Monday, July 26, 2010

The art of funding science

Finding the appropriate funding for modern science is an important topic. The availability of money can drive scientific inquiry just as powerfully as curiosity or necessity can.

Several TEDTalks discuss this often-hidden driver of scientific research. Highly recommended is the TEDTalk from medical activist Michael Milken. In his work fighting prostate cancer, Milken has developed a groundbreaking approach to funding medical research to get significant, near-term results.

Look, too, to Alan Russell for a searing vision of how current research is funded. After sharing 15 minutes of jaw-dropping stories about regenerative medicine, he outlines in 3 brisk minutes the politics behind why the United States is slow to fund this work.

And Peter Diamandis of the X Prize shares his vision of a bold new kind of research funding, based on a big idea and a big reward.

More: Antonio Giordano, a cancer researcher at Temple University in Philadelphia, had a vision to help some brilliant Italian cancer researchers work within the US's comparatively well-funded research system. Where did he go for seed money? From the pizza magnate Mario Sbarro, who then helped build a creatively-funded research effort with Temple University, the Sbarro Health Research Organization.

Material reposted from the TED Blog under the Creative Commons License.

Creative strategies for obtaining informed consent in rural clinical trials

David Diemert of George Washington Unversity and his collaborators in Brazil used an informational video to explain a hookworn vaccine trial in the rural community of Minas Gerais in Southeastern Brazil. The group measured attitudes, fears, and perceptions through a structured questionnaire before and after the clinical trial.

In the paper, they observed that video materials were a successful tool among patients in resource-limited populations to increase understanding about the purpose of vaccination and possible adverse effects of a novel vaccine under study. Although more than 90% said that they would participate in a hookworm vaccine trial, an increase in the number who expressed fear of being vaccinated with an experimental vaccine was seen after viewing the video (51.4% post-video versus 29.2% pre-video).

The group concluded that educational tools can be specially designed to significantly improve understanding and likelihood of obtaining truly informed consent for participation in clinical research.

read full article: Gazzinelli, et al. 2010. CT educ thru analogies

Material reposted under the Creative Common License.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Nature Asia Pacific releases 2009 index

The Nature Publishing Group (NPG) Nature Asia-Pacific has pioneered an effort to rank the research output of institutions in the Asia Pacific region with the release of the Nature Asia-Pacific Publishing Index.

The index provides data on the number of primary research articles published in Nature journals by institutions from the Asia-Pacific region, India, and Australasia. The Nature Asia-Pacific Publishing Rankings 2009 is the first print issue of this ambitious and pioneering project.

According to a written introduction by David Swinbanks, publishing director and CEO of NPG Nature Asia-Pacific, the index also displays "rankings by country, institution and research journal as well as historical data by country extending back to 1998. This historical data shows the dramatic rise of output of high quality research from some countries in region, in particular China".

The 2009 report is free for download at Unregistered users of the site are advised to sign up for free.

disease burden correlates with national IQ

Christopher Eppig and colleagues made an intriguing proposition that infections and parasites affect brain development.

In the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Eppig's paper argues that national intelligence is correlated negatively with the national rate of infectious disease. Support is provided by correlation and linear modelling techniques. The graph shows the position of countries included in the study in terms of disease burden and national IQ level.

Like all other hypotheses for causation, these proposals must be taken with a grain of salt. Further studies must be done to establish causation, such as by longitudinal studies on the rate of infectious disease over time.

It has been previously theorized that national differences on intelligence may explain the differences in economic development of rich and poor countries. Now, policymakers is provided some evidence that lack of development itself, e.g., inadequate social welfare and health provisions, may explain the difference in intelligence.

read full article: Eppig, C. et al. 2010. Parasite prevalence and the worldwide distribution of cognitive ability

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

At last, malaria-free mosquitoes

by Patrick Reilly, July 16, 2010

In a study published on July 15 in PLoS Pathogens, researchers demonstrate how to genetically alter mosquitoes so they no longer transmit the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, which causes malaria in humans.

read full PLoS Pathogens article: Riehle, et al. 2010. Akt activation in Anopheles mosquitoes

