It looks like fledgling biotech Traversa Therapeutics has found its first big pharma partner. Sanofi-Aventis signed on to use La Jolla, Calif.-based Traversa’s siRNA delivery technology, which it calls by the unwieldy abbreviation “PTD-DRBD.” We first wrote about Traversa last fall, as part of a larger piece about the challenges of delivering RNAi. The company is taking quite a vastly different approach to delivering strands of siRNA into cells of interest than its competitors, which are primarily focused on developing different flavors of lipid nanoparticles. Rather than create shells around the genetic payload using various lipid components, which are notoriously hard to direct to specific tissues, Traversa takes advantage of a natural process called macropinocytosis. What’s macropinocytosis, you ask? Basically, it is the mechanism that all cells use to swallow large amounts of fluid or other material. Think of it as the cell’s Ms. Pacman mode.
Using technology developed by UCSD professor Steven Dowdy, Traversa binds siRNA to the peptide transduction domain (PTD), a protein fragment that controls macropinocytosis.
As we wrote last fall, that PTD isn’t quite enough to get in to the cell:
“The domain, however, contains only eight positive charges, not enough to trump the 40 negative charges on siRNA, so the two can’t be directly linked without causing molecules to aggregate, Dowdy explains. Traversa’s solution is a fusion protein that links the PTD to another positively charged protein fragment that is noncovalently bound to the siRNA. By coating siRNA with the fusion protein, it’s charge is masked, enabling it to reach its target. Once inside the cell, the drop in pH causes the release of siRNA from its delivery vehicle.”
Like all siRNA delivery systems, there’s still some tweaking to be done to get this to work. Having a big pharma partner sign on to play with a system usually helps push that tweaking process along. But if it works, Dowdy believes the method can get siRNA into any cell type, which could open the door to developing drugs that address pretty much any disease you’re after.Related Posts:
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OMG, I TIAIL w this T! JP! (Translation: Oh my gosh, I think I am in love with this T-shirt! Just playing!) Don’t fret if you had to resort to the translation to make sense of the previous sentence; it’s not exactly English. It’s text speak, and if you have a teenager, know a teenager, or have any desire to text like a teenager, than Newscripts has a shirt for you.
I happened upon this scientifically blasphemous cotton nightmare while sifting through the junior section of TJ Maxx, but you can order it online here.
T-shirt designers just love making parodies of the Periodic Table and, thankfully, most of them are at least mildly amusing.
My personal favorite is the Chuck Norris shirt, included below. It reads, “Chuck Norris destroyed the Periodic Table because he only recognizes the element of surprise.” Hilarious.
Have a favorite Periodic Table shirt we missed? Include it in the comments below.Related Posts:
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This item was contributed by my C&EN colleague Marc Reisch
Startup bio-based chemical producers in the U.S. are having a difficult time snagging the funds they need to propel their businesses forward, says Brent Erickson, executive vice president of U.S. trade group Biotechnology Industry Organization.
Speaking at a meeting of the education group Société de Chimie Industrielle in New York City on March 24, Erickson said that before the economic slowdown, bio-based chemical startup firms could access funding from the venture capital community, but lately that money source has dried up.
U.S. government loan guarantees meant to fill the gap as part of the economic stimulus package aren’t helping, Erickson noted. Instead, under rules now in place, the guarantees are going to wind and solar energy start-ups that can show they have contracts to supply power to customers over a defined contract period. But startup bio-based chemical producers are losing out, Erickson said. They don’t generally operate like utilities and so they don’t sign 20-year supply agreements.
No immediate fix for the funding dilemma appears to be in sight. “A recovery of the venture capital community would be a help,” Erickson said.Related Posts:
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Bio-based chemical start-up Genomatica announced today that it has raised $15 million in a third-round of venture funding, led by new investor TPG Biotech. Genomatica will use the money to construct a demonstration-scale (about 30,000 liters a year) facility to make 1,4 butanediol (BDO). BDO is used to make high-performance polymers, solvents and fine chemicals for use in clothing, cars and electronics.
Bio-based – and so-called sustainable chemical firms – are grabbing some of the spotlight from their more well-publicized renewable fuels cousins. Proponents point out that chemical feedstocks bring in higher margins than fuels, and say that there is a ready market of eager chemical company customers that are looking to source their operations in a way that avoids swings in petroleum prices.
