tl, dr September

news · 6 years ago
by Krisztián Niesz

Hi Folks! Please find below my top (bio)chemistry and pharma news for September. Since we are only a couple of weeks away from the chemistry Nobel Prize announcement it is also time for you to place your bets. Is it biochemistry again or back to catalysis, perhaps quantum dots will dominate this time? Looking inside a battery Poisonous cure Treating heart disease CO tolerant catalyst Unilever partnering up Walmart’s smart pull Nanoparticles to treat brain tumor Wrestling by pharma Crop science is flying high Being American is good

#1 Thanks to researchers at Birmingham University and Deakin University (Australia) it is now possible to look into a working battery and “visually” follow the electrochemical processes live.1 Surprisingly the technique that makes it all possible is not something new, but MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) that is used for several decades in medical diagnosis, but rarely known as probe systems outside of this field. Hopes are extremely high for researchers to understand more of what’s happening inside of a working cell and therefore be able to design better/safer batteries.

#2 I am curious, to say the least, and looking forward to learning more about the outcome of a recent conference hosted by the University of Exeter where leading scientist gathered together to discuss the health benefits of hydrogen sulfide (H2S).2 Yes, this otherwise known as an extremely poisonous and corrosive compound has started to attract much attention since it was discovered that the human body actually produces this compound in small quantities. Now it is considered as a “wonderdrug” with a wide range of functions to treat some of the most serious diseases of our time.

#3 Another set of researchers, this time from the University of Alberta, have discovered that a synthetic peptide analogue of the GPCR ligand, apelin, could be considered as a therapeutic drug against heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.3 Although the clinical trials are still years away, their scientific discovery shows the high potency of this synthetic apelin in promoting blood vessel growth, and it is really a kind of breakthrough in the area. Patent is filed already.

#4 In an age that is screaming for breakthrough discoveries in the area of alternative fuels scientist from DOEs Brookhaven National Laboratory made a significant step forward. They opened the door for developing low cost fuel cells that are carbon monoxide tolerant, hence can be used with lower quality H2 fuel harvested from natural gas (contains CO as impurity).4 The key for the superior catalytic performance is creating atomically ordered core-shell nanostructures made of Pt (as the core) and Ru (as the surrounding shell).

#5 Since we are at the subject, it also worth adding to the list that Unilever finally got into the already long line of consumers companies partnering up with universities to meet the increasing demand for more sustainable materials in consumer products.5 Unilever with the help of researchers from University of Liverpool, plan to work up industrial by-products and produce chemicals widely used in their home and personal care portfolio.

#6 As a consumer I can only greet the decision made by the retail giant company, Walmart, to force suppliers to disclose the chemical ingredients of their personal care, cleaning and cosmetics products.6 Furthermore, 10 concerning chemicals, whose identities are not known yet by the public, have been added to the phase out list by Walmart. It is really a pioneering behavior that I hope will have followers in the future.

#7 Another nanotech discovery made it to my top list. UCLA scientists developed a way to anchor a common chemotherapeutic agent (doxorubicin - DOX) for treating brain tumors onto the many facets of high surface area diamond nanoparticles.7 The hope is that the nanodiamond part acting as a drug delivery agent will help increasing the tumor killing efficiency through keeping the drug in the tumor for a significantly longer time while it will be also pushing back the side effects.

#8 Pharmaceutical companies are battling over a Hepatitis drug that is likely to be launched soon.8 Although Sofosbuvir (first oral treatment for Hepatitis C) is to be launched by Gilead many other companies, including Merck & Co. and Idenix, are claiming for royalties. However, as some analysts pointed out the claims against Gilead do not seem to be chemically grounded in the Merck’s and Idenix’s patents these two companies keep referring to.

#9 As opposed to many companies spread across the chemical industry that are facing severe problems and forced to close down factories, some European crop companies are actually spending insane amount of money on new developments and opening new sites and facilities!9 BASF as well as Syngenta recognized the need for accelerating crop protection research, and they are planning to invest $1.3 billion and $94 million, respectively. These investments are driven by the growing population and the rapidly and unpredictably changing weather conditions, and will take place in the coming years.

#10 And a golden pearl for the very end. Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School revealed a study saying that an average American person lives a longer and healthier life than a generation ago.10 The study is based on health surveys from the last 21 years, and just like everything like that is very questionable. The length? Yes it can be measured, but IMO a healthy life ≠ a quality life. Anyway, I would be interested to see such a study for European countries.

References

1) http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jz401415a?source=cen 2) http://www.news-medical.net/news/20130905/Worlds-leading-scientists-to-explore-health-benefits-of-Hydrogen-Sulfide-at-conference.aspx 3) http://www.worldpharmanews.com/research/2550-new-class-of-drug-targets-heart-disease 4) http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2013/130918/ncomms3466/full/ncomms3466.html 5) http://cen.acs.org/articles/91/i36/Unilever-Seeks-Renewables.html 6) http://cen.acs.org/articles/91/i38/Walmart-Pushes-Suppliers-Disclose-Ingredients.html 7) http://www.dddmag.com/news/2013/09/nanodiamonds-improve-chemo-delivery-brain-tumors?et_cid=3472709&et_rid=593048115&location=top 8) http://hepatitiscresearchandnewsupdates.blogspot.hu/2013/09/firms-spar-over-hepatitis-drug.html 9) http://cen.acs.org/articles/91/i37/Europeans-Grow-Crop-Spending.html 10) http://esciencenews.com/articles/2013/09/13/americans.living.longer.more.healthy.lives