AIDS 2010 Session: The Search for an HIV Vaccine

The Search for an HIV Vaccine
Where Are We, Where Are We Going, and How Can We Get There Faster?

session transcript (pdf): The Search for an HIV Vaccine

This AIDS 2010 satellite features expert discussion on recent progress and future directions in HIV vaccine research and development. The session includes:

* a review of the last 25 years of HIV vaccine research and development;

* a panel discussion on the progress that's been made including discussions on next steps following the RV144 Thai prime-boost study results and in developing the next generation of vaccine candidates for testing;

*an update on the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise Scientific Strategic Plan for the field; and

*a panel discussion on the way forward, which will consider some of the cross-cutting considerations such as industry engagement, developing world infrastructure, community engagement, opportunities for young and early-career investigators, mobilizing resources and building clinical trial and regulatory capacity.

Online coverage of XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna

The International AIDS Society partners with Kaiser Family Foundation to offer daily, comprehensive coverage of the ongoing conference for free. Worldwide online access to the XVIII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010) taking place in Vienna, Austria on July 18-23, 2010 includes daily webcasts, live coverage, podcasts and news recaps.

Kaiser, an independent operating foundation and non-partisan source of facts, information, and analysis, based in Menlo Park, CA, USA, is the official webcaster for AIDS 2010, providing daily coverage of conference developments on its website,

Saturday, July 10, 2010

US NIH Funds 10 International Centers of Excellence for Malaria Research

Thursday, July 8, 2010
Courtesy: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

In an effort to accelerate the control of malaria and help eliminate it worldwide, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, today announced approximately $14 million in first-year funding to establish 10 new malaria research centers around the world.

The seven-year awards will establish the International Centers of Excellence for Malaria Research (ICEMRs) in regions where malaria is endemic, including parts of Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands and Latin America. These regions include some of the focus countries of the President’s Malaria Initiative, an effort that since 2005 has worked to fight malaria in the regions most affected by the disease. Infection by malaria-causing parasites results in approximately 240 million cases around the globe annually, and cause more than 850,000 deaths each year. Teams of scientists involved in the ICEMR program will be conducting research in more than 20 countries.

“One of our primary goals with these centers is to fund cutting-edge research in malaria-endemic areas that will keep up with the rapidly changing epidemiology of the disease,” says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

Malaria has been eliminated from many parts of the globe, but 40 percent of the world’s population still live in areas where they are at risk for contracting the disease. According to Lee Hall, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Parasitology and International Programs Branch in NIAID, sustainable and effective malaria control requires research in multiple settings on the complex interactions among the parasite, the mosquito vector, the local ecology and the human host.

“The ICEMR program seeks to address this need by creating a network of multidisciplinary research centers in malaria-endemic settings,” Dr. Hall says. “The centers aim to generate critical knowledge, tools and evidence-based strategies to support intervention and control programs by government organizations and health care institutions.”

The centers will integrate clinical and field approaches with laboratory-based immunologic, molecular and genomic methods. They will adapt their research to changes in malaria epidemiology and emerging research needs as well as opportunities within the specific regions. Their findings are expected to help inform how new interventions and control strategies are designed and evaluated in the future.

Each center will:

* Design and conduct multidisciplinary research on the epidemiology, transmission and pathogenesis of malaria in endemic geographic regions

* Design and conduct special projects to capitalize on new opportunities and emerging public health needs

* Develop and conduct training and career development programs for researchers from malaria-endemic areas

Overall, these centers are expected to bring critical infrastructure to these endemic regions and help build training and research capacity to combat malaria worldwide.

