Blue Steens in October 2020

Catch up on Blue Steens articles and venture further

This month on Blue Steens

Quo vadis?

Career support is often readily offered to young people. What about mature career changers? I feel that we don't make enough use of cross-disciplinary and intergenerational wisdom.

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Beyond Blue Steens

Coronavirus

⊳ Testing

⊳ Treatment

⊳ Vaccination

Biotech

Out and about

1 Oct: HUG Standards. Global Collaboration and Harmonization for Digital Transformation in Health Care, Science Digital @ UNGA 75 [general resources]
7 Oct: IEEE Healthcare: Blockchain & AI Kick-off [replays]
13 Oct: MediLedger Webinar #7: An Implementation Walkthrough of a Blockchain-based Solution for Chargebacks in Life Sciences [replay]
13 Oct: BRG Webinar - Enterprise Applications: Ethereum & Baseline Protocol [replay]
15 Oct: Episode 008 Enterprise DLT Live, Philip Baker, RemediChain [replay]
27 Oct: Blockchain in Use: Internet of Things (IoT), BerChain [replay]
28 Oct: How Public Blockchains Will Reshape Industry Supply Chains & Competition [replay, slides, case study]
30 Oct: ConsenSys Health with Mike McCoy, Memphis Blockchain Distributed Ledgers [replay tbc]
31 Oct: Discussion on Enterprise Blockchain Governance, GBA UAE [replay tbc]

*** If you made it down to this point, thanks for reading this far! Just a wee heads-up; there’s not going to be a November edition, as I’ll be too busy to give it the attention it requires. I’m also contemplating the future of this newsletter thereafter. ***


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In this newsletter I share personal views and observations only. For more information and the privacy policy visit Blue Steens.

Blue Steens in Aug-Sep 2020

Catch up on Blue Steens articles and venture further

Dear reader,

I didn’t forget about you last month! August was incredibly busy and intense. So, I decided to postpone and combine the August and September newsletters. Thank you for your patience! 💐

Aug/Sep on Blue Steens

Plasma vs virus

Convalescent plasma (CP) therapy gained FDA emergency use authorisation (EUA) in August. This is surrounded by some controversy and suspicion of politicisation. The FDA hasn’t been doing too well on that front lately. Others have offered sufficient critical thoughts on those aspects. I decided to cut out the noise in writing my commentary.

Read >>

Animaker

I took some time to chill in September and played with Animaker, a video animation creator. Loads of features in the free version. The interface is fairly intuitive and has a Canva feel to it. Both platforms look great for marketing on a low budget.

You may have noticed my “happy dance” animation elsewhere. In my next trial I created a little teaser for this very newsletter. Enjoy!


Beyond Blue Steens

Coronavirus

⊳ Testing

It seems that after an initial frenzy when seemingly almost any old test could somehow make it on the market (check out April edition for comments on quality issues), we’re now seeing quality kits with added features appear (see also July & June editions).

  • Abbott’s latest COVID-19 test has received FDA EUA and is quickly being snapped up. Point-of-care 15-minute antigen test that detects an active infection from nose swabs. Results are transferred to a test card that uses lateral flow technology for analysis. (FYI, pregnancy tests also use lateral flow.) The card can be hooked up to a free mobile app that provides people who test negative with a temporary encrypted digital health pass.

  • Pioneering Triple Antibody Test developed by University of Exeter spin-out Attomarker can give accurate quantitative results in 7 min. It has received MHRA approval. Developed as point-of-care test to be connected to mobile devices. Unlike other COVID-19 kits that only detect 1 biomarker, this test detects 3 virus proteins and 3 classes of antibodies (IgM/G/A). Thus, it gives an indication of current and past infection.

  • Eurobio Scientific and BGI Genomics obtained CE mark for multiplex PCR tests that distinguish in a single run between main viruses responsible for flu-like symptoms.

⊳ Treatment

  • Drug repurposing has drawn lots of attention during this healthcare crisis. - Eli Lilly's rheumatoid arthritis drug baricitinib (Olumiant) accelerates recovery when used in combination with remdesivir. After mixed results previously, placebo-controlled phase 3 trial of flu drug Avigan also promises faster recovery (see also May & July editions).

  • Big-name consortia are definitely on the rise. Here’s a recent example: The COVID R&D Alliance (Amgen, Takeda, AbbVie & 18 others) is recruiting hospitalised patients to test 3 different drugs.

  • AI tool in development to predict disease course and customise treatment to reduce mortality.

