Biotech honeymoon is over, preprints, and bio-art

Biotech’s “Trump honeymoon” is over
Post-election day, many biotech stocks felt a lovely jump in their prices. But as of yesterday, that “Trump Bump” has petered out, down nearly 7% already. For those who attended the Forbes Health Summit last week, you know why – drug price gouging, and those of you who did not attend  should read this CEO exchange. It has been suggested that the biotech stock jump was based on the assumption that Trump will not do anything to check the rise of drug prices. Mylan and their controversial six-fold EpiPen pricing hikes provide an example that Allergan CEO Brent Saunders warns other biotech to beware of. The price gouging coupled with Trump’s ability to drive the news in 140 characters or less via Twitter with, perhaps, limited restraint, could spell trouble for future price hikes. As the old saying goes, you get what you ask for.
Preprint servers are a relatively new addition to the biomedical research community as they allow one’s work to be read and assessed in advance of formal acceptance and  publication in a journal; and the uptick has been very slow indeed. That may start to change, as a consortium funded by NIH is now requiring that all manuscripts related to the project be posted to a preprint server prior to peer review. This represents the first time that a research funder has required the use of preprints, although the idea is gaining traction. The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, a $600 million effort funded by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, physician Priscilla Chan, will be the first philanthropic foundation to require their investigators to use preprints. NIH does not have an institution-wide policy on preprints, but appears to be considering this via a request for feedback. Many journals now have preprint policies that are covered neatly on, of all things, a Wikipedia page.
Celgene, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and the University of Arkansas  just announced the creation of the Myeloma Genome Project, tasked with compiling the largest ever set of genomic data from patients with Multiple Myeloma. The group has identified 2,100 patient data sets with corresponding clinical outcomes in an effort to provide a therapeutically meaningful classification system.  The project is yet another example of collaboration and data sharing that promises to lead to faster diagnostics and treatments for diseases.


Formerly only available through an FIOA request, the FDA is now releasing data about “adverse events” related to foods, dietary supplements and cosmetics.  The reports come directly from consumers and health care providers and can include minor complaints such as defective packaging as well as major medical events.  The database provides information exactly as it was reported to the FDA, even if the agency has not determined that the product was actually the cause of the adverse event.

FASEB has just announced the winners of its 2016 BioArt competition, and there are some really neat entrants. For example, the dung beetle’s nervous system looks pretty cool when different colored fluorescent labels are applied. But our favorite (and the winner) is the New York skyline that was “printed” using nanodroplets containing yeast colonies. Is there a paint by numbers kit for that?