Conversations with a CEO: Biotech Brothers Interviews Dr. Alex Zhavoronkov

As someone who writes about pharma and the biotech industry, I get invited to join the sidelines in hearing the stories of innovators in our field. I truly enjoy the idea of reporting about the research and innovations that scientists and CEOs take on.

When I first heard about the opportunity to sit down and talk to Dr. Alex, the founder of an artificial intelligence company in healthcare, I felt a rush. The chance to have a glimpse of the future in drug discovery.  As I was getting ready for the interview, what came to my mind was movies I saw as a child. Do you remember the film I,ROBOT the one with Will Smith? A very futuristic idea when people first hear about it, yet we arrived at an era where it no longer seems impossible.

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Dr. Alex Zhavoronkov is the CEO and founder of Insilico Medicine. A company with the mission to have you living past the age of 150 years, maybe, even more.

What would you do if you knew you could live to 150 years?

Not only is he leading that project, but he has taken the ambitious goal of starting pharma.ai, young.ai, and chemistry.ai. Companies that are working together to harness the power of deep learning, where algorithms scour through images, videos, and genomic data recognizing trends and patterns to design compounds and molecules for medicine. (Woah)

Pharma.ai is one of his projects that uses genomic data to develop drugs. He has collaborations and partnerships with the biggest pharmaceuticals in the world, AstraZeneca and WuXi APPtech. A CEO that is changing the way that drugs are developed.

This is big. Drug discovery in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology is expensive and costly when trying to find the next billion-dollar drug. It takes a decade to have a drug approved, and 99% of the time, drugs fail phase III because it didn’t reach their endpoints. If you’re an investor that invested millions of dollars, you can kiss that money goodbye. Better hope the company has another IND (Investigational New Drug). 

His company has been cited more than 3,000 times, something that should not be left unnoticed. His goal is to publish an article every week. As a scientist, it is essential to note that publishing research is vital for transparency. It is what allows you to talk and be reviewed by other scientists about your research, experiment, results, and form a discussion of ways to improve experimental designs.

 I decided to ask him some more personal questions. I wanted to know more about the person behind the CEO and Scientist.

What does Dr. Alex do in his free time?

Dr. Zhavoronkov made sure to let me know that in his free time, he works. A workaholic determined to reach his goals.

What inspires Dr. Alex?

He said Jeff Bezos and Deep Mind. I’m sure the world knows who Jeff Bezos is by now if you have Alexa or an Amazon account you’re using his technology. Jeff Bezo’s has artificial intelligence in every part of Amazon. This has allowed him to build one of the wealthiest company in the world. Deep Mind is a company aiming to solve the most complex problems in the world without teaching a computer to solve the problem.

If you could have any answer in the world, what would it be?

He made sure to let me know that living forever. As someone who knew the story to his company, I wasn’t surprised that he continues his ambitions for longevity.

If you want to learn more about Dr. Alex Zhavoronkov, I invite you to visit his site. Artificial intelligence is the future of biology and chemistry. With innovators like Dr. Alex leading the way, who knows how long will it take to create a drug that will treat and cure diseases. I’m betting it will be soon.

Do you want to live forever? Comment your thoughts!

Boehringer Ingelheim to Develop Cytokines with Trutino

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Boehringer decides to partner with Trutino to enhance lives and curb cancer. Read this article to understand the details of the agreement and why they decided to enter the partnership.

Introduction

Boehringer has partnered with Trutino after agreeing on terms with the Biosciences Company. The move was orchestrated to come up with three cytokine therapies. The agreement has Trutino presenting a platform that will yield effective and safer cytokines in discovering three oncology drugs for Ingelheim.

Leveraging the anti-cancer capabilities of cytokines have been thwarted by adverse events that happen when proteins are added on systemically. Trutino is known as one of the leading research outfits that look to unlock any therapeutic capabilities of cytokines. It aims to achieve this by targeting how proteins behave in the tumor microenvironment and hence evading dose-limiting toxicities.

