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CBMR researchers fight for lower prices on medicines

Wolfgang Link, researcher at the Center for Biomedical Research (CBMR), at the University of Algarve, has just published in the scientific journal The Lancet Oncology, a comment that aims to discuss and question the high price paid by taxpayers for current medicines on the market.

Reflecting on the fact that, in recent decades, we have witnessed a paradigm shift – which leads to a need of greater knowledge and understanding of the disease – only achieved through years of basic research (most often funded by the State and the public sector), the researcher questions the fact that private sector, in particular the companies, take advantage of these investigations and the knowledge produced by them to develop new high profit margins.

Wolfgang Link points out that, to minimize risks, private companies do some sort of ‘outsourcing’ of the riskier phases of the new drugs development, leaving them in charge of universities or small biotechnology companies, to, later, take advantage of knowledge produced by them to design medicines with minor changes, sold to the state at much higher prices.

Reflecting on how the development of new medicines has allowed for increasingly targeted treatments and more personalized approaches, the researcher assumes that the risk-reward ratio regarding pharmaceutical innovation is tremendously unbalanced when we compare public and private sector.

Indeed, from the article, it seems to be possible to suggest that taxpayers are paying twice the drugs – the first time – through the public funding of scientific research – and later, to gain access to these drugs at higher prices than would be expected.

According to the researcher, “the current system of new drugs development is inefficient and will lead us, in the future, to a scenario where access to innovative therapies will be a privilege of wealthy people”.

Based on the premise that knowledge is priceless, Wolfgang Link, who had, in this article, the advice of the renowned American economist Dean Baker, suggest a state investment in the area of new drugs development, allowing a greater balance in the price of medicines.

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A protein that promotes the compatibility between maternal and paternal chromosomes after fertilization

A research team from the Center for Biomedical Research (CBMR), at the University of Algarve (UAlg), and Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC), led by Rui Gonçalo Martinho (UAlg) and Paulo Navarro-Costa (UAlg and IGC) has identified the mechanism by which the fertilized egg balances out the differences between chromosomes inherited from the mother and the father. The study, now published in the scientific journal EMBO reports*, may pave the way for future developments in the clinical management of infertile couples.

The fertilization of an egg by a sperm cell marks the beginning of a new life. However, many of the molecular mechanisms behind this extraordinary process remain a mystery. It is well known that mother and father pass on their genetic information in a different manner. While the maternal chromosomes in the egg are still undergoing division, the paternal chromosomes carried by the sperm have both completed their division and been substantially compacted to fit into the small volume of the sperm cell. The mechanisms through which the fertilized egg levels these differences between parental chromosomes – an essential aspect for the correct initiation of embryo development – are largely unknown. The close partnership between the University of Algarve and IGC teams uncovered a protein called dMLL3/4 that allows the fertilized egg to ensure both the correct division of the maternal chromosomes and the unpacking of the paternal genetic information. ” dMLL3/4 is a gene expression regulator, therefore, it has the ability to instruct cells to perform different functions. We observed that dMLL3/4 promotes, still during egg development, the expression of a set of genes that will later be essential for balancing out differences between the chromosomes inherited from the mother and from the father,” explains Paulo Navarro-Costa. “These results open the door to new diagnostic approaches to female infertility, and to possible improvements in embryo culture media formulations for assisted reproduction techniques,” adds Paulo Navarro-Costa. “The dMLL3/4 protein was identified using fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) as a model organism, which again reinforces the importance of basic research and the use of model organisms as critical stepping-stones for translational research and the improvement of human health”, concludes Rui Martinho.

 

This study was developed within the context of the laboratories of Rui Martinho (CBMR) and Jörg Becker (IGC); and was funded by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia.

 

*Pedro Prudêncio, Leonardo G. Guilgur, João Sobral, Jörg D. Becker, Rui G. Martinho and Paulo Navarro-Costa (2018) “The Trithorax group protein dMLL3/4 instructs the assembly of the zygotic genome at fertilization”, EMBO reports (DOI: 10.15252/embr.201845728).

http://embor.embopress.org/cgi/doi/10.15252/embr.201845728

 

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Figure Legend:

Maternal (♀) and paternal (♂) chromosomes in a recently fertilized fruit fly egg. DNA is in blue; the paternal chromosomes are also labelled in green.

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CBMR researcher invited to join Cells Editorial Board

Patrícia Madureira, lead researcher of the Cancer Biology and Progression Laboratory, within CBMR, University of Algarve has joined the Editorial Board of the journal Cells. Cells is an international peer-reviewed open access journal that provides an advanced forum for studies related to cell biology, molecular biology, and biophysics, with a current Impact Factor of 4,829. Website link: http://www.mdpi.com/journal/cells.

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CBMR at the “Emergence – Digital Media Science Communication Hackaton”

The Centre for Biomedical Research (CBMR) will participate, from 2 to 6 July, at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, in the “Emergence – Digital Media Science Communication Hackaton”.

This event aims to bring together scientists, techies, artists, and others, to collaboratively create digital media based projects that communicate complex concepts in scientific research.

In this intensive 5 day-long event participants will be immersed in a collaborative setting where they will be guided through the process of exploring various digital media technologies (e.g. Film, Interactive Technologies, VR) with a focus on creating stories for both linear and experiential formats. Throughout the event each team will be assigned a mentor, who takes the producer role of the team, ensuring that each team is on track and assisting with any resources needed.

Free public showing of the projects at Pavilhão do Conhecimento on July 6 from 7:30pm to 9:30pm. Everyone is welcome!

Centre for Biomedical Research (CBMR) will be represented by Isa Mestre, your communication officer.