Christophe Schilling, Genomatica’s CEO, says that while the company works to design and construct the demo facility, it will also continue working on the throughput of the BDO made by its sugar-consuming organism. He tells C&EN the microbial workforce can make BDO at 99.7% purity and says by the time the demo facility is ready to house the process, that Genomatica will have a technology to make the feedstock cost competitive to the petroleum-based alternative.Related Posts:
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This message came to me from Linda Wang, who is currently attending the ACS national meeting in San Francisco. We’ll look for Linda’s famous meeting slideshow when she returns. Until then, we’ll have to go bananas over this single pic:
Earlier this week, I spotted this ape handing out Post-it notes to chemists outside the convention center. Charles Wolfus, ape and founder of the San Francisco-based company Zinali, was promoting his software tool Slideboxx to speed the creation of slide presentations. Hey, whatever works.Related Posts:
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This spring national meeting marks C&ENtral Science’s 2nd birthday. I mentioned in the blog’s introductory post that this was an experiment, and so it’s only natural that we should try something new. Welcome to the next iteration of our humble blog!
The new CENtral Science, aside from the dropped “&,” is essentially the same as the old. You’ll still find lots of great posts on lots of topics from safety to meetings news to Beaker videos. But as Rudy announced in his 3/15 editorial, we’re trying out a new format to help foster relationships around that great content and to make it easier for you to find the stuff that most captivates your interest.
We’re starting off with 7 specialized blogs:
- Cleantech Chemistry, hosted by business writer Melody Voith, explores the science and business of the many new industries that meet at the intersection of innovation, chemistry, and sustainability.
- Just Another Electron Pusher is hosted by outside contributor (yep, you read that right) Amado Guloy. Amado will be writing about his job searching adventures, as well as profiling chemists with nontraditional chemistry careers.
- Newscripts is an extension of the beloved weekly column with even more quirky news nuggets plus videos, polls, and photo galleries.
- The Chemical Notebook features interesting tidbits found in business reporter Alex Tullo’s notebook.
- The Editor’s Blog continues to feature Rudy’s editorials (whether you love them or hate them) and will also include items from Deputy Editor-in-chief Maureen Rouhi.
- In The Haystack Carmen Drahl and Lisa Jarvis explore both the business and science ins-and-outs of pharma. Carmen’s already busy liveblogging first disclosures of drug candidates from the national meeting.
- Finally, The Safety Zone is the place for all things chemical safety. Jyllian Kemsley and Jeff Johnson will be tackling this important and often underserved topic.
We’re busy today putting the finishing touches on several of the blogs and the portal, but please come on in and explore!
Stay tuned for more blogs as topics and time warrant. And thanks for visiting.Related Posts:
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The spring ACS national meeting is just around the corner, and with it, as always, comes the unveiling of a few drug candidates’ structures. This symposium is always held in a big ballroom, and it’s always packed.
I’ll be liveblogging the “First Disclosures of Clinical Candidates” symposium, which is this Sunday, March 21, from 2PM to 5PM Pacific. You can follow my updates at C&EN’s new pharma blog, The Haystack. (Link will be live Sunday).
My updates will also appear on Twitter. You don’t have to have a twitter account to see these updates. But if you do use twitter just follow me @carmendrahl
To read the abstracts, visit the ACS meeting technical program, click on the ‘divisions’ tab, select the MEDI division, and then select “First Time Disclosures”.
Some food for thought before Sunday: 4 of the 6 talks appear to be about targeting G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). Last year the stat was two out of six. It always makes for a good talk when GPCRs and other membrane-bound proteins are involved. Since it’s unlikely that there will be detailed structural information on the target (like an X-ray crystal structure) for teams to go on when optimizing their drug candidate, teams have to be resourceful.Related Posts:
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C&EN launched “C&ENtral Science,” the magazine’s permanent blog, in March 2008, in time for the spring ACS national meeting in New Orleans. A number of C&EN staff members attending the meeting posted blog entries on everything from symposia they had attended to tchotchkes being given out by exhibitors at the meeting exposition. A smattering of readers followed us on the blog.
We created “C&ENtral Science” with a bit of trepidation. There was concern about diverting staff resources from covering hard news of the chemistry enterprise toward what some viewed as ephemera. There were questions about setting priorities. People pointed out that successful blogs often had a snarky tone that we thought was inappropriate for C&EN. Others worried that the lighter, breezier tone we were hoping to achieve on “C&ENtral Science” could detract from the perception of C&EN as a serious newsmagazine.
For the past two years, “C&ENtral Science” has been something of a grabbag. Numerous staff members attending national meetings continued to post on, yes, tchotchkes, dining experiences, and people they ran into on shuttle buses, as well as symposia and governance functions. C&EN’s informal “staff photographer,” Associate Editor Linda Wang, worked with C&EN Online Visual Designer Tchad Blair to create memorable slide shows from the meetings.
