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In July last year, the supply of pink Migraleve tablets mysteriously began to disappear from shelves in the UK, to the dismay of migraine sufferers up and down the country. With manufacturer Johnson & Johnson providing little information as to what caused the sudden shortage, or when customers could expect the pink tablets to be back in stock, we find out what happened to the UK’s supply of Migraleve.

Plus, we find out how researchers are modifying nano-material from corn to make active ingredients for targeted drug delivery, examine how machine learning can accelerate diagnosis of and treatment of rare diseases, and take a look at Scotland’s pharmaceutical industry.

Also, we examine the development of thermostabilised viral vaccines, investigate what biotech’s biggest ever IPO means for drug manufacturing, and check on the outlook for CRISPR gene editing technology as experimental treatments based on CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology reach a crossroads.

In this issue

Where is the UK’s supply of Migraleve?
Migraleve Pink pain relief tablets have gone missing from pharmacy shelves in the UK, to the concern of migraine sufferers, some of whom describe it as “the only thing that works”. What’s the cause of Migraleve Pink’s mysterious disappearance, and could manufacturer Johnson & Johnson have been clearer to customers about the supply disruption? Chris Lo reports.
Read the article here.

Drugs from corn? Harvesting mirexus’ phytoglycogen nano-particle
For decades, scientists have been trying to produce safe, cost-effective nanomaterials. Now, Canadian company Mirexus may have found a way to do this, using technology to extract a non-toxic, nano-material from corn. Sally Turner spoke to CEO of Mirexus to find out more.
Read the article here.

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Castleman disease: does machine learning hold the key to better treatment?
Combining large omic and clinical trial data sets with machine learning algorithms has allowed Medidata and CDCN to identify six new patient subgroups of rare Castleman disease. How can this discovery advance diagnostics and drug development for this rare disease? Allie Nawrat finds out.
Read the article here.

A health check for Scotland’s pharmaceutical industry 
Despite being a major contributor to the economy, the pharmaceutical industry in Scotland has experienced a decline since 2012, when R&D spending and employment began to drop. But, as new figures suggest the beginning of a turnaround, is there cause to be optimistic for the industry’s future? Allie Nawrat finds out.
Read the article here.

Moderna’s gamble: what’s behind biotech’s biggest-ever IPO?
US-based Moderna Therapeutics raised more than $600m in the biotech industry’s largest IPO. The company creates synthetic mRNA, which is injected into patients so they can create their own therapeutic proteins. Despite having no products on the market, and little clinical data to support the hype, Moderna has built to a mammoth valuation of more than $7bn. But can the firm deliver on its lofty goals? Chris Lo reports.
Read the article here.

DelSiTech: leveraging silica’s properties to improve drug delivery
Finland-based drug delivery company DelSiTech recently secured funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to assist the development of thermostablised vaccines using its Silica Matrix technology. The technology could enable vaccines to be stored at room temperature, allowing lifesaving medicines to stay effective for far longer, as Allie Nawrat finds out.
Read the article here.

‘Gene genie’: can CRISPR/Cas9 deliver on its promise to transform genome therapy?
Experimental treatments based on CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology are at a crossroads, with the first European trial now enrolling patients and new clinical applications and delivery methods steadily emerging. It’s not all good news though; two studies in 2018 found that a majority of patients had T-cell immunity against a type of Cas9. Sally Turner investigates at this important juncture.
Read the article here.

Next issue preview

In the next issue of Pharma Technology Focus, we take look back at a decade of discovery from Action Medical Research, a research charity focused on funding breakthrough treatments for conditions affecting children, and round up the biggest drug development success stories from China as a pilot reform puts pressure on pharma companies to invest in innovative research and development projects.

Also, we examine the issue of snake bites and the role of snake venom in drug development, speak to drug policy reform campaigner Amanda Feilding about the most urgent policy issues yet to be addressed in the UK, and investigate the steps big internet companies are taking to stamp out the scourge of dodgy online pharmacies.

Plus, we take a look at the plans for the UK’s first vaccines innovation centre, explore ways that pharma companies are reaching patients in the social media age, and examine how the pharma industry in Italy is developing.