Sunday, July 27, 2014

Whoa, is the only way to describe this!

"Gilead reports $5.8 billion in sales of hepatitis C drug"

And that is just for ONE quarter!

Preparing to welcome kids

I am prepping myself to have some fun with the kids doing some painting when they come here to San Diego in a few weeks.  But to teach the kids I had to know if I had any skill left in me!  So, I went to Home Depot and bought some boards and paint, and started to work on some ideas. 

Here is where I got a couple weekends ago and I wasn't sure if kids would be excited to learn painting from their dad!!

So over this weekend I decided to follow advice from my grade school teacher - "fill in all the white spaces with color" she used to say.  And I did just that and the result is what you see below.   

Finally, I thought, I have something I can actually show my kids.  I doubt Madhu will be thrilled to see my art work, but at least the kids and I can have some fun!

Fresh Earth, Southern California

Ever since I moved to Southern California, I've been hearing nothing but bad news about the drought conditions.  County after county has been placing restrictions on water use for non essential activities and Gov Brown has even declared a state of emergency.  Fire season has started way early and already thousands of acres have burned.

But today marked a day of relief for the parched land.  Today we had a THUNDER SHOWER!!  

Neighborhood kids were out in the parking lot despite a sky full of dark clouds, thunder and lightning. Although the temperature didn't drop that much, it has become a bit more humid. 

This is of course very welcome relief for Californians who have been praying for rains.  If it's El Niño, then welcome El Niño!!  We've been waiting for you a long time!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Oklahoma City!

Never imagined I would have a reason to go to Oklahoma City but today I found myself in it.  I had to go and visit one of the investigators, Dr Shubham Pant, in the clinical trial Halozyme is running and it turned out to be an opportune time.  Today was the three year anniversary is this beautiful building, the Oklahoma Health Science Center. This building is a brand new cancer center the University has built to serve the community's cancer needs.  Not only does the center serve the local Oklahoma City community, Dr Pant says that the center serves patients from far flung places like Arkansas.  

Many of the Oncologists like Dr Pant who see and treat patientsare also interested in clinical trials and so the center has become a magnet for talent from around the country.  Dr Pant does phase 1 and 2 trials mainly in Pancreatic Cancer and other GI tumors and has transformed the center with his vision and energy.

It's quite amazing to see this sleepy town transform itself from an agrarian economy to a more science and technology based economy.  

More needs to be done though.  A drive through downtown proves that this city has a lot more to do to catchup to Houston which has completely transformed itself on the backs of MD Anderson hospital system.  

Still, kudos to the folks at the Health Science Center and energetic scientist-physicians like Dr Pant for breathing new life into this beautiful city.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Breakthrough Designation For Aduro Biotech For Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer is certainly on the move!  Lots of interesting research happening in this cancer type which is still considered one of the toughest cancers to treat.  The latest bit of good news comes from Aduro Biotech based in San Francisco, which received the Breakthrough Designation from the FDA.

For a company to receive Breakthrough therapy designation, it needs to have clinical results that could be considered truly a breakthrough.  Aduro had earlier at ASCO 2014 announced the outcome of the Phase 2 randomized, open-label study testing the efficacy and immune response to GVAX pancreas vaccine alone vs GVAX followed by CRS-207 (modified listeria monocytogenes) in pancretic cancer patients who had either progressed on chemotherapy or refused chemotherapy.  

The outcome of the study was indeed quite impressive showing a median overall survival 6.1 months in the Listeria monocytogenes arm compared to 3.9 months for those receiving GVAX monotherapy (HR=0.59, one-sided p=0.0172).

Earlier this year, another company, Merrimack, demonstrated that its drug, a novel nanoliposomal form of irinotecan MM-398, improved overall survival in second line Pancreatic Cancer  from 4.2 months to 6.1 months when combined with 5-FU and leucovorin.

These ~two months increase in median overall survival may not seem like much but progress in science is based on these incremental improvements.  One day we hope that Pancreatic cancer will become like breast cancer where patients are diagnosed early, and treated quickly such that their lifespan is extended by 10, 15, or 20 or more years.

Congratulations to Aduro for a big milestone.  Long road still ahead, and each small victory is worth celebration.  Undoubtedly the Breakthrough designation will give this tiny biotech some much needed boost in interest in their technology.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Flying out of Oakland Airpot

When it comes to flying out of Bay Area, San Francisco airport is an obvious choice.  However, for people who live in east bay, flying out of Oakland airport is an additional option. I like flying out of Oakland as it saves me ~20 mins of drive time, and walking to the terminal is quick.  The real challenge is the security line.  Today I almost missed the flight due to an extra long security line.  But the folks on Southwest held the plane till I was able to get to the gate.  The other challenge is the choice of airlines - if you are not a Southwest or AirTran fan, number of choices is rather limited.  

For me, Oakland airport works out quite well as Southwest has regular flights to San Diego and many other destinations I tend to frequent.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Biased View of India Through The Eyes of Gardiner Harris

This morning's email brought with it the regular list of sunday articles published in NY Times. And there he was again - Gardiner Harris, presenting a thoroughly biased view of India, an outlaw nation whose branches of government are out to persecute, rape and pillage it's citizenry. The title says it all ..."In remote corners of India, immunity for soldiers who kill and rape civilians". The article dredges old stories from the past to make a case that the Indian Government tries to hide the evil deeds of it's branches of government behind the facade of progress. I take issue with Gardiner's emphasis of focusing on problems of India, and with New York Times' willingness to publish such vitriol. If you doubt me, let's take a look at the articles written by Gardiner on India.

And this is just the first page!  Reading this list of articles one wouldn't come away with a view of India that the country is making progress.  One would not think India is a progressive nation with aspirations to free it's multitude of poor from shackles of poverty.  One would not know that despite all the troubles faced by the minorities in India, the Indian muslims live a far better life than their brethren in Pakistan or Burma or other countries in the sub continent.

I am not suggesting that Gardiner's articles should not be read, or that there isn't a modicum of truth in them.  But his focus on covering the failings of the society misses the larger point - India is a growing country with a lot of positive things happening.  It's citizenry isn't an oppressed citizenry, and while every one in India doesn't yet have equal opportunity and perhaps many are indeed persecuted and subjugated by the Indian system, many millions are in fact enjoying the benefits of a system that gives them voice and allows them to express themselves in ways almost impossible to experience in many countries like China, Russia, Cuba or others.

As I made my discovery of Gardiner's bias, I was curious, am I the only one to see this?  Turns out, not so.  A quick google search landed me on to a list of others who seem to have the same concerns of Gardiner's bias.  I am disappointed that New York Times should allow such a biased view to be presented all the time.