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Friday, December 27, 2013

The New Year is approaching, bringing huge changes in healthcare coverage for most Americans. This recent focus on healthcare costs has highlighted the extreme financial burden of rare diseases; effective therapies may have been developed, but the cost of R & D to the pharmaceutical companies is huge, compared to the number of potential users. Take Hereditary Angioedema; billions of dollars were spent on development of a very effective therapy, 95% of which was spent on unsuccessful drug trials. To recoup this investment, patent rights prevent generic alternatives, and the cost is passed on to the some 1 in 50,000. Each patient spends upwards of $100,000 per year to manage their condition. Perhaps this shake-up will force administrators to examine the real cost of healthcare, from pre-clinical trials to approval.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

In recognition of an innovator in immunology: Leonard Herzenberg, inventor of the FACS machine.

Immunologist, geneticist, and philanthropist Dr. Leonard Herzenberg profoundly changed cell biology and immunology with the invention of the fluorescence-activated cell sorter  (FACS ) machine. Herzenberg created the biotechnology in 1970, driven by the need for quantification of cell types during his novel work with hybridomas, which are monoclonal antibody producing B cells fused with cancer cells.   The FACS, also referred to as a flow cytometer, allows scientists to sort, quantify, and identify different cells types, and has been vital to the field ever since its existence.  Not only did his seminal biotechnology and research significantly advance what is known about lymphocyte biology, he used the royalties from the FACS to further fund his own research.  Dr. Herzenberg’s ground breaking achievements earned him an array of awards, most notably the Kyoto Prize, a Japanese equivalent to the Nobel Prize. His priceless contributions will continue to impact basic science research indefinitely.

 Leonard Herzenberg (November 5, 1931 – October 27, 2013)