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CBMR on Encontro Ciência 2018

Ciência 2018 is the latest edition of the annual meeting of Portuguese researchers.

It aims at promoting a broad debate on the main topics and challenges of the scientific agenda beyond the world of research. The meeting main goal, therefore, is to stimulate not just the participation but also the interaction between researchers, the business sector and the general public.

In the context, CBMR will integrate the panel “Digital Platforms and Telemedicine”, presenting the talk “CBMR Science Platform: a window of knowledge open to the community”.

 

 

 

 

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CBMR researcher makes important discovery in the pneumonia field

Vítor Fernandes, a researcher at the Centre for Biomedical Research, is among the team that discovered how the bacterium that causes pneumonia hides before lethally attacking the human organism, causing septicemia.

 

Vítor Fernandes, a researcher at the Centre for Biomedical Research at the University of Algarve, has published in the journal Nature Microbiology, joint with other researchers from the universities of Leicester, Dundee, Nottingham and Oxford, the results of an important research in the area of pneumonia.

The work, which brings to the public relevant findings about the responsible mechanism for the proliferation of bacterial infection causing pneumonia, as well as the blood poisoning (septicemia) that comes from it, also reveals unprecedented data on that which is among the leading causes of death associated the disease.

The researchers found the reason for the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae (which causes pneumonia) to appear in the blood, becoming undetectable at an early stage – the so-called “eclipse phase” – but proliferating, however, later in an abrupt and deadly process.

What we already knew was that the bacteria, after being filtered by the spleen, is caught within this organ, by cells that were going to try to destroy it, what we did not know was that there is at this stage an “Achilles tendon” – the so-called metalophilic macrophage – a defense cell of the organism from which the bacteria will take benefit and gaining advantage over our immune system.

In fact, the researchers found that although this macrophage is able to swallow the bacteria, it does not have the capacity to destroy it, and, therefore, allows it to survive, undetected in the blood, in an “eclipse phase”, offering, during this time, the false illusion that it was eliminated, but multiplying, nevertheless, inside the cell, until it invades our organism abruptly and deadly way.

These new data allow us to better understand the whole process and help making current treatments more effective, opening the door to the development of new therapeutic methods.

It should be highlighted that, until now, there was no knowledge that the bacterium was acting within the cell itself, and, mainly, extracellular antibiotics were used, doctors now have new information that will allow them to better adjust to the circumstance, prescribing more effective and targeted medication for this type of bacterial infections.

It should be addressed that the research was successfully tested in vivo and ex vivo, with very promising results and of great interest to the scientific community, which once again highlight Portuguese researchers working in medical and biomedical research.

 

Read the complete article here.

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Ana Teresa Maia is the next invited speaker of TEDx Talks

Ana Teresa Maia, CBMR researcher, is the next invited speaker of TEDx TALKS. The event, recognized all over the world, will focus on the question: “Is it natural?”

With this challenging question, it intends to generate a reflection on the world. Focusing on the developing of an increasingly complex and artificial space – created by human beings – the conference leaves open a few questions: “is the natural better than the artificial? Under all conditions and situations? Is the artificial necessarily bad?”.

On April 14th, at Casa da Música (Porto), Ana Teresa Maia will give us the answer to these and other questions, explaining why “Failing is natural.”

Know more about the event here.

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CBMR researcher is at the final of Famelab 2018

Catarina Raposo is at the final round of Famelab 2018 – the most famous international science communication competition.

With a presentation on the “Superpowers of cancer”, the master student stood out from the remaining candidates guaranteeing a place in the next tie, to be held on 12th April at Coliseu dos Recreios, in Lisbon.

The competition is organized by Ciência Viva – National Agency for Scientific and Technological Culture and by the British Council, in partnership with universities and centers of science and technology throughout the country, and aims to promote the practice of science communication.

Each competitor has three minutes to demonstrate his ability to communicate the most diverse scientific subjects, using only the word and the gesture and without the aid of audiovisuals.

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CBMR researcher receives a grant from the Federation of European Biochemical Society

Om Rathore, CBMR researcher, received a grant from the Federation of European Biochemical Society with the project Use of iCLIP to define the in vivo RNA binding sites of Salsa.

The project involves a stay at the Institute of Molecular Biology, in Mainz, Germany, and aims to understand the splicing regulation in Drosophila (fruit fly).

Assuming that 95% of human genes are alternatively spliced and 50% of rare genetic disorders are cause by errors in the splicing process, the researchers believe that Drosophila could help them to uncover the function of splicing process in different diseases.

The research will help to understand how the disease develops and could lead to develop new biomarkers, diagnostic approaches and therapies.

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CBMR researchers are at the Famelab 2018 semi-final

Catarina Raposo and João Santos, CBMR researchers, advanced, yesterday, to the final round of Famelab 2018 – the most famous international science communication competition.

With presentations on cancer and heart problems, the students stood out from the remaining candidates guaranteeing a place in the next tie, to be held on 18th March at Pavilhão do Conhecimento, in Lisbon.

Catarina Raposo spoke about “The superpowers of cancer”, being the most voted by the public, and João Santos presented the communication “Heart, the motor of the human body”, surprising the jury with a performance in which established an approximation between the functioning of the human heart system and a car engine.

The competition is organized by Ciência Viva – National Agency for Scientific and Technological Culture and by the British Council, in partnership with universities and centers of science and technology throughout the country, and aims to promote the practice of science communication.

Each competitor has three minutes to demonstrate his ability to communicate the most diverse scientific subjects, using only the word and the gesture and without the aid of audiovisuals.