Friday, July 25, 2014

What a night

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 had perfect weather. The bright white tent was filled with colorful table linens and fresh flowers from the gardens. Food tables were set up by the finest restaurants, caterers and bakeries in the area and we even had a big barbeque blazing on the far side.

The guests mingled, sipped drinks, ate, sat under the tent or on garden chairs set up on the sweeping lawn behind Christ Church Oyster Bay.

At 8:15 the award ceremony began and our honoree and 2014 Alice Roosevelt Longworth recipient, Marguerite Casparian, accepted her well deserved recognition for ten years of unparalleled service to the Oyster Bay Community.

This was followed by the models, our Warrior Angel Survivor Models, who were accompanied by their heroes- their caregivers. Before each model stepped onto the runway, her tribute to her hero was read. Cheers, tears, and standing ovations followed. When the last model finished, the event turned to the second theme of the evening. We were saluting the Heroes-Our Caregivers, and we were remembering what happened 45 years ago that same evening on July 20th in 1969 when man first walked on the moon. This was followed a few weeks later by a little gathering up the New York State Thruway called Woodstock, and over in London, the Beatles were busy recording Abbey Road. At the same time, Paul Simon wrote, "A Bridge Over Troubled Water." What a summer that was. Heroes, love, peace and the perfect song that epitomizes what our heroes mean to us, getting us through our troubled times.

We turned the night over to the amazing Mostly Moptop Band, and the dancing began and didn't end for a very long time....

Everyone present has reported this was the best party the No Surrender Breast Cancer Foundation ever held. We agree. We also wish everyone could have been there. To give you a taste- take a look at our party here:

A very special thank you to Christ Church, Mostly Moptop, Birch Lifestyle Boutique, JMclaughlin, Periwinkles, Christina's Epicure, Jack Halyards, Suzie Cakez, The Coach, Country Plaza Caterers, Mario's and Bagel Boss.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Generous Grant That Will Help Us All

As readers of this blog know, we are strong advocates of the work being done at the Cold Spring Harbor Lab. If ever there was  a research institution that holds the key that will unlock the cure to cancer and other disorders, it is this group of dedicated scientists.

A wonderful, philanthropic couple have shown their support of the lab in a big way. This money will help move the innovative research forward and will make a difference in all of our lives.

We applaud Mr. and Mrs. Simons.

Simonses give $50 million to Cold Spring Harbor lab

July 7, 2014 by Delthia Ricks, Newsday

A Long Island couple has donated $50 million to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the hope of contributing to the precision analysis of an enormous amount of molecular data being generated by human genomics, tumor biology and the genetics of autism.

The gift from hedge-fund investor James Simons and his wife, Marilyn, of East Setauket, will establish the Simons Center for Quantitative Biology on the lab's campus.

Quantitative biology is an emerging interdisciplinary field that utilizes fundamental concepts from physics, mathematics, computer science and chemistry to better analyze biological data.

The gift will allow Cold Spring Harbor scientists to expand their work and explore vast areas of biology, aiding in the understanding and treatment of numerous disorders.

"It's a transformative gift, something that will really enable the quantitative biology program to recruit a lot more people than we anticipated and support their research," said Dr. Bruce Stillman, the laboratory's president.

Quantitative biology is vital, Stillman added, because it allows other areas of science to better elucidate biological findings. "We don't want to reinvent things that have already been invented, such as algorithms," Stillman said. "But we want to use algorithms to understand biology and medicine. I am hopeful that we will add to the development of new algorithms that will benefit everybody."

Renee Fister, an officer with the Society for Mathematical Biology, which promotes interaction between the math and biological science communities, said, "This is a substantial gift, and that means they have the people and the mechanisms in place to make important contributions."

David Usher, a professor of quantitative biology at the University of Delaware, also applauded the donation and explained that the discipline is adding to the understanding of a vast range of biological systems.

Pharmacokinetics, the study of how medications are absorbed, metabolized and excreted, is an area that has long benefited from advances in quantitative biology, Usher said.

Cold Spring Harbor Lab's new center will be chaired by Adam Siepel, an associate professor at Cornell University who has directed the doctoral program in computational biology. He joins the lab in September.

Stillman, meanwhile, sees the donation as filling an enormous void in scientific funding.
"Philanthropic support of science is becoming increasingly necessary and important," he said, "and gifts of this magnitude allow programs like ours to be supported."

He added that after the completion of the Human Genome Project more than a decade ago, federal money for basic biological research dropped 22 percent, which has meant a loss of funding for numerous investigators.

"In inflation-adjusted dollars, that's enormous," Stillman said, noting federal funding has remained flat for some scientific enterprises, nonexistent for others.

The Simonses' donation is the third they've made in recent years to fuel scientific enterprise on Long Island. In 2011 they donated $150 million to Stony Brook University, and in 2008 they gave the school $60 million.

