In the third week of May, Industry Watch brings our readers news of several advancements in the treatment, prevention, and understanding of COVID-19. In recent progress the WHO ‘Solidarity’ trial has restarted with a fresh roster of treatments which may help treat hospitalized patients; the Pfizer vaccine has been given the go ahead by an FDA panel to be offered to 12–15-year-olds; and researchers are seeking to better understand the effects of coronavirus on pregnant patients and infants. We’re also looking at research news covering the role of the blood-brain-barrier in the onset of Alzheimer’s; how RNA may impact treating cancer; a gene therapy for a rare disorder affecting newborns; and the role of bacteria in rheumatoid arthritis.
International COVID-19 Trial to Restart with Focus on Immune Responses
A landmark programme to test potential COVID-19 therapies in dozens of countries is restarting with a fresh roster of treatments — this time aimed at tempering the raging immune responses that can worsen severe disease. The clinical trial, named Solidarity and coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO), will test three drugs that dampen inflammation, an approach that has already shown promise in people hospitalized with COVID-19.
CDC Advisory Group Gives Green Light to Pfizer’s COVID Vaccine for Adolescents
An expert panel have recommended that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine be offered to adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15, opening the door to vaccinating this age group in coming weeks — and before the start of the next school year. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 14 to 0 in support of the recommendation, making the Pfizer vaccine the first to be offered to children under the age of 16. (One member recused herself because she had conducted clinical trials on COVID vaccines.) Other vaccine manufacturers are conducting studies in children as well and are expected to seek authorizations when they complete the work.
Protecting the Next Generation
Now that vaccines, along with mask wearing, physical distancing, and other precautions, are slashing the number of older adults in the U.S. who are hospitalized with or die from COVID-19, physicians and scientists are peering deeper into how SARS-CoV-2 infection and prevention affect special populations—including pregnant women, infants, and children. Researchers in the Harvard Medical School community shared some of the latest findings on the maternal, fetal, and pediatric aspects of COVID-19 in an April 29 virtual public briefing, “COVID-19 in Pregnancy and Childhood.
Cancer: How One Type of RNA Could be the Future of Treatment
Cells are the basic building blocks of all living things. So, to treat or cure almost any disease or condition – including cancer – you first need to have a fundamental understanding of cell biology. While researchers have a pretty good understanding of what each component of a cell does, there are still things we don’t know about them – including the role that some RNAs molecules play in a cell. Finding the answer to this may be key in developing further cancer treatments.
Gene Therapy for ADA-SCID Still Benefitting Patients after Two to Three Years
ADA-SCID, which is estimated to occur in approximately 1 in 200,000 to 1,000,000 newborns worldwide, is caused by mutations in the ADA gene that impair the activity of the adenosine deaminase enzyme needed for healthy immune system function. This impairment leaves children with the condition highly susceptible to severe infections. If untreated, the disease is fatal, usually within the first two years of life. If the ADA-SCID gene therapy is approved, it could become standard for ADA-SCID and many other genetic conditions, and could remove the need to find a matched donor for a bone marrow transplant and the toxic side effects often associated with that treatment.
Damage to a Protective Shield around the Brain May Lead to Alzheimer’s and Other Diseases
The world population is aging, and the number of people with dementias and Alzheimer’s is on the rise. Neuroscientists have a limited understanding of the early triggers of the transition from a young, healthy brain to an old, dysfunctional one. Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases of aging are complex and can have many causes. However, recent research points toward the blood-brain-barrier and suggests a “leak” or “barrier-breach” theory provides a remarkably intuitive and straightforward new model to understand why the brain declines with age.