The Anonymous Widower

Coronavirus: Protein Treatment Trial ‘A Breakthrough’

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

These are the first three paragraphs of the article.

The preliminary results of a clinical trial suggest a new treatment for Covid-19 reduces the number of patients needing intensive care, according to the UK company that developed it.

The treatment from Southampton-based biotech Synairgen uses a protein called interferon beta which the body produces when it gets a viral infection.

The protein is inhaled directly into the lungs of patients with coronavirus, using a nebuliser, in the hope that it will stimulate an immune response.

I first heard of Synairgen about five months ago, when I read about the company in the Sunday Times. It was only a few words, but it did say, that they were developing an inhaled beta interferon for use by Covid-19 patients or those with lung problems.

I should say, that I know about inhaled pharmaceuticals. Not because, I’ve ever used any, but because I funded the development of a very successful metered-dose inhaler for asthma drugs.

Two inventors; Stephen Dunne and Terry Weston came to me looking for finance to complete the development of an aerosol value, that instead of using CFCs or HCFCs as a propellant, used purified air. In fact it was pure nitrogen, but the average user of a deodorant or fly-spray doesn’t know that nitrogen is a constituent of air and thinks it’s posionous.

We formed a company called Dunne Miller Weston or DMW.

It was a technical success and the company’s MP; John Gummer, took details of the breakthrough to the conference that resulted in the Montreal Protocol.

The device and the associated patents were sold to Johnson & Johnson.

The two inventors had other ideas and one was for a metered dose inhaler for asthma drugs.

I remember that they were able to get a grant from Glaxo to prove the concept of the device.

Because, the full development would need more money, we now had a fourth partner; Mike.

I remember going with Mike to see Glaxo and we were unable to reach agreement on how Glaxo would contribute to the full development. They tended to give out these grants and I got the impression, that ours was one of the first to get a positive result and they didn’t know how to handle it.

But, it didn’t matter, as we were able to raise the funding from elsewhere and develop a successful device.

This was sold to Boehringer Ingelheim for a lot of money and all investors were very satisfied. Their product name is Respimat.

Glaxo carried on using an HCFC device.

I earned a reasonable about of money from my investment, but I also learned a lot about pharmaceuticals.

  • At the time, New Zealand had the highest level of asthma inhaler use in the world.
  • Pharmaceutical companies are very conservative.
  • Doctors tend to give out inhalers like toys.
  • Naked flames are a big cause of asthma.

But the most important knowledge I acquired was over a drink with an engineer in a pharmaceutical company, that the fine spray we obtained with our device would have lots of medical applications, including delivery of insulin for diabetics. We’d already had very good feedback, from test users in Germany.

Some other applications are stored in my brain. One could be a very big seller in the modern world!

So when I saw the report in The Sunday Times, I bought a few shares in Synairgen.

I have been well-rewarded today!

 

 

July 20, 2020 Posted by | Business, Health | , | 2 Comments

My Past Is Worrying Me!

It must have been in the early 1970s, when I was acting as a mathematical-modelling consultant.

I was asked to do some modelling by a major drug company of the propagation of a virus through the UK population.

Their aim was to show how serious these pandemics could be and they wanted to get substantial grants from the Government to fund various lines of research.

With their data and the model I built, we were able to show how a dangerous pandemic could evolve.

But I never found out how successful they were in obtaining the money needed to start the research!

It does look like this pandemic could be the one that researchers at the company were predicting nearly fifty years ago.

March 13, 2020 Posted by | Computing, Health | , , , | 2 Comments

Asthma Carbon Footprint ‘As Big As Eating Meat’

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Many people with asthma could cut their carbon footprint and help save the environment by switching to “greener” medications, UK researchers say.

I know more than a bit about metered dose inhalers.

I backed an inhaler, which is marketed under the name of Respimat, as when I saw the technology of the company, my physics knowledge told me that they had something.

The device was purely mechanical, with no batteries, electrical supply, gases or noxious chemicals. It effectively used the principle of an old-fashioned air pistol, that fired drugs instead of pellets.

I still have the prototype in my garage.

It was a bit of a roller-coaster of an investment, but I made a good return in the end, when we sold the device to Bohringer Ingelheim.

I was saying what Cambridge University are now saying, nearly twenty years ago!

 

October 30, 2019 Posted by | Health | , , | Leave a comment

Blood Pressure Pills ‘Work Better At Bedtime’

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

This is the first paragraph.

To get the best out of your daily blood pressure medication, take it just before you go to bed, say researchers.

The study was at the University of Vigo in Spain and could be very significant.

As I am on pills for high blood pressure, after discussing it with a friend, who is a senior cardiologist, I decided to give it a go.