James Simons was chairman of Stony Brook's mathematics department from 1968 to 1976 and is credited with discovering the so-called Chern-Simons invariants, which have had wide use in theoretical physics.

Marilyn Simons, president of their philanthropic foundation, holds a doctorate in economics. Her husband founded a hedge fund after his years in academia."Jim and I have been consistently impressed by the commitment of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's board, management and faculty to excellence in biological research and education," she said in a statement Monday.

"We are proud to provide financial support that allows this institution to recruit outstanding scientists like Dr. Siepel to pursue the most innovative research in cancer, neurobiology, genomics and quantitative biology."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Follow the Money...

Sometimes it is hard to know which drug holds the most promise when reading about Phase 1 trials. They may sound effective on paper, but do they really work? One good indicator of a truly promising drug is if a large pharmaceutical company backs it with a great deal of money.

This is the story of a new drug that has the backing of  Roche's Genentech one that will help women with estrogen responsive breast cancer who have become resistant to estrogen blocking drugs. The words, "total estrogen annihilation" may sound foreboding, but when your cancer is feeding on the estrogen in your body, you want nothing less.

Roche's Genentech bags game-changing breast cancer drug in $1.7B deal
By John Carroll,

Just a year after Johnson & Johnson swooped in to buy up Aragon’s game-changing work on prostate cancer in a billion-dollar deal, Roche's Genentech has followed up to buy what remained: a closely-related breast cancer program that promises to change the way that disease is treated. And the big Roche subsidiary is paying a blockbuster figure, handing over $725 million in cash for the fledgling biotech Seragon Pharmaceuticals--which was spun off from Aragon after the J&J deal--and promising up to a billion dollars in milestones.

In exchange Roche is getting a Phase I cancer therapy with a stellar pedigree and a groundbreaking approach to breast cancer. Seragon has been targeting hormone-receptor positive cases, which are currently treated with drugs that wither block the estrogen receptor or prevent the production of estrogen.

The biotech has been working on a drug that doesn't just block the receptor--it's out to eliminate it altogether.

"This year, breast cancer will claim the lives of nearly 40,000 women in the United States, and up to half of these women will have a disease that is driven by the estrogen receptor," said Richard Scheller, the head of Genentech's research arm, dubbed gRED. "We believe these investigational oral SERDs (selective estrogen receptor degraders) could one day redefine the standard of care for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer."

Seragon was built on the scientific foundation laid by Aragon, a San Diego biotech created to pursue the insights of noted investigator Charles Sawyers, now at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. Standard therapies for breast and prostate cancer are designed to block the effect of the hormones, acting like "glue in the lock" of hormone receptors, then-Aragon CEO Rich Heyman toldFierceBiotech back in 2010. But over time, patients become treatment resistant and the therapy can wind up fueling the cancer. Heyman called his lead therapy for prostate cancer "super glue. It truly blocks the receptor in this resistant state."

J&J plucked the lead androgen-receptor prostate cancer work out of the company, paying $650 million in upfront cash, and left Heyman to go on to pursue the focus on breast cancer and estrogen receptors in a new company backed by some very happy investors. Last fall the new company got started with a $30 million round and a lineup of Big Pharma admirers.

This new deal with Genentech is remarkable for several reasons. Genentech is not known for paying out a lot of cash to bring in new drug programs. As any of its execs will tell you, the giant Roche subsidiary is confident that it has a big pipeline of cancer drugs and doesn't need to buy up a string of new programs. So it tends to buy or license very early stage efforts for modest amounts that complement that work--unlike Roche's pRed group based in Basel, which has been scouring Europe and the U.S. for new technologies.

The deal also underscores the promise of the work that Seragon was doing. Genentech is considered one of the best cancer drug developers in the world, so when it pays big for a drug, they're betting that they're jumping into something transformative. What was an early-stage effort at a small biotech is now a leading program at Roche. And the way fast-paced cancer drug R&D works these days, it shouldn't take too much more time before we start seeing human data on its effect on breast cancer.

Finally, these kinds of numbers in a cancer deal highlight the level of attention oncology is getting from the major players in biopharma. As much as a third of all research cash is now directed at cancer and inflammation and top assets are fetching premium prices. The $1.7 billion Seragon deal suggests that the premium just got bigger, which will only further emphasize the leading role that the biggest companies with the deepest pockets play in the field.

The Wall Street Journal's Helen Thomas, though, used her 'Heard on the Street' column to raise an early warning, calling it “disconcerting.”  Rarely in other sectors do companies shell out vast sums for assets that could quite possibly amount to nothing." And she went on to note the chronically high failure rate of experimental drugs as well as the fact that Seragon was formed only last year.

True enough. Thomas, though, overlooks the years of research that had already been done in Aragon and more recently at J&J on these receptor-related drugs, to say nothing of Sawyers' earlier work. Also, investigators have been changing the odds on cancer R&D in recent years.

Roche and Genentech are gambling big sums, their task now is to prove they know how to do it wisely.