Thursday, November 21, 2013

Google India Ad That Made Me Cry!

Ads are expected to but rarely capture human emotions. But when they do, they make a real impact. Google India has more than demonstrated the impact of their services on Indians (and Pakistanis) through this ad.  It is certainly worthy of a view for anyone interested in ad business or in Google's services.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried.  I cried for the emotion expressed in the ad are so tender - long lost friends coming together.  But I also cried because the ad expresses hope of the two nations that are being kept apart by crazies on both sides, can come together.

When an ad supporting a product does all that, in my book it has achieved it's goal.

Friday, November 01, 2013

The Minotaur Slays Yet Another Warrior

According to Ariad's company website..."The name ARIAD originates from the Greek myth of Ariadne, a daughter of Minos II, king of Crete"... who gave Theseus, a spool of thread that would enable him to slay Minotaur and return back safely.  Unfortunately, in this case, the "Minotaur" of drug development - the adverse events - ended up devouring Ariad's latest drug Iclusig (ponatinib)

According to NY Times, FDA today announced that they are halting the sales of Iclusig in the US. The serious danger of blood clots had lead to, amputations in some cases, and death in other cases, of individuals taking the drug.  These adverse events were serious enough that the FDA decided it could not allow continued marketing of the drug.

This is yet another example of just how challenging and risky drug development remains. Iclusig's approval was heralded as a triumph of the vision of Ariad's founder Harvey Burger, who toiled away for years and persisted in the face of heavy odds to develop Iclusig and get it registered.  But signs of trouble began right from the beginning when Iclusig's approval was greeted with a decline in share price of Ariad due to the black box warning in the label.  Harvey didn't believe that the adverse events of Iclusig were serious enough to warrant caution, but the street was worried. It seems prescient now that the FDA would require a black box warning in Iclusig's label warning the prescribers of the risk of serious adverse events.

In some ways, Ariad has been a troubled company right from get go.  Ariad's earlier entry into the market place was ridaforolimus, which it partnered out to Merck in the hopes of rapid and extensive development. The partnership ran into trouble mid way and Merck took control of the drug's development and commercialization.  Unfortunately, the drug was set back significantly when FDA recently turned down the application for an indication in Sarcoma unless Merck conducted additional trials to demonstrate safety.   

Ariad had an opportunity to license out the drug to a deeper pocketed partner before the drug was approved and recoup some of the large investments made in the molecule's development. But management decided that they would rather commercialize the drug themselves than give away economic value to some one else.  This, unfortunately, meant that the company and its investors were also taking on the risk of something going wrong.

Today Ariad's hopes of a commercializing a drug that would help millions of patients, are in tatters, and so are the hopes of its founder and the investors who believed in him.  It will be quite a miracle if the company comes out of this death spiral intact.  As I write this, it is difficult not to feel bad for the man who set the vision for the company, the investors who followed him and funded him, the patients who contributed to development of the drug, and those patients who could have benefited from the drug being on the market.  

FDA Finds Spices From India Contaminated With Rodent and Insect Filth

New York Times reports that a study by the FDA found that more than 12% of US spice imports are contaminated with insect and rodent parts/filth.  This news should be shocking to any foodie, but as a vegetarian I find this exceedingly repulsive.  The FDA must exercise the strength of its powers to ensure that food safety is practiced by the growers and importers.

The unfortunate situation of having to consume contaminated spices stems from the common practice of purchasing ground up spices rather than buying whole spices.  In the old days, must of the spice trade used to occur in whole spices.  Families would by whole "dhaniya" (cilantro seeds) or whole "mirchi" (pepper) etc and take them home where the spices would be closely examined and cleaned before being ground up.  This practice extended to other edible grains like "gehun" (wheat for flour "ata") and pulses like "dal" (lentils), "chana" (grams) etc.  Today, despite the widespread availability of small portable mills, it is difficult to enjoy the benefits of clean food for lack of time and extreme difficulty of finding whole grain in Western countries.

Whole Foods and a few other vendors do sell some whole grain.  But the trade is nothing compared to the whole grains and whole spices trade to be found in old motherland like India and Iran.  So, even if you wanted to care for your family health and buy whole grain and spices, chances are that you are unlikely to be successful, if you live in the United States.

FDA has mandated insect content for the flour manufacturers in the US.  When I first found out about this in my food microbiology class decades ago, I was horrified.  But at that time we used to bring home whole grain and get it milled after cleaning it.  Today since the possibility of milling grains and whole spices is minimal, I view those standards as a better of the evil of eating spices and flour manufactured by businesses who do not maintain such standards to those who do follow those standards.

Perhaps some organization will recognize the value of this and leverage it for creating a differentiated product.  I wouldn't mind paying a little extra for spices that are stamped with a seal of approval from an organization that monitors the insect and rodent filth and only approves those that meet the threshold set by the FDA for clean and safe food fit for human consumption.

First Compatibility Issue in Mac OSX Maverick

Downloaded OSX Maverick and so far it has been fine for the programs I use regularly; only a few programs have had issues.
>  Open Office seems to work fine.
>  Freemind - Program automatically triggered a Java installation.  Took about two minutes after which program worked fine
>  GIMP 2.8:  Seemed to work just fine
>  Handbrake:  Seems to open fine but haven't ripped any new DVDs yet.
>  Inkscape:  Required me to install XQuartz.  Took about 5 minutes to install.
>  Lync 2011 - Had to update to 14.0.6.  Not sure its related to Maverick.  I haven't used Lync in a while
>  Scribus:  No issues
>  Pencil Project:  Keeps crashing at start.  Haven't yet figured out the issue yet.