I started on Wednesday night, so it is only a few days and it would be wrong to draw any serious conclusions.

But I can already draw one simple one. It is much easier to take the drugs at night, just because you’ve always got a drink handy. Even, if it’s just cold tea in the bottom of a mug or the last dregs of beer in the bottom of a glass.

In the morning, I now get out of bed, brush my teeth, scratch my beard, do a few simple warm up exercises, take my blood pressure and put the kettle on.

Life is simpler!

I also seem to be sleeping better!

It’s too early to come to any conclusions, but everybody on pills for high blood pressure, should read the BBC article and talk to their doctor.

 

October 27, 2019 Posted by | Health | | Leave a comment

A Double Database Cock-Up From The NHS

At three on Sunday morning, I phoned NHS 111 to ask for a bit of help with my terrible cold that was stopping me from even getting to sleep.

I had some advice which helped, but I was also booked in to see a doctor at 09:00 in a surgery a short bus ride away.

So far so good and no complaints.

I duly saw the doctor and he prescribed several drugs, which I took to my local Boots later in the morning.

I should say at this point, that four years ago, I officially changed my name from the one my parents gave me to the one I’ve used continuously since 1968. I was starting to get problems with some airlines, where my passport had a different name to my bank account. My current GP has only ever known me by the latter name and I’m registered with their surgery using it.

When I got to Boots, they initially rejected the prescription, as for some reason it showed by old name, although my address, NHS number and other personal details were correct.

How did the wrong name get on the prescription?

Luckily, Boots were pragmatic and as they recognised me, I got some of thew drugs.

But not all!

The pharmacist recognised that two drugs were incompatible with the Warfarin I take.

So why did the NHS computer system allow the doctor to prescribe the drugs?

As someone who was at the forefront of database technology, I believe, these two problems are inexcusable.

My incorrect name could have led to failure to obtain needed drugs.

The lack of interaction checking, could have led to serious problems for a patient.

January 7, 2019 Posted by | Computing, Health | , , , , | 4 Comments

There’s More To Liverpool Than Football And The Beatles!

This morning, this story on the BBC web site entitled ‘Major Win’ In Pancreatic Cancer Fight is one of the top stories. This is said.

A new combination of chemotherapy drugs should become the main therapy for pancreatic cancer, say UK researchers.

The disease is so hard to treat that survival rates have barely changed for decades.

But data, presented at the world’s biggest cancer conference, showed long-term survival could be increased from 16% to 29%.

The findings have been described as a “major win”, “incredibly exciting” and as offering new hope to patients.

I must admit that I feel a touch of pride, as the study was led by Professor John Neoptolemos at Liverpool University, which was where my late wife and I met when we were both students at the University.

But I also feel a touch of relief for others, who might get this awful cancer in the future, as now they may stand a better chance of survival, than did our youngest son; George, who survived just a few months after diagnosis.

I also raised a small sum of money for the research by visiting all 92 English and Welsh football clubs in alphabetical order by public transport. The main funding for the resarch included Cancer Research UK and I think some EU money!

The BBC story also says this.

The trial on 732 patients – in hospitals in the UK, Sweden, France and Germany – compared the standard chemotherapy drug gemcitabine against a combination of gemcitabine and capecitabine.

I’ve looked up the two drugs mentioned and both are on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, which are the most important drugs needed in a basic health system.

An article in The Guardian is also illuminating. This is said.

The ESPAC trials, which began publishing findings in 2004, showed that chemotherapy with gemcitabine brings five-year survival up to 15-17%, doubling the rate of survival with surgery alone. The latest research, presented at theAmerican Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago, showed the two-drug combination nearly doubles the survival rate again to 29%.

It showed, said Neoptolemos, that chemotherapy does work in pancreatic cancer, even though most attention in cancer research is now focused onimmunotherapy, and precision or targeted medicine.

But the trial would not have happened without funding from the charity CancerResearch UK (CRUK), because both drugs are old and off-patent, meaning they can be made by any generic drug manufacturer and are consequently cheap. Drug companies would not foot the bill for such a trial because the profits to be made are small.

“This is an academic-led presentation,” said Neoptolemos. “This shows the enormous value of CRUK. Without them, none of this would have happened. There is a lot of pressure [on doctors] to do drug company trials because you get £2,000 to £3,000 a patient. For something like this, you don’t get anything. It has been quite tough to do.”

So this is not some elite drug for the rich, famous and powerful, but one that might even be applied everywhere.

I must admit, that I’ve shed the odd tear this morning!

June 4, 2016 Posted by | Health | , , | 5 Comments