Other posts on “C&ENtral Science” ranged from my editorials to serious discussions of lab safety to lighthearted items on almost anything that caught a C&EN staffer’s fancy. One memorable posting—a tribute to Michael Jackson after his death—came from Senior Editor Lisa Jarvis following her two-week fellowship at NSF’s Toolik Field Station in Alaska (see C&ENtral Science, July 6, 2009). In 2009, “C&ENtral Science” had more than 137,000 page views.
Now it’s time for “C&ENtral Science” to evolve to the next level. Jarvis got the discussion going last September with the distribution to C&EN’s senior staff of what I have come to call her “blog manifesto.” In it, she wrote: “The business group had a spontaneous discussion about the future of journalism and social media this week, and one result was a growing desire to allow staff to have their own blogs. The idea is to have a portal that would lead readers to any of several blogs that focus on a particular beat.”
After much discussion and the work of an ad hoc task force led by C&EN Online Editor Rachel Pepling, that’s what will happen. On March 22, in conjunction with the national meeting in San Francisco, “CENtral Science” will relaunch as a portal to, initially, six hosted blogs on the following topics:
- General chemical business, hosted by Senior Editor Alex Tullo.
- Cleantech chemistry, hosted by Senior Editor Melody Voith.
- Newscripts, hosted by Assistant Editor Lauren Wolf and the “Newscripts Crew.”
- Pharmaceuticals/biotechnology, hosted by Jarvis and Associate Editor Carmen Drahl.
- The Editor’s Blog, hosted by me and Deputy Editor-in-Chief Maureen Rouhi.
- Chemical safety, hosted by Associate Editor Jyllian Kemsley and Senior Correspondent Jeff Johnson.
Relaunching “CENtral Science” as a portal to several hosted blogs that focus on specific topics of interest to C&EN’s diverse readership is a natural evolution of the site. Since its launch, “CENtral Science” has provided C&EN reporters with an alternative outlet for their natural curiosity and creativity and C&EN readers with another channel to express their opinions.
We hope that the new “CENtral Science” will allow C&EN reporters and the readers who follow their reporting to develop productive relationships in which the flow of information and opinion is truly multidimensional. We hope you will find one or more of the blogs on “CENtral Science” to be of interest and that you will contribute to the content by posting comments on the blogs.
Thanks for reading. And commenting.Related Posts:
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In honor of this week’s laser-rific cover story, which takes a look at the laser’s impact on chemical research during the past five decades, I’m also giving a nod to its influence on pop culture.
After all, what would movies and television be without lasers that blow up planets and sharks that use them for frickin’ nefarious purposes?
Here, then, are my top five picks for the Best Uses of Lasers in Film:
5) Countless movies have used “laser fields” to protect some sort of data or priceless artifact from being stolen. And characters have always gotten by those laser grids with a lot of practice and, well, flexibility. Take Catherine Zeta-Jones in “Entrapment,” for instance. She and Sean Connery practiced really hard to defeat a laser-based security system and steal a desirable Chinese mask in the film. An even more elaborate dance through a laser field in a much better movie, however, was undertaken by the Night Fox in “Ocean’s Twelve.” He dances his way through the lasers to steal the Coronation Egg, an antique he eventually finds out was a fake all along.
4) No one could forget the moment the Death Star blows up Princess Leia’s home planet of Alderaan in “Star Wars.” An entire planet gone in the blink of an eye, my friends. And what technological wonder was responsible? You guessed it: a really, really big laser.
3) James Bond has gotten into a number of sticky situations over the years. In one of the most memorable, though, Bond (I’m clearly partial to Sean Connery) was strapped to a table, staring down an industrial laser in “Goldfinger.” The laser begins cutting the table in half and threatens to slice 007 up the middle as well. He gets away, of course, but the scene is a classic.
2) “Lasers” feature prominently in the first Austin Powers movie, “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.” And, yes, as I’m writing this, I’m pausing to make the air quotations with my fingers. Dr. Evil had only one simple request: sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads. Alas, he had to initially settle for some ill-tempered sea bass. We all had to wait until the final movie in the trilogy for Scott Evil, his son, to bring his grand vision to fruition.
1) Drum roll, please. Say what you will about the cinematic quality of the movie, but there is no question that “Real Genius,” a gem from the ’80s, pays tribute to geeks and laser jocks everywhere. Brainiac students at Pacific Tech, a fictional school modeled after Caltech, use their smarts to build new lasers and, in their spare time, to play practical jokes on one another.
In what other movie would a character (Val Kilmer) describe his laser breakthrough as such: “It is possible to synthesize excited bromide in an argon matrix. Yes, it’s an excimer frozen in its excited state. It’s a chemical laser but in solid, not gaseous, form. Put simply … it’s like lasing a stick of dynamite” ?
And in what other movie would a laser be used to pop enough popcorn to destroy a house? A little far-fetched, sure. But a guilty pleasure nonetheless.Related Posts: