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Over the past century, the National Collection of Type cultures in the UK has amassed a living library of bacteria strains. As the longest established collections of microorganisms in the world, its vast assortment of cultures has played a vital role in pharmaceutical and medical research around the globe. Now, as the organisation nears its centenary, we look back at the history of the organisation. And returning to the present, we examine the potential of the brain-gut axis as a drug target.

Also in this issue, we investigate the pharma industry’s reliance on the icy blue blood of horseshoe crabs to understand why synthetics have failed to make a mark, take a look at the complex and controversial topic of using puberty blockers as a physical intervention for young transgender people, and review the opportunities and challenges facing pharma recruitment in the wake of Covid-19.

Plus, we talk to packaging giant Honeywell about the company’s work in the pharmaceutical space, explore the success of recent attempts to develop drugs for rare disease, and, find out if artificial intelligence can be classed as an inventor in drug development.


In this issue

A century of cultures: celebrating the world’s oldest lab culture collection
The UK’s National Collection of Type Cultures was founded 100 years ago, making it the longest established collection of its type anywhere in the world. The bacteria cultures that make up the collection have played a vital role in medical breakthroughs for decades, and will likely do so for years to come. Allie Nawrat charts the history of this living library.
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Gut feeling: exploring the therapeutic potential of the gut-brain axis
Research points to the role that the gut microbiome might play in neurological health, via the gut-brain axis. What is the therapeutic potential of altering the composition of our gut flora to alleviate conditions of the brain, and how far has the science come in demonstrating the clinical value of this poorly understood communication system? Chris Lo reports.
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Crabby concoctions: why pharma’s thirst for crustacean blood is up for debate
Horseshoe crabs’ icy-blue blood is the drug industry’s standard for safety tests. Despite efforts to increase the use of a synthetic substitute, regulators have decided that the fake stuff doesn’t quite cut the rug compared to the real thing. Abi Millar finds out what makes this blue-blooded crustacean so appealing to drug developers.
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Debunking myths about puberty blockers for transgender children
Puberty blockers are drugs that may be given to young people with gender dysphoria, to prevent them from going through a puberty that doesn’t match their gender identity. They’re a physically reversible intervention, and if a young person stops taking the blockers their physical adolescence will continue to develop as it had done previously – but the drugs have proven controversial and there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Chloe Kent reports.
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Hiring from home: pharma recruitment in the age of Covid-19 
UK healthcare recruitment company Carrot Pharma has been advising pharma firms on how to use remote technology to maintain hiring and onboard new staff during the coronavirus restrictions. Natalie Healey spoke to the company to talk about recruitment challenges and opportunities facing the pharma sector in the wake of Covid-19.
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Q&A: breaking new ground in pharma packaging with Honeywell
Honeywell, with its Aclar portfolio, has been a leader in pharma packaging for more than 40 years. However, the last couple of years have been busier than ever, with the opening of a new laboratory, the release of two new products, and the launch of Rapid Response Support Services to help customers through Covid-19. Abi Millar caught up with the company to find out more.
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Treatment-resistant rare diseases: Exploring landmark drug approvals in 2020
Rare disease drug development poses such serious challenges that only 5% of rare diseases have a treatment. However, this troubling situation is improving slowly due to better communication between all the stakeholders involved in research – patients, pharma companies, doctors and regulators. Allie Nawrat looks at three ground-breaking drugs that have been approved in the US this year, despite the distractions of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Modernising pharma patents: Can AI be an inventor?
AI has revolutionised healthcare by dramatically speeding up drug discovery and development. Despite this, patent offices have made it clear that because AI is it not human, it cannot be classed as an inventor in its own right. Allie Nawrat talks to Potter Clarkson IP attorney Peter Finnie about how patent law needs brought up to date to reflect the important contribution AI makes to inventions in pharma.
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Boosting agility to accelerate project timescales 
Traditional two-year project cycles are no longer practical in today’s fast-changing business and regulatory environment. Pharma businesses must boost agility – whether through adoption of accelerated, technology-aided processes, or rolling out and exploiting a more agile approach to development. Vice-president of strategy for life sciences at Amplexor Romuald Braun explains more.
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Doing the right thing: the enhanced case for compliance
In the digital, data-driven age, adhering to the latest regulations shouldn’t be viewed purely as a cost. ProductLife Group CEO Xavier Duburcq considers how life sciences companies could harness compliance as a lever for doing better business and enhancing market trust.
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Next issue preview

Covid-19 has plunged antibody drug development into the spotlight. But antibodies are not a new area of pharma R&D. To find out more, we take a look at the history of antibodies as a therapy model, and as the FDA resumes manufacturing inspections, we get insider insight into the inspection process.

Also, we examine the therapeutic properties of the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin, find out how AI-enabled risk detection is helping to finesse the pharmaceutical supply chain, and explore the potential long-term health impacts of Covid-19 and the therapies that may be needed to treat them in the future.

Plus, we review the progress of Janssen’s investigational gene therapy for inherited X-linked retinitis pigmentosa, learn about the growth of the fertility drug investment landscape, and explore novel drug treatments targeting coeliac disease that could improve symptom control and quality of life for coeliac patients.