Boehringer has assessed the potential in Trutino’s efforts in trying to solve the problem, and that is why they have decided to join hands with the preclinical-stage biotech. This agreement asks of Trutino to take up three cytokines to preclinical affirmation. From that point now, Boehringer will chip in and handle the matter for further developments.

The senior vice president at Boehringer Ingelheim, Jonathan Sedgwick, says that coming up with an innovative and robust cytokine therapeutic program to their cancer immunology portfolio shows how the company is determined to take on cancer. Thus such an initiative provides them with the opportunity to partner with an oncolytic virus, which is an existing cancer vaccine.

The ODC platforms from Trutino mask the activities of cytokines up to that point when they reach the tumor area and be fully activated. That curtails the systematic exposure of the cancerous cells, and therefore, there is a higher safety margin than other cytokine treatments. Trutino generates these new ODC molecules, thereby conducting the preclinical validation.

The CEO and founder of Trutino, Philip Kim, said that they were excited about partnering with Boehringer, which he termed as a figurehead in cancer immunology that addresses the medical needs of patients.

Boehringer is known to have an intense commitment to innovative scientific inventions, and it brings cancer therapies to the market. Trutino has been in business since 2018, but it kept a low profile in the initial two years. The Biotech gained access to Boehringer via the involvement during the BI Innovation Prize.

As mentioned earlier, Trutino looks to do away with the side effects of the exposure of cytokines to proteins by masking their activity. However, looking back at the initial stages of Trutino, there is no available data in the public that backs up that hypothesis.

Boehringer Involvement with Small Companies

The company has provided more than 200 startup businesses in life-sciences and mentoring different companies while giving them access to expertise from senior leaders in the company. Boehringer has even awarded several entrepreneurs with lab spaces for free under a program named “Golden Ticket.”

The company is determined to enhance and improve the lives of people by looking after their health. These programs enable Boehringer to confer their rich expertise to innovative entrepreneurs and businesses and also give guidance on any matter concerning science to realize big technological ideas.

This agreement looks to strengthen Boehringer’s immune-oncology portfolio. The portfolio brings together oncolytic viruses, cancer vaccines, T cell engagers, and myeloid targeting platforms. Such platforms aim at producing cold tumors that cannot be easily detected by the immune system.                                        

What are your thoughts on this partnership? Comment Below

High Drug Prices the New Standard

Drug prices has continued to climb to an absurd high price. It is imperative that information about these drugs be made public so that we broaden the awareness about them. Even though a good part of the population have the privilege to only need to pay for Tylenol, some people have to come out of pocket to what could buy a nice luxury car. Here are the information on the top 10 most expensive drugs in the world.

Myalept – $71,306

In 2020 Myalept still holds the number 1 spot for most expensive drug. Myalept continues to receive an increase in price by 9.9%, which brings the price up by almost $7000. This medicine is the only one of its kind, used to treat a rare disease for generalized lipodystrophy.

Ravicti – $55,341

Horizon Therapeutics manufactures Ravicti which is used to treat urea cycle disorders. This condition is genetic, of which is when there is a level of high ammonia in the bloodstream. This is one of the 2 medicines that this company manufactures that has an insane price tag.   

Mavenclad – $53,730

Mavenclad is a drug that is used to treat the relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis. This is one of the newer drugs on the list this year. At this point a $0 copay card is only offered to some commercial insurance clients.

Actimmune – $52,777

It comes to no surprise that Actimmune is the 2nd drug manufactured by Horizon Therapeutics. Actimmune is used to treat osteoporosis and chronic granulomatous. The company does offer a program to patients to get the medicine at no cost.

The other drugs that made this list are:

Oxervate – $48,498

Takhzyro – $45,464

Daraprim – $45,000

Juxtapid – $44,714

Cinryze – $44,141

 Chenodal – $42,570

The total of all these drugs together come to a whopping $503,541. Enough to buy a mansion in some states. This is to bring awareness to the public and see what direction these drugs are going.

