A Dearth in Innovation for Key Drugs

Hospital-Associated Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) Bacteria (Photo credit: NIAID)

There is clearly something wrong with pharmaceutical innovation.

Antibiotic-resistant infections sicken more than two million Americans every year and kill at least 23,000. The World Health Organization has warned that a “post-antibiotic era” may be upon us, when “common infections and minor injuries can kill.” Even the world’s tycoons consider the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria one of the crucial global risks of our times, according to a survey by the World Economic Forum.

Yet the enthusiasm of the pharmaceutical industry for developing drugs to combat such a potential disaster might be best characterized as a big collective “meh.”

And this is hardly the drug industry’s only problem. Antibiotics, Professor Kinch told me, “are the canary in the coal mine.”

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New assay to spot fake malaria drugs could save thousands of lives

Paper assay: This approach is used to prepare a paper assay that can tell whether a common drug used to treat malaria is genuine. Credit: (Graphic courtesy of Oregon State University)

Chemists and students in science and engineering at Oregon State University have created a new type of chemical test, or assay, that’s inexpensive, simple, and can tell whether or not one of the primary drugs being used to treat malaria is genuine – an enormous and deadly problem in the developing world.

The World Health Organization has estimated that about 200,000 lives a year may be lost due to the use of counterfeit anti-malarial drugs. When commercialized, the new OSU technology may be able to help address that problem by testing drugs for efficacy at a cost of a few cents.

When broadly implemented, this might save thousands of lives every year around the world, and similar technology could also be developed for other types of medications and diseases, experts say.

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Smartphone App May Revolutionize Mental Health Treatment



Mental illness accounts for 90 percent of all reported suicides and places the largest burden of any disease on social and economic infrastructures worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. There is a dire need for support services to assist clinicians in the evaluation and treatment of those suffering from mental illness.

New technology developed by researchers at Tel Aviv University is poised to transform the way in which patients with mental illnesses are monitored and treated by clinicians. Dr. Uri Nevo, research team engineer Keren Sela, and scientists from TAU’s Faculty of Engineering and Sagol School of Neuroscience have developed a new smartphone-based system that detects changes in patients’ behavioral patterns, and then transmits them to professionals in real time. It has the potential to greatly improve the response time and efficacy of clinical psychiatrists. By facilitating patient observation through smartphones, the technology also affords patients much-needed independence from hospitals, clinicians — and even family members.

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UEA researchers discover Achilles’ heel in antibiotic-resistant bacteria

via UEA

New research published today in the journal Nature reveals an Achilles’ heel in the defensive barrier which surrounds drug-resistant bacterial cells.

The findings pave the way for a new wave of drugs that kill superbugs by bringing down their defensive walls rather than attacking the bacteria itself. It means that in future, bacteria may not develop drug-resistance at all.

The discovery doesn’t come a moment too soon. The World Health Organization has warned that antibiotic-resistance in bacteria is spreading globally, causing severe consequences. And even common infections which have been treatable for decades can once again kill. 

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Cost-effective solution that leverages fans as air purifiers

Prof Obbard, holding a particulate monitor, with the AiRazor filtration system

A team of researchers from NUS’ Faculty of Engineering has developed a cost-effective solution for the control of indoor air pollution, especially from the haze.

The development of this system is timely in light of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recent news on the risks of inhalation of particulate matter measuring less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), which has been linked to a range of cardiovascular and respiratory ailments, including cancer. The new system is easy to use and ideal for use in a range of indoor environments.

Essentially, the invention developed by the NUS team, led by Associate Professor Jeff Obbard from the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, is a filtration system that is designed for use with a domestic ventilation fan to remove PM2.5 from indoor air. The system is also able to reduce levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are typically associated with the odour from haze pollution.

Assoc Prof Obbard said: “In Singapore, we typically spend about 90 per cent of our time indoors, and we have successfully commercialised this research discovery so that everyone can benefit from a cost-efficient way of swiftly and effectively reducing PM2.5 pollutants in indoor air.”

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