Tag: European Commission

akampion Meets…. Victoria English, Co-Founder and Editor of MedNous

In 2006, long-time journalists Victoria English and William Ellington decided to quit their jobs and to establish their own publication, the biomedical trade journal MedNous (pronounced Med-Nows). A year later, in September 2007, the first issue appeared alongside with the website www.mednous.com.

akampion: Why did you establish MedNous?

Victoria English: Both of us thought Europe’s very innovative life science industry needed better communication. Back then, everyone was thinking in clusters and areas, and we felt by connecting the dots we could support the industry in its efforts to increase efficiency. Second, at that time the European Commission and the EMEA were very worried about the decreasing productivity of the biopharmaceutical industry, and Europe developed the Innovative Medicines Initiative, similar to the FDA’s Critical Path policy. This, too, called for better collaboration, and we wanted to capture this shift in official politics to encourage collaboration and translation of discoveries into products. Third, after working for many years in big corporations such as Reuters, DowJones, McGraw Hill and Informa, I thought it is time to start my own company.

akampion: What kind of preparations were necessary?

V. E.: After quitting our jobs we spent about 12 months to set up a website and a database, before we the first issue went out. During that time, we looked at every single bio-cluster in Europe and its member companies. Our database entries are updated ever since on a regular basis.

akampion: What exactly is MedNous focusing on?

V. E.: Originally, we focused on genetic therapy and stem cell therapy as we thought these were the most innovative areas and because no one else was writing about it. But it soon became obvious that these technologies were not that advanced as we thought, so we added other areas as well. Now we report about all companies developing products that will be regulated under the centralized procedure of the EMEA, plus projects validated by either venture capital funding or pharma collaborations. In fact, some companies emerge on our radar screen only after a huge financing.

akampion: How do you work?

V. E.: We do interviews on the phone, but for bigger stories we travel to the companies to get a first-hand impression. We also visit conferences. We are very interested in data, of course, but our key interest is answering questions like “what is the management like?”, “what is their strategy?”, “what have been their failures and successes?”

akampion: What does it take to fund a publication?

V. E.: You need to have capital, an interest in marketing and the business side. Luckily, we were able to finance the start ourselves, and now the company is generating revenues from subscriptions. And of course you need to adapt your technology all the time to spread the word. As an example, RSS feeds increasingly lost their importance – now it is all about Twitter and other social networks.

akampion: You still stick to a publication printed on paper. Why is that?

V. E.: Simply because we want to have an impact by providing a product that allows for a comprehensive view, which we think is valuable to the industry. For this reason we have also chosen not to break it down to single articles that can be purchased. We do, however, provide a PDF version of each issue.

akampion: You established an editorial board for MedNous. Why?

V. E.: We want to add some depth to our editorial coverage. So we take advice from the board on topics to write about, and we also ask members of the board to review our interviews before publication. Neither William nor I are scientists. We keep to the time-honored journalistic practice of maintaining independence from our sources, e. g, the people we interview do not vet articles about themselves. Yet we recognize that we need advice on some of the technical aspects. Members of the editorial board provide this advice. They are active and very valuable contributors.

akampion: How many people are working at MedNous?

V. E.: Currently we employ six people, including a contributing editor, web and production editors, proofreaders, etc.

akampion: What is your take on the European sector right now?

V. E.: In my view, Europe has a big competitive advantage over the US: the European healthcare systems may be diverse, but all are built on some kind of reimbursement and this guarantees a much closer look at the patient benefits of new medicines. So in this respect, feedback is much better and this will lead to products better serving the need of patients.

akampion: Do you still have time to do other things?

V.E.: Running a publication is a job that needs your attention most of your days, including the weekends. But I do enjoy visiting the British Library to read and I take modern dance and tap dance classes. In addition, I also help manage a number of community organizations including our local community center where I am a trustee.

Food for Thought: Weekly Wrap-Up

Rationing medicine already is clinical reality in Germany, reports this week’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). Christina Hucklenbroich features a representative survey among the members of the German Society for Hematology and Oncology (DGHO) about therapeutic decisions in treating cancer patients. According to the survey, 59% of the responding 345 oncologists said that they abstain from treatment options if they think the therapeutic benefit is too small as compared to the cost of treatment. However, 19% responded they even refrain from therapeutic options for cost reasons even if the treatments provide an additional, considerable benefit to the patients.

Michael Feld also in FAZ reports on a study by Pricewaterhouse Coopers and the Darmstadt Economics Research Institute Wifor that Germany will be lacking 56,000 physicians and 140,000 nursing staff by 2020, a situation that will hit the eldery most. The author, a practicing physician, states that the situation is not only caused by lack of money but also by disappearing values like charity, social responsibility and a sense of honor.

Focus magazine this week features a study from the University of Michigan giving rise to concerns that taking dietary supplements and OTC medications to stimulate the immune system can be counterproductive in patients with autoimmune diseases. The study demonstrates in animals that a strong immune response to common cold viruses can exacerbate inflammations and even lead to asthma attacks while the infection with a weaker immune system proceeds without complications.

Die Welt reports about clinical results on a new test for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) communicated by the University of Leipzig. The test is based on radiolabeled Florbetaben which is injected into the blood stream. The substance binds to beta-amyloid peptides in the brain, and binding can be assessed using PET imaging. Thereby, AD can be diagnosed up to 15 years before onset of the disease. The paper does not mention, however, that the (preliminary) results are from an international multi-center Phase III trial sponsored by Bayer Schering Pharma that was designed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of florbetaben (BAY 94-9172) developed by the company. PET images are compared to corresponding histo-pathological specimens. Details will be published in the next issue of Lancet Neurology.

Christian Meier, Aitziber Romero and Dino Trescher in Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) maintain that industry is trying to block attempts to regulate nanotechnology products. While the EU Commission prefers to define nanotechnology products by counting the number of particles smaller than 100 nanometers, industry wants a definition by determining the fraction of the particles contributing to the mass of the product. The authors, which claim that nanotech products bear all sorts of unforeseen health and environmental hazards, say that this is an attempt by industry to reduce the number of products defined as being nanotechnology.

The Economist makes a case in how food poisoning by EHEC, salmonella and other dangerous bacteria can be effectively prevented: radiating food. Irony is that it was Germany, the country currently suffering from the worst and most deadly EHEC epidemic ever, that vetoed a proposal by the European Commission to allow radiation for a greater range of food and at higher doses, e.g. for sprouts which caused this year’s epidemic, in 2000. However, the author doubts the epidemic will change the German government’s attitude for fear to upset Germany’s influential Green movement.

Last not least, comics are becoming increasingly popular among biotech companies and researchers. Silver Spring, MD based biotech company United Therapeutics chose to publish its annual report as a comic book, while researchers from the Department of Neurosurgery of Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf published a retrospective study on traumatic brain injuries in comics, analyzing more than 700 head injuries in the Asterix comic books: “Although over half of patients had an initially severe impairment of consciousness after TBI, no permanent deficit could be found. Roman nationality, hypoglossal paresis, lost helmet, and ingestion of the magic potion were significantly correlated with severe initial impairment of consciousness (p ≤ 0.05).”