August 2015

28 August 2015

Director’s blog

Dr Hilary Burton considers Public Health England’s annual plan for the coming year, but is disappointed that genomics is scarcely mentioned and calls for PHE to make the most of the UK’s research investment in genomics.
Why Public Health England should make the most of genomics

Opinion of the month

PHG Foundation’s Tom Finnegan follows up on the provocative opinion piece by Harvard professor Steven Pinker on bioethics ‘getting in the way’.

Infectious disease

Last month PHG Foundation report, Pathogen Genomics Into Practice, called for urgent action to make the most of genomics in the fight against infections. A new briefing explores whether a cross-species (one-health) approach, to include similar genomic efforts with animals, would benefit both animal and human populations In separate news, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) argues that better coordination and cooperation between healthcare facilities would halve the number of patients infected with hospital-acquired infections.

Science and health policy

This month Public Health England (PHE) released their annual plan, in which they detailed a new programme of organisational change. In our blog we consider the current pressure building on the NHS in the pursuit of a more human-centred service but with increasing financial constraint.
Public Health England plans to build on scientific excellence
Cash is king: trying to do less is more 

Genomics and personalised medicine

It has been a good month for personalised medicine. In the US the National Institute of Health (NIH) is funding the development of a new Centre for Precision Genetics. While a new digital hub, Helix, has been launched with the aim of accelerating consumer adoption of genomics. In research, an investigation into the genetic basis of prostate cancer supports mounting evidence for a rethink of how we define cancers, which the researchers hope will lead to greater precision in diagnosis and, ultimately, better targeted treatments. A new computational method, named PrediXcan, improves detection of genes associated with disease and could potentially identify therapeutic gene-targets faster and with greater accuracy. In separate news, a new international partnership has been established to collect DNA from schizophrenia patients for genomic analysis to uncover the genetic influences behind the disease.
NIH improves federal grant to fund Center for Precision Genetics
New digital hub for genomics launched
Genome analysis stratifies prostate cancers
New method improves detection of causal genes
New international effort to uncover schizophrenia genomics 

Innovations in healthcare

The latest Biomedical Catalyst funding, which aims to move research from discovery to commercialisation, has injected £18 million into a variety of projects creating new treatments, diagnostics and other technologies. In research, viral vector vaccines against respiratory syncytial virus are showing promise in early trials. In other news, Scientists at Ohio State University have claimed to grow a near-complete human brain in a laboratory dish but the scientific community remain sceptical.
Latest Biomedical Catalyst funding for UK medical innovations
Viral vector vaccines show promise against lung disease
Near-complete human brain grown in lab 

Therapeutics and diagnostics

At last there is progress on pancreatic cancer with a test to spot it in its earliest stages a step closer with the discovery of a new biomarker based on the levels of three proteins found in the urine. Meanwhile, a 3D printed pill to treat epilepsy has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.