The principal investigators selected to establish the ICEMRs are as follows:

Malaria Transmission and the Impact of Control Efforts in Southern Africa
Principal Investigator: Peter Agre, M.D.
Lead Institution: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

Center for the Study of Complex Malaria in India
Principal Investigator: Jane Carlton, Ph. D.
Lead Institution: New York University School of Medicine, New York City

Southeast Asia Malaria Research Center
Principal Investigator: Liwang Cui, Ph.D.
Lead Institution: Pennsylvania State University, University Park

Program for Resistance, Immunology, Surveillance & Modeling of Malaria in Uganda
Principal Investigator: Matthew Dorsey, M.D.
Lead Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Latin American Center for Malaria Research and Control
Principal Investigator: Socrates Herrera-Valencia, M.D.
Lead Institution: Caucaseo Scientific Research Center, Cali, Colombia

Research to Control and Eliminate Malaria in SE Asia and SW Pacific
Principal Investigator: James Kazura, M.D.
Lead Institution: Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland

Population-based Approach to Malaria Research and Control in West Africa
Principal Investigator: Donald Krogstad, M.D.
Lead Institution: Tulane University, New Orleans

Malaria Evolution in South Asia
Principal Investigator: Pradipsinh Rathod, Ph. D.
Lead Institution: University of Washington, Seattle

Determinants of Malaria Disease in Malawi
Principal Investigator: Terrie Taylor, D.O.
Lead Institution: Michigan State University, East Lansing

Peruvian/Brazilian Amazon Center of Excellence in Malaria
Principal Investigator: Joseph Vinetz, M.D.
Lead Institution: University of California, San Diego

Philippine FDA reminds consumers against herbals without label

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Manila issued an advisory on July 06 against herbal products having no labels.

Ang FDA ay nakatanggap ng mga salaysay o reklamo ukol sa paggamit ng mga PRODUKTONG HERBAL NA WALANG LABEL na nagdulot ng masamang epekto sa tao. Ang publiko ay pinaaalalahanan na mag-ingat at huwag uninom o gumamit ng mga produktong ito (FDA has received complaints regarding unlabeled herbal products. Everyone is reminded to be wary and not to take these products)," according to Advisory 2010-007 signed by FDA Director Nazarita Tacandong.

Further, the advisory warns the public that products not registered with FDA may have no proof of safety or scientific basis of therapeutic effect. "Hindi rehistrado sa FDA ang mga produktong herbal na ito kung kaya walang siyentipikong pagsasaliksik at dokumentadong mga patunay na ligtas at epektibo ang paggamit nito".

This comes a month since FDA in Manila has given full support to Administrative Order 2010-0008 of the Department of Health (DOH), which informed the public that food/dietary supplements are not drugs and should not be used to treat disease.

In requiring manufacturers to translate "No Approved Therapeutic Claims" into Filipino in herbal product labels, the herbal industry through CHIPI (Chamber of Industries of the Philippines, Inc) immediately filed a petition before the Manila Regional Trial Court. Judge Lucia Purugganan then issued a preliminary injunction order to temporarily stop the DOH directive and maintain the status quo until the issue will have been resolved by the two parties.

Read DOH-FDA Advisory 2010-007

Tuesday, July 6, 2010 goes online

ASEAN Network for Drugs, Diagnostics, and Vaccine Innovation

The website-database of ASEANDI (ASEAN Network for Drugs, Diagnostics, and Vaccine Innovation) was launched online last July 06, 2010. The website,, contains recent information on research activities in the ASEAN region on infectious and tropical diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, dengue, trichosomiasis, among others.

Meanwhile, watch out for the upcoming ASEAN-wide stakeholders meeting where research producers, funders, and regulators come together to discuss the business plan and general direction of ASEANDI. More news in the coming weeks.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Addressing clinical research gaps in developing world

Outsourcing clinical trials in emerging markets is a rising trend in the pharmaceutical industry. While such study sites offer distinct advantages for infectious diseases and diseases of poverty, gaps in resources must be addressed, particularly training, experience, critical thinking, and professional recognition of clinical trialists, to increase capacity and quality of clinical studies done in Africa and elsewhere.

Also, ICH-GCP 1996 guidelines are subject to sponsor's interpretation, and Western standards on data quality and ethics are not often appropriate for local research sites in the developing world. A pilot collaborative programme at has been created to promote country-based trials in developing countries covering a broad range of disease or condition.


Read full article: Lang, et al. 2010. Clinical research in resource-limited setting

Material rewritten under the Creative Commons license.