Passive immunisation:

⊳ Vaccination

⊳ Blockchain

Biotech

  • Blood test for prostate cancer determines cancer presence and stage with 99% accuracy based on immune system markers. This will improve detection of early cases and reduce need for invasive biopsies and scans.

  • Painless biodegradable microneedle patch developed at University of Tokyo as simple, low-cost test for prediabetes screening. The needles are porous to allow fluids to be absorbed from the skin and travel to the paper sensor, which changes colour according to glucose levels. Human trials pending.

Medtech

  • B-Temia’s exoskeleton helps stroke patients walk by detecting movements and supporting these with motors.

  • CereGate aims to use ‘mind writing’ with computer-brain interfaces to help patients with neurological disorders or sensory deficits. After successful proof-of-concept study this year and new financing, they are heading in the direction of clinical trials.

  • AIgnostics develops histopathological AI-based image analysis for routine diagnostics and drug development. The tool handles black-box AI limitations by providing outputs that are verifiable by medical specialists.

Miscellaneous

  • Novartis issues EUR 1.85 billion sustainability-linked bond.

  • Insightful: COVID-19 is not a pandemic - “Approaching COVID-19 as a syndemic will invite a larger vision, one encompassing education, employment, housing, food, and environment.”

Out and about

13 Aug: Episode 006 Enterprise DLT Live - Carsten Stöcker, Spherity [replay]
26 Aug: COVID-19 Veterans Health Summit, ConsenSys Health [playlist]
15 Sep: Distributed Healthcare Interoperability and the Coalesce Health Alliance [replay]
17 Sep: Towards a US Research Data Framework, STM [replay]

Connect on Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube if you like.


In this newsletter I share personal views and observations only. For more information and the privacy policy visit Blue Steens.

Blue Steens in July 2020

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This month on Blue Steens

It’s not an immunity passport

There seems to be a perception that a Covid-19 immunity passport is the same as a vaccination passport. This is not so. The choice of words matters!

Read >>


Beyond Blue Steens

Coronavirus

⊳ Testing

  • 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 We talk about PCR testing but don’t consider the ins and outs much. Here’s a Scottish firm that makes samples safe and, in doing so, streamlines testing.

⊳ Treatment

(Hydroxy-) Chloroquine:
  • The WHO has stopped its hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir (HIV drugs) trials in hospitalised patients. See March, May & June reviews for previous news. Both trials were discontinued due to insignificant reduction in mortality. Trials in non-hospitalised patients continue. However, lopinavir/ritonavir might cause heart problems.

Remdesivir:
  • USA has bought Gilead’s global stocks for July to Sep. If generics (see also June review) don’t come out quickly and their distribution isn’t widened, the rest of the world will barely get any supplies for the time being.

  • EMA has recommended conditional approval for treatment of severe cases.

Passive immunisation:
  • South Korea approves trials of Celltrion's neutralising antibody treatment (see also June review)

  • Last month I reported on cows producing human antibodies. This month I discovered that engineered llama antibodies have been found to neutralise the virus. As bizarre as this may sound, these are not the only animals whose antibodies have captured researchers’ attention. For example Elasmogen, an Aberdeen (Scotland) company, makes use of engineered antibody-like molecules inspired by sharks. They are also looking into developing COVID-19 applications. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Anti-inflammatory treatment:
Other:
  • Inconclusive results from favipiravir (Avigan) Japan trial but promising results in India phase 3 trial (see also May review).

  • Novartis launches first-of-its-kind not-for-profit portfolio of medicines for symptomatic treatment. 15 generic and OTC medicines to be sold in up to 79 countries.

  • I try and steer clear of vague suggestions of potential treatments. However, EPO has caught my attention because it highlights something that’s fundamentally flawed in the prevailing drug development incentive system. There’s anecdotal evidence and academically founded hypotheses that EPO can improve the COVID-19 disease course. The problem is that there’s little incentive for pharma companies to get interested because there is no more patent protection.

  • FDA’s Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program (CTAP) website has some nice infographics and charts that track therapeutic developments.

⊳ Vaccination

Biotech

  • Takeda & Carmine Therapeutics join forces developing and commercialising a novel non-viral rare disease gene therapy that uses a red blood cell extracellular vesicles (RBCEV) platform. RBCEV are thought to avoid side effects seen with the traditional virus-based approach, allow repeat-dosing, can carry more genetic material and be modified to improve distribution in the body.

