So What Did the March for Science Accomplish?


In the words of a wise former colleague, “don’t know, can’t say.”

With this historic event only a week behind us, it’s going to take time to figure out if the March for Science accomplished anything significant. Part of this is due to the fact that its stated goals were rather
diffuse. Data, of course, needs to be collected, sorted, and analyzed, which will happen because the March was studied by a slew of sociologists. Turnouts at the more than 600 marches worldwide were high, with enthusiastic crowds displaying a diverse cornucopia of signs and slogans not usually paraded about in public. As far as I can tell, the marches were uniformly peaceful affairs, with no counter protesters demonstrating in favor of “alternative facts.” I also saw a number of people sharing religious points of view, happily conveying their opinions that one can believe in both God and science. There was even a group of Satanists marching; I didn’t know until visiting their website that they, too, take a pro-science stance.
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Why I’m Joining in the March for Science


If you haven’t heard yet, there's going to be a nationwide
March for Science on Earth Day, April 22nd. This includes a primary March in Washington, DC, as well as “sister” marches around the globe (at least 320 cities have already signed up). I’m planning on marching here in Seattle, and I’m writing this to encourage others to participate in whichever March is most convenient for you to attend. The March for Science is being supported by a number of prominent organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the NY Academy of Sciences. Not all scientists think the March will be helpful (and some have voiced that it could even be harmful), but I’m not in that camp for the reasons I’ve outlined below.
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Would Government Buyouts of Pharma Companies Really Be A Good Way To Lower Drug Prices?


Here’s a novel way to lower health care costs: make the US government a purveyor of drugs. In a recent
article in Forbes, Peter Bach and Mark Trusheim suggested that the US government could reduce drug costs by buying Gilead and distributing its hepatitis C medicines at a greatly discounted price. The idea, on the face of it, is an interesting one to consider. In their scenario, the government buys Gilead for a 30 percent premium on its current stock price, spending $156 billion. The government would then sell off the R&D operations as well as a strong franchise of HIV drugs, reducing the “net cost” down to $77 billion. Other financial adjustments reduce the price further, lowering the cost to treat each patient down to $15,733 from what they claim is the current cost of $42,000. This represents a pretty nice cost savings when spread out over a patient population of 3.2 million people (including about one out of every three people in prison). Gilead’s hepatitis drugs certainly rank at or near the very top of innovative medicines coming out of biopharma in the last 25 years. However, the Forbes article did not delve into some of the far-reaching ramifications of what government buyouts might mean to other players. Let’s take a deeper look below the surface to see what such a buyout might portend.
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Consequences: In a Post-Truth World, Scientific Progress Goes Boink


Science is a search for truth. I work in the biosciences, where it’s all about understanding the mysteries of life. Our days are built around generating hypotheses and then working to accumulate sufficient data to either prove or disprove them. As scientists, we enjoy problem solving and finding out new things, both expected and unexpected. Our careers are (or should be) built around always doing something novel, because once something hidden is revealed, it’s time to move on to tackling the next riddle. Some of us relish a focus on basic science, while others work in the realm of innovating practical applications for what we (and others) have discovered. One could hardly ask for a more rewarding vocation than that.
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Why Even Superman Would Fear Donald Trump


Baby Boomers know that Superman, the world’s most famous superhero,
“…fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!” These words opened the 1950’s Adventures of Superman TV series that ran from 1952-1958. The introduction on the 1940’s radio series of the same name, however, was a bit different, “Superman–defender of law and order, champion of equal rights, valiant, courageous fighter against the forces of hate and prejudice, who….fights a never-ending battle for truth and justice.” The words, “the American way” were added to this phrase as part of the animated Fleischer Studios Superman serials in 1942, when the U.S. was deeply embroiled in WWII. The three extra words were dropped from the radio broadcasts when the war ended, but were revived in the TV show as well as the 1978 Superman film.
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Not Accepting the Outcome When the (FDA) Vote Doesn’t Go Your Way


Donald Trump’s recent pronouncement that he would not necessarily accept the results of the presidential election elicited an avalanche of angst across America. Such a move would threaten the very pillars of democracy that have been in effect for some 240 years. While Trump and his supporters will undoubtedly have feelings of disappointment, disillusionment, and anger if he loses (which is looking increasingly likely), challenging the outcome itself would be unprecedented. What would Donald Trump do if he were CEO of a biopharma company that had its drug rejected by the FDA?
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How Can You Make Money in Biotech If Only One In Ten Companies Turns A Profit?

It’s that time of year when we can finally sit down to enjoy the long awaited knock down, drag out battle of some national heavyweights. No, I’m not talking about Clinton vs. Trump; that fight may be too painful to watch. I’m talking about the upcoming clash between two battle-tested opponents. This fight pits lobbyists representing “Usurious” insurance companies against those for “Greedy” biotech and pharma firms. In the battle of Goliath vs. Goliath, the razor arrows have been sharpened and the lines in the sand have already been drawn.
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Summer Reading List 2016: More True Tales to Inform and Amuse You

Following an enthusiastic response to my summer reading list from last year, I decided to once again recommend a number of non-fiction, bioscience and medicine based books that I read this past year. The majority of these were recently published, although some are “oldies but goodies” that contain nicely written stories that are well worth your efforts to track them down. Here’s the list:
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Which Bush Had The Greatest Impact On American Science?

Was it George W. Bush? His administration is best known for putting limits on the use of embryonic stem cells for research, for its continued support of space exploration (remember the proposal for the mission to Mars), and for questioning the science of global warming. This latter position contributed (at least in part) to the U.S. not supporting the Kyoto protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He did fulfill a commitment to doubling the NIH budget during the early years of his administration. Unfortunately, funding of the NIH became static at that point, and in inflation-adjusted dollars, is now about 20 percent lower than it was in 2003. George W. Bush also called for the doubling of certain research programs via the American Competitiveness Initiative, but Congress never funded it. His administration was repeatedly accused of being anti-science by adding politically correct appointees to various science panels, and for censoring reports that conflicted with his administrations views.
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Drug Pricing: Lack of Transparency and Trust Compound the Problem

The latest attack on drug industry pricing has calmed down a little now, although the subject is sure to reignite as the 2016 Presidential election race heats up. Hillary Clinton, despite being the leading recipient of campaign contributions from drug industry insiders, recently issued a call to regulate drug pricing (and Bernie Sanders has actually co-sponsored new drug pricing legislation). These calls elicited the expected responses from PhRMA and BIO, with both trade organizations suggesting that such a move would restrict patient access and inhibit the development of new medicines. Read More…