The News – 9 September 2014

Overview

  • Cancer survivors and advocates are devastated at a decision by the full bench of the Federal Court that private companies have the right to control human genes.
  • An inquest into 14 deaths in a Sydney nursing home fire has heard references for the nurse who deliberately started it were not checked before he was employed.
  • An experimental vaccine can temporarily shield lab monkeys from Ebola, and a booster jab provides longer protection, according to a new study.


Stories Discussed
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 9th September 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.

http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/mutation-of-breast-cancer-gene-can-be-patented-says-federal-court-20140905-10ckfp.html

Cancer survivors and advocates are devastated at a decision by the full bench of the Federal Court that private companies have the right to control human genes.

They fear the decision in the so-called “breast cancer gene” case, which found a company could patent mutations in the gene BRCA1, will lead to higher costs for patients in need of potentially life-saving tests.

They have called on the federal government to intervene to change the laws, and Maurice Blackburn, the lawyers that brought the case, have vowed to fight it “to the end”, flagging a potential appeal to the High Court of Australia.

However, patent lawyers say the laws are a fair reflection of the work done by the biotechnology industry, and the decision may draw business to Australia.

Sally Crossing, from Cancer Voices Australia, said the Australian community had made it clear the patenting of human genes was “offensive and counter-intuitive.”

Director of Advocacy at Cancer Council Australia, Paul Grogan, said that, if the ruling was an interpretation of the law, then the law needed to change.

“In 2008, Australian women were only protected from an attempted commercial monopoly over the BRCA1 and BRCA2 tests because the company that threatened to take those tests away from public laboratories withdrew its patent claims voluntarily,” he said.

“There was nothing in the law to protect healthcare consumers … and there still isn’t.

In February last year, Federal Court Justice John Nicholas ruled that the process of isolating the gene from the body was a way of manufacturing something new, and so it could be patented.

… the full court unanimously upheld that decision.

It is a win for Myriad, and the owner of the Australian licence for the test, Genetic Technologies. In a statement law firm Jones Day, which acted for Myriad in Australia, said patents drove innovation.

But Rebecca Gilsenan, the principal lawyer at Maurice Blackburn, which fought the case on behalf of cancer survivor Yvonne D’Arcy, said the patent was granted on a gene that was exactly the same inside as it was once it had been isolated, save for the fact it was not in the body.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-08/quakers-hill-nursing-home-cv-references-not-checked-for-dean/5727180

An inquest into 14 deaths in a Sydney nursing home fire has heard references for the nurse who deliberately started it were not checked before he was employed.

Counsel assisting Kristina Stern told Glebe Coroner’s Court former nurse Roger Dean provided a CV and passed a police check before he was employed by the Quakers Hill nursing home.

But she said his work references were not checked and he did not undergo a mental health assessment.

The inquest was told Dean poured paint over a previous employer’s car and put nails in the tyres and had turned up at another workplace under the influence of drugs with slurred speech and froth around his mouth.

He is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to charges that include 11 counts of murder and eight counts of causing reckless bodily harm.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/09/08/4083070.htm

An experimental vaccine can temporarily shield lab monkeys from Ebola, and a booster jab provides longer protection, according to a new study.

Dr Nancy Sullivan of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and colleagues report on a vaccine that was found to be effective for at least five weeks in lab monkeys but required boosting with an additional vaccine to extend its protection to 10 months.

The study, published … in Nature Medicine, is the first to report a vaccine regimen that produced “durable immunity” against Ebola.

The vaccine uses a chimp adenovirus, closely related to a human version that causes upper respiratory tract infections, into which scientists spliced an Ebola gene.

The adenovirus infects cells in a vaccinated animal, causing them to take up the gene and produce Ebola proteins. That primes the immune system to attack the proteins of Ebola viruses when an infection occurs.

Sullivan and some of her colleagues have a financial interest in gene-based vaccines for ebolavirus. The vaccine in their study is similar to competing vaccines being developed by GlaxoSmithKline, which began human safety trials last week, and by Johnson & Johnson, which aims to start safety trials in early 2015.

The study suggests such vaccines such as the one developed by GSK will protect against Ebola infection in the short term, but may have to be augmented for long-term protection.

A third experimental Ebola vaccine uses a different delivery system, a livestock pathogen called vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV). A version developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed to NewLink Genetics is scheduled to be tested for safety in healthy volunteers this fall. Profectus BioSciences is also developing a VSV vaccine.

Only VSV vaccines have been shown to protect lab monkeys when given after infection with Ebola, Geisbert said: “This makes it so much more useful than any of the other vaccines. For outbreaks, it works fast.”

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