  • EMA approval for Bristol-Myers Squibb’s first-in-class anaemia drug Reblozyl (luspatercept) for patients dependent on blood transfusion. It is an erythroid maturation agent that supports the patient’s body in producing its own red blood cells.

Out and about

I find myself in loads of online events these days, some of which kindly release their replays. In addition to hyperlinking these below, I have started compiling my favourites and other relevant videos I come across in a blockchain playlist on YouTube.

1 July: VC Investment into Blockchain- MMC Ventures on Why Blockchain and Why Now [replay]
2 July: A Framework for Blockchain Interoperability [replay]
2 July: Enterprise DLT Live Episode 003 - Luis Macias, GrainChain [replay]
9 July: Accelerating Clinical Trials by Leveraging Blockchain Technology Solutions [replay]
15 July: Book Talk Session 1: COVID-19 and Blockchain for Medical Research [replay]
16 July: Enterprise DLT Live Episode 004 - Darrell O'Donnell, CULedger [replay]
21 July: Acceleration of Remote Clinical Trials Using BlockChain [replay]
  • There’s a nice wee video about halfway through the session that demos the blockchain solution. Overall, I preferred the recent Health Unchained podcast with Rama Rao (CEO Bloqcube) on the topic though:

22 July: Reassessing life sciences supply chains to increase pandemic resilience and governmental actions [register for replay]
22 July: Book Talk Session 2: Blockchain for Medical Research [replay]
27 July: STOP COVID-19 Hackathon: What's Next? [will hyperlink if replay becomes available]
29 July: Pandemic Impact & Future of Blockchain [replay]
30 July: Episode 005 Enterprise DLT Live - Adam Krellenstein, Symbiont [replay]

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In this newsletter I share personal views and observations only. For more information and the privacy policy visit Blue Steens.

Blue Steens in June 2020

Catch up on Blue Steens articles and venture further

This month on Blue Steens

Convalescent plasma chained

Last month I blogged about being a mentor at the Stop Covid-19 hackathon. This month's article explains the team's idea & solution. A winning idea, may I add! 🏆😁 Our international team (Brazil, France, Scotland) tackled the challenge of improving the supply of convalescent plasma using blockchain technology.

Read >>

Let’s go & play!

Video with loads of insight and motivational advice by Neil deGrasse Tyson (as you’d expect). What absolutely resonated with me was this, “What is an adult scientist but a kid who’s never lost the curiosity.“ - This captures my sentiment precisely. 😄

Watch >>


Beyond Blue Steens

Coronavirus

⊳ Testing

For quick explanations of the difference between PCR and antibody tests, check out March’s & April’s COVID-19 Testing sections.

  • Kahala Biosciences & Rymedi introduce blockchain-tracked antibody test. Check out Robert Miller’s write-up.

  • A microfluidic test for viral antibodies has been developed for avian flu but could be adapted for COVID-19. This is an interesting piece of technology. The article doesn’t mention price. Yet, I wonder about the cost-benefit relation, especially for use in a pandemic, given that there is a plethora of possibly cheaper and increasingly accurate COVID-19 antibody kits on the market (May review).

  • Illumina received emergency use authorisation for its next-generation sequencing-based (NGS) test. NGS is sort of like PCR on steroids. In terms of routine COVID-19 testing, I gather that the main advantage of NGS would be the higher through-put. Thus, it could scale up testing capacities quickly. For lower through-put, PCR seems cheaper.

  • Accuracy of home swab tests is catching up with swabs performed by healthcare professionals. Besides the advantage of personal protection, it would be a great relief if healthcare staff was freed up for services that have been dropped or reduced during the crisis.

  • FDA warns against using antibody COVID-19 tests on ‘removed’ list.

⊳ Treatment

(Hydroxy-) Chloroquine:
Remdesivir:
Passive immunisation:
Immunosuppressants:
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs dexamethasone & tocilizumab appear to improve disease progression & survival of severely ill patients.

⊳ Vaccination

We distinguish between active and passive immunisation strategies. Active immunisation stimulates our body to mount its own immune response. This is achieved, for example, by administering weakened virus versions. Newer, supposedly safer techniques use DNA (see May review, Cytiva & Takara Bio) or mRNA (below) vaccines. I outlined the passive strategy in the May review.