What are your thoughts on drug prices? Comment Below

Do you want to live Healthier? Do a Mediterranean Diet to improve your microbiome

People have been giving their testimonies about the effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet towards promoting cardiac health. However, the scarcity of facts about the impact of the diet on the aging process is glaring within the science community. As a result, researchers from the University of Cork led a team of investigators to find out the effects of the Mediterranean diet on the aging population.

The study conducted across five countries found out that doing the Mediterranean diet for a year enhances the performance of the gut bacteria associated with healthy aging. They also found that it shrinks the number of those linked to unhealthy inflammation in old people.

mmm.. salad

The researchers put their conclusions in print through an article titled “Mediterranean diet intervention alters the gut microbiome in older people reducing frailty and improving health status: the NU-AGE 1-year dietary intervention across five European countries.”

“Aging comes with the decline of multiple body functions and inflammation which jointly promote frailty. Our team of investigators and we have discovered that feebleness correlates with changes in the gut microbiota in a way fast-tracked by consuming a restricted diversity diet,” the researchers noted.

Past research proposes that a poor regimen, which isn’t uncommon among the aging population, lessens the diversity of the microbiota, leading to the acceleration of aging.

Recently, the scientists embarked on verifying whether a Mediterranean diet may improve the microbiome of older people. In hopes of slowly down the process of aging. The research was carried out across five countries (France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, and the U.K.) over a 12-month period, and it was designed specifically for the elderly subjects.

The age of individuals used for the research ranged from 65 to 79; their gut biomes were analyzed before and after placing them on the regimen. The participants were grouped into three categories: frail, on the verge of frailty, or not frail.

Interestingly, the 12-month diet had a huge positive impact on their gut biomes. A more detailed analysis showed that the changes were a result of an in the bacteria associated with the production of useful short-chain fatty acids.

Furthermore, the microbes that multiplied with the introduction of the Mediterranean diet performed as “cornerstone” species, which implies they are important for a steady “gut environment,” eliminating other microbes related to frailty. The transformations were generally determined by addition in dietary fiber and other nutrients and minerals—particularly B6, B9, C, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.

Noticeably, the discoveries have nothing to do with the individual’s age or weight, the two of which impact the composition of the microbiome. And keeping in mind that there were slight differences in the make-up of an individual’s gut microbiome, depending on the individual’s nation of origin, the reaction to the Mediterranean diet after the research period was comparable and stable, regardless of nationality.

The researchers pointed out that aging people experience dental problems, so it is not viable to have them eat a Mediterranean diet. However, the beneficial bacteria associated with this study might improve their chances of combating frailty.

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A Protein that Prevents Tau Clearance Could Be The Key In Alzheimer’s

With the passage of time and the advent of drastic changes in the generic lifestyle of the common man, many aged individuals are coming under the trap of several diseases, with Alzheimer being the most common one. Biomedical science is continuously working towards new and effective ways of treating Alzheimer’s with gradual developments in the field of neurogenetics. Generally, in the bodies of old people, proteins undergo a cycle of malformation and degradation over a period of time. This is mainly dependent on genetics and mental lifestyle. These changes in protein structures lead to a class of diseases called proteinopathy. 

Recently, Morsani College of Medicine (University of South Florida) conducted a study and concluded that one of the causes of dementia is the gathering of tau tangles, which happens because of the secretion of a protein named as β-arrestin2. They disrupt the process of eradication of tau from the brain, which is a neurotoxin. Furthermore, studies also indicated that the component responsible for various dementias, neurotic disorders, and degradation of cognitive abilities could be strategically blocked towards frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) so that tau clearance can smoothly take place. This neurodegeneration can be prevented by blocking β-arrestin2 oligomers.

