The Niche weekend reads: Editas mess, The Niche updates, papers

The news of the week relates to an interim clinical trial report from gene-editing firm Editas on its CRISPR trial for a form of vision loss. On to that in a minute. What have you been reading the past week? Below, I include our weekly list of recommended reads. However, first I wanted to give you a brief update on some changes on our site.

Editas side effects
Editas adverse effects from a tweet showing image from presentation. Was this withheld by the company?

The Niche updates continue

It’s been about 10 months since I started giving The Niche a makeover, evolving from “just” a stem cell blog into a multifaceted website with many resources.

These new items include a large number of educational items about stem cells. Some of the fresh features are specifically for patients (even though I’m not a physician and don’t give medical advice), while others are for the broader community.

This has been a team effort with several people helping out including web professionals.

We also have a Medical and Bioethics Advisory Board.

I’ve also added many new stem cell videos that are part of our Stem Cell Channel now on YouTube. We’re nearly up to a new goal of 250 subscribers to the channel. Over the years some readers of the blog had requested more video content. I’ve pasted one of our most popular videos below on stem cell supplements (the kind people take, not for cell culture).

The Niche has a new look as well overall in terms of website design plus new features like videos.

Editas Mess

The CRISPR biotech Editas had a tumultuous week. Its stock is way down overall this week on mixed news on trial results for its EDIT-101 gene-editing drug. While one patient showed improvement and another was stable using a medium dose, the others in the small study didn’t show improvement.

A mild side effect of inflammation was also present, the company said.  But it seems there were more issues even if nothing terribly surprising for an eye study. The stock ($EDIT) got hammered and the firm got criticized for its handling of the news.

Investor’s Business Daily covered the Editas stock woes and Adam Feuerstein at STAT raised concerns. Gene editing pioneer Fyodor Urnov asked Adam on Twitter for clarification and what Adam tweeted raised some serious concerns about possibly omitting side effect data on retinal tears and other issues. Here’s the tweet that Adam cited in discussing his concerns. I also posted an image from the tweet above on adverse event data.

This situation is in flux, but if correct as it seems that they left out some of the less encouraging data then of course that’s a big mistake.

Overall, there’s some encouraging even if early results there potentially that now get muddled.

FDA grace period consequences and Nature article-ads on stem cells

Shifting gears, it seems like the FDA just gave unproven stem cell clinics more space to keep on being noncompliant when it gave them a 3 1/2-year grace period to come into compliance.

From the AP: US stem cell clinics boomed while FDA paused crackdown. It’s no surprise that some of the clinic folks would take advantage of more time to just try to make more money off of vulnerable people. A one-year grace period would have been a better way to go.

Stem-cell start-ups seek to crack the mass-production problem, Nature Outlook: Stem Cells. I hesitate to link to this article because as best as I can tell it may be something of an advertisement or an ad-article hybrid as I’ve called them. I’ve written about ad-articles before. for example, I dinged Nature Publishing before for another such item, which in that case promoted a controversial kind of supposed stem cell called MUSE cells.

At least this time it seemed a little clearer in the mass-production piece that it was sponsored content based on this disclaimer, “This article is part of Nature Outlook: Stem cells, an editorially independent supplement produced with the financial support of third parties.” This is just one in a new series of stem cell ad-articles in Nature this week via this sponsored mechanism. It’s good for Nature’s finances, but I’m not a fan.

Still some of the ad-articles are interesting and this seems like a totally different kind of level of science than the MUSE cell situation.

Recommended papers

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