serono

by Admin 17. July 2014 13:24

Dr Luciano Rossetti has been appointed Executive Vice President and Global Head of Research & Development of Merck Serono.

Dr Rossetti previously acted as Senior Vice President Late Stage Development at Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), where he was responsible for the entire clinical development from Phase II to Phase V across all therapeutic areas. Before joining MSD in 2006, Rossetti was an internationally recognized academic scientist for 18 years.

He played a key role at MSD in shaping and implementing the development strategy of several potential breakthrough compounds. He restructured the clinical genetics group to better leverage the collaboration between discovery and clinical development.

Belén Garijo, President and CEO at the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA, said: “I’m thrilled to welcome Luciano Rossetti to our division. His breadth of experience and solid track record in both research as well as development together with his distinct leadership profile will be instrumental in driving the development of our promising pipeline to ensure that we will meet our strategic milestones and deliver innovative solutions for unmet medical needs to patients around the world.“



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