People in the age group 45-65 are prone to dementias such as Alzheimer’s and FTLD because of emaciation in the side/front areas of the brain. The former one is characterized by the accumulation of the protein – amyloid-beta (Aβ) or amyloid plaques. This results in neuron deaths, which worsens the condition of the patient. However, some studies also found that accumulation of tau is related to cognitive malfunction as well as ill effects of amyloid plaques. Apart from this, it was noticed that current medications for dealing with Aβ are inefficient for treatments.

Moreover, AD pathogenesis has a relationship with the GPCRs (G Protein-Coupled Receptors) according to the research conducted in the past few years. However, it is unclear how these GPCRs influence neurodegeneration and AD pathogenesis. Previous studies show that β-arrestin2 enhances the production rate of amyloid-beta. This drives researchers to work more on this domain because of direct correlation. β-arrestin2 is a very interesting protein because the monomers of β-arrestin2 help in receptor regulation, but when they are clogged, it results in oligomerization. As of now, scientists need to study more about the intricacies of β-arrestin2 oligomers.

The abnormal tau can also be reduced by a dose of Hsp90 inhibitors. The degradation is regulated as Hsp90 helps the formation of complexes that have a multi-component form. Some researchers also assert that genopathy is one of the few ways to treat neurodegeneration. This is generally done by introducing some molecule specific inhibitors such that tau tangles are cleared without any hindrance. Another effective treatment could be blocking oligomerization of β-arrestin2 so that FTLD-tau can also be prevented. 

The conclusion of the studies suggests that the key factor causing this neural problem is beta-arrestin 2, which is responsible for clots that form tau-tangles, leading to Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive dysfunction, and other related disorders.

The Best Paying Jobs in STEM

Pursuing a science job can be amazing since it helps you establish a career and pursue amazing things in life. But at the same time this also comes with its fair share of challenges, as you can imagine. So now you have to wonder, which are the best paying jobs in the science field and which ones are great for you!

Natural sciences manager

You can earn around $140,000 per year and your focus is on managing a team of scientists and development projects. You also need to stock the labs, oversee their activity and review the results of all their research. This is obviously a management position, but a very important one and which can bring in front amazing results in the long term.

Pharmacist

A pharmacist in the US can earn quite a lot of money, well into 6 figures most of the time. The average pharmacist income is $124,000. You will need to create medications and also study their side effects. On top of that, you will need to research the way chemicals affect the human body too. Keep in mind that you need a Doctor of Pharmacy degree if you want to pursue this type of career.

Chemical engineers

This is an interesting science career with some amazing benefits. The chemical engineer will use equipment and processes that focus on turning chemicals into commercial products. Such an engineer can create anything from pharma products to plastics or even food. You need just a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, then you can improve from there. The average income is $114,000.

Material scientists

A material scientist will need to have a lot of physics, chemistry and biology knowledge. And then they need to analyze the structure, properties and performance of materials in order to identify the right uses for them. This job pays around $102,000 on average and it’s a multi-disciplinary field which needs you to have an advanced degree for it.

Medical research scientists

Such a job requires a lot of different aspect to pursue. Basically, you are trying to find new ways to boost human health naturally. You are also trying to find methods of preventing illnesses while also uncovering treatments. This type of science career is projected to grow immensely within the next decade and right now it averages at around $100,000 per year, maybe even more than that.

Computational scientist

A computational scientist will usually create computer models stimulating the physical phenomena. The job itself pays $90,000 and the interesting thing is that you can study cancer, how it affects the human cell mutation, but at the same time you can also study the way an aircraft flies and what can be improved. It’s certainly a broad science job, but a rewarding one nonetheless.

All these jobs are great if you want to pursue an amazing science career. They are very well paid, and most of them can be pursued even if you just have a bachelor’s degree. Plus, science jobs are in very high demand, so if you want to have a great career in the long run, the science field seems like the right way to go!


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