This is a fun ‘innovation’ story about these giant rats trained to sniff out tuberculosis. This story’s been done a hundred times, but I never get tired of reading about it. My neighbor Jay has diabetes, by the way, and his dog is trained to smell when his insulin levels are off. The nose knows!
Clinical trials. Research findings. Data. Metrics. Numbers.
Don McNeil of the New York Times looks at the many reports about how a ‘cure’ for AIDS is on the horizon and explains why it’s not.
Federal health officials announced this week that they were pulling the plug early on a study of an experimental AIDS vaccine (known as HVTN 505) due to evidence the vaccine didn’t protect against HIV infection.
The news reports were bleak:
LA Times HIV vaccine trial shut down
US News & World Report HIV vaccine recipients more likely to catch virus
It’s bad news since the only way we are likely to ever fully prevent HIV infection will be when we get an effective vaccine. And there is scientific evidence that an AIDS vaccine is possible, as I reported on regarding a clinical trial done in Thailand (pre-Humanosphere and post newspaper career) years ago for the Aids Vaccine Advocacy Coalition. They paid me to do it, but the reporting was done with full editorial control and independence.
But there’s another way to look at this – as progress, actually. Because science is actually often all about finding some useful facts from a failure.
“We’re all disappointed, but it’s important to note that we will still learn something from this study,” said Julie McElrath, head of the Seattle trials unit for the HVTN, HIV Vaccine Trials Network (which is headquartered in Seattle, at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center). “A definitive answer, whether yes or no, is progress.” Continue reading
This is a cool story. The US Food and Drug Administration has developed a device that the agency hopes can help combat the growing problem of fake drugs. This will be even more important for the developing world than in the West. As the LA Times says:
In sub-Saharan Africa, 20% of the drugs used to fight malaria are outright counterfeits, and 35% are “substandard”–meaning they are not potent enough to treat a patient’s malaria…. Because fake or diluted malaria drugs are a big business for counterfeiters–and because malaria continues to kill 660,000 people a year and sicken hundred of thousands more–the FDA and its partners have chosen to test its effectiveness first on these drugs.
I’m not sure we needed scientists to figure this one out, but I’m sure the support for the global plan to eradicate polio is welcome:
Scientists in 80 countries, including Nobel laureates and the heads of public health institutions, have signed a declaration of support for the plan. Eradication of the disease is “an urgent and achievable global health priority”, they say.
Thanks to a fake vaccine ploy by the CIA in Pakistan, polio workers have been increasingly targeted by militants. Switching to the more reliable injectable (as opposed to oral) may be important also. But insecurity is right now the biggest threat to the eradication campaign.
Malaria remains one of the world’s biggest killers and also a massive economic drag on poor countries, poor families.
One of our best weapons against this scourge is a drug known as artemisinin, which is harvested from the plant sweet wormwood and, as a crop, is about as predictable as corn or hog futures.
A major new initiative to be launched tomorrow in Italy by Seattle-based PATH in collaboration with the French drug maker Sanofi aims to introduce more predictability – and more of the drug.
“Our goal is to stabilize both the price and supply,” said Ponni Subbiah, head of global drug development for PATH’s subsidiary OneWorld Health – a non-profit drug company based in San Francisco that PATH acquired in 2011 to expand its global health expertise in this area usually left up to commercial drug makers.
On Thursday, at Sanofi’s manufacturing facility in Garessio, Italy, Subbiah and others will officially launch industrial scale production of semi-synthetic artemisinin aimed at producing 35 metric tons of it – approximately 70 million antimalarial treatments. Continue reading
Here’s a very long, well-written article about how technology (mostly cell phones and mobile money) will boost African farming. I highlight it not because I think it’s great but rather because it is so typical a narrative – and simplistic. “A wide range of innovations are being developed in Kenya to help increase farmers’ access to inputs, information and markets, and to boost their productivity.”
Not mentioned are the problems caused farmers from being displaced (land grabs), climate change, trade imbalances (and self-serving food aid programs like the US government’s). Cell phones are great and transformatve, but they likely won’t solve the more systemic and political problems that keep smallholder farmers poor.