  • Whilst running their Phase 2 study (300 participants), Moderna has finalised the Phase 3 protocol following FDA feedback. Controlled US trial to start July 2020 with 30,000 participants. Moderna’s vaccine is interesting, as it uses mRNA. We all have mRNA in our cells, in fact, we need it to live because it’s a crucial part of how our cells function. Moderna’s mRNA tells our body to build virus proteins, which are harmless on their own. Our immune cells will then see these and mount a defence. If we later encounter the actual virus, our immune system will already be prepared.

  • Sinovac reveals positive preliminary results from phase 1/2 trials.

  • International supply deals are being prepared, e.g.: AstraZeneca & Vaccines Alliance of Europe, Israel & Moderna

  • S.Korea's Genexine begins phase 1 trial of DNA vaccine.

  • Oxford vaccine in Brazil - first country outside UK to start testing.

⊳ Other news

Biotech

  • Memed received CE mark for test that distinguishes between bacterial and viral infections based on algorithmic analysis of the patient’s immune response. The goal is to reduce the unnecessary use of broad-spectrum antibiotics and, thus, slow the development of antibiotic resistance.

  • faCellitate originates from a BASF internal business incubator and develops polymer structures for 3D cell cultures for experimental use. They have released their first product BIOFLOAT. 3D cell culture is closer to physiological environments and, hence, supposed to yield more relevant results with the potential to reduce animal testing. [German]

Medtech

  • Ruma has developed a blockchain-facilitated way of contactless urine sampling. The original motivation stems from the desire to improve the monitoring of drug addicts on substitution therapy. The system tracks the unique code of each marker substance, which patients swallow before sampling, from manufacture to lab-validated patient sample. The system further offers secure communication and patient management with digital identities. [German]

  • Merantix Healthcare is the first company in Germany to have received the CE mark for AI-enabled cancer screening software intended for early detection & prevention. The AI has been trained on over 2M breast cancer images. [German]

Out and about

3 June: The State of the Blockchain Ecosystem [replay]
4 June: Blockchain isn't for everything [replay]
4 June: EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2020 [replay]
8 June: Dignity Preserving Healthcare: Privacy by Design [replay], CogX 2020
18 June: Enterprise DLT Live Episode 002 - Heather Flannery, ConsensysHealth [replay]
18 June: Spherity's Open Office Series, w/Guest Luigi Riva of Swisscom Blockchain
19 June: The future of drug discovery for healthy ageing [replay & notes]
22-26 June: WorkPride by mygwork
30 June: Mediledger - Contracts & Chargebacks, the GPO perspective: How to guarantee correct drug pricing for your members

Connect on Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube if you like.


In this newsletter I share personal views and observations only. For more information and the privacy policy visit Blue Steens.

Blue Steens in May 2020

Catch up on Blue Steens articles and venture further

This month on Blue Steens

Stop COVID-19 hackathon

Hackathons aren’t necessarily just for coders. I’d encourage anyone to contribute to such events. You can be sure to walk away enriched at the end. Read about my most recent experience at a global COVID-19-themed hackathon.

Read >>


Beyond Blue Steens

Coronavirus

⊳ Testing

For quick explanations of the difference between genetic (PCR) and antibody (serological) tests, check out March’s & April’s COVID-19 Testing sections.

⊳ Treatment

  • Remdesivir:

  • (Hydroxy-) Chloroquine:

  • Passive immunisation:

    Passive immunisation involves administering protective antibodies to the patient (essentially what breast milk does for a baby). Plasma therapy is one option (more details in April newsletter), purified or lab-produced antibodies are other ways. In principle, this approach can be applied prophylactically (vaccination) or as treatment.

  • Abivax phase 2b/3 trial approved in Germany. First-in-class small molecule treatment with anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects. > 1000 elderly & high-risk patients, trial start late May. (Other trials for treatment of HIV and some inflammatory diseases.) [German]

  • Triple therapy with interferon beta-1b, lopinavir-ritonavir and ribavirin (phase 2 trial) may reduce period of viral shedding and, thus, reduce viral load in patient and contagiousness.

  • Glenmark Pharmaceuticals’ anti-viral favipiravir (Avigan) to be trialled in India & Japan to ship Avigan to 43 countries for further trials. Phase 2 & 3 trials already ongoing in some countries.

  • Synairgen’s Interferon beta to prevent harmful lung damage trialled in UK

  • 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Scottish Pneumagen’s drug works by preventing the entry of viruses into lung cells. Hence, it may be of benefit against an array of airway viruses.

⊳ Vaccination

⊳ Other news

Biotech

Out and about


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In this newsletter I share personal views and observations only. For more information and the privacy policy visit Blue Steens.

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