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16-Year-Old Discovers Potential Treatment For Cystic Fibrosis

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the early-start dept.

Biotech 236

Bob the Super Hamste writes "According to a story at LiveScience, a 16-year-old Canadian 11th grade student has discovered a possible treatment for cystic fibrosis. The treatment is a combination of two drugs which, in a computer simulation on the Canadian SCINET supercomputing network, did not interfere with each other while interacting with the defective protein responsible for the disorder. He has also tested the drug combination on living cells with results that 'exceeded his expectations.'"

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236 comments

My money is on him winning that science fair. n/t (2)

dtmancom (925636) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120380)

n/t

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (1, Insightful)

kolbe (320366) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120408)

My money is on him winning the fair and then selling the rights to it to a Pharmaceutical, never to be heard from again.

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120420)

Yes, if its one thing they are know for is not providing new drugs.

Idiot.

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120636)

That's right. They mostly try to tack on a new chlorine atom to decades-old drugs so they can keep patents going.

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120708)

They are known for providing profitable drugs, and suppressing unprofitable drugs, or more accurately, drugs that interfere with the profitability of other drugs. For example, a drug that treats the symptoms of a disease, and needs to be taken for the duration of the patient's lifetime, would likely be a profitable drug. A drug that cures the disease with a single dose, while perhaps somewhat profitable on its own, would be devastating to the profitability of the first drug, and would therefore be a candidate for suppression.

In this particular case, however, the treatment involves the use of two existing drugs, so there's really no profitability to discuss.

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (-1, Flamebait)

digsbo (1292334) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120722)

Citation? Your statement is plausible, but unsupported, and therefore worthless.

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120854)

Right, and suddenly as Lipitor's (atorvastatin) patent expires, every single patient is being switched to Crestor (rosuvastatin), a much newer and better (patented) drug.

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (0)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121068)

Citation necessary. You don't suppose that for things like that newer medications might actually be better? It does happen from time to time.

The other bit is that just because the medication itself is no longer subject to patent protection, doesn't mean that the delivery system is. Which is one of the reasons why sometimes patients will react differently to a generic than to a name brand. If the medication isn't time released it's much less likely to be a problem, but even there you can run into issues.

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121290)

Here you go. [nih.gov] Crestor will decrease your relative risk by 44-53% of an adverse cardiovascular event, depending on the study. Impressive (it cuts your risk in half!), until you find out that your absolute risk was around 1% to begin with. For this you are shelling out $200/month, every month. Is it better? Yes. Undoubtedly Crestor is better than Lipitor. Now let's talk a moment about actual disease prevention... does it make much more difference versus lipitor? Not really. 0.5% a year compared to 1% a year, hmm, I guess it only makes a difference if you are the rare person actually having a heart attack which could have been prevented by "upgrading" the drug. The other 99 people, however, are paying through the nose.

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36121102)

I'm a pharmacist an I've seen no raise in patients taking crestor. Beyond that, when Lipitor goes generic, script insurance will no longer want to pay for crestor, or if they they do, the co-pay will be high as hell.

In that case we make calls and have it changed to a generic. I rarely have a doc say no.

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (2)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121050)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escitalopram [wikipedia.org] would be a perfect example. Citalopram's patent expired, so they found a new way to encapsulate the drug so that they could continue to sell the patented version. The new drug works exactly the same way that the old drug worked, has exactly the same mechanism, and a nearly identical success rate in clinical trials, but because it's encapsulated, it's technically a different drug, so they were able to renew the patent. I would lay odds that they have already developped the replacement for when Escitalopram's patent expires.

It's also a perfect example of a case where medical professionals are lobbied to continue selling the expensive proprietary drug... because the patent has expired, you can get a generic off-label version of Citalopram for a fraction of the cost of Escitalopram, but doctors continue to prescribe the newer version because the company that makes it lobbies physicians against prescribing the cheaper drug. (and all of the references you seek are cited in the Wikipedia article above)

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (1)

Ironhandx (1762146) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121390)

Its very easy to see this happening all the time. Its been happening over the last 10 years or so with all those new-fangled anti-depressants. You can get the brand name one in capsule form or the Generic out of patent one in pill form.

I forget the two it was, but I had a shill doctor prescribe the first one and then a real doctor prescribe the cheaper, same effectiveness, generic.

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36121126)

How about this [wikipedia.org]. Or even this [wikipedia.org].

A company that releases a product that destroys their own ability to profit will not be a company for very long. Pharmaceutical companies are, well, companies. As such, they will act as companies do.

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (3, Interesting)

MrBippers (1091791) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120762)

You clearly misunderstood the post you're responding to, or are yourself, an

Idiot.

The poster implied that he would sell the rights to a pharma company and indeed licensing compounds from smaller companies/research labs is indeed standard practice. If you meant that the pharma companies don't have enough new drugs of their own, this is in fact wrong.

The second part of the post implied the kid would never be heard from again. If he made enough money it's possible. I'm guessing you misinterpreted this as a statement the company would buy his compound and it would never see the light of day, thus garnering your idiot comment. While it's not what he meant, it is in fact also common practice in pharma for companies to license the rights to compounds similar to those they are developing just to eliminate potential competition. It's why often when licensing a compound stipulations are added that the purchasing company must intend to develop it.

All of this is likely moot as the kid does not own the rights to the compounds. TFA doesn't specify whether they are novel but my guess would be he worked with a library of existing compounds that showed some activity against cystic fibrosis in preliminary screenings.

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120806)

Yes, if its one thing they are know for is not providing new drugs.

No, just drugs that they either didn't adequately test ... or that they selectively dropped the results indicating that they gave you a higher likelihood of killing you.

While Big Pharma does crank out drugs, they're not exactly showing a stellar track record of actually making sure they're safe. They mostly assume they're safe if it doesn't kill you in the first few weeks.

And, then of course there's the constant commercials for a drug you should "ask your doctor about" -- sometimes they don't say what it treats, but they give a litany of side effects which sound like you'd need to be desperate to try. So, when a patient goes into a doctor insisting they should get some astra-awesome-a or something, the doc just writes a scrip of gives out the free samples the sales rep dropped off.

You'll excuse us for not attributing any concern for our welfare to these companies. They're like the tobacco industry in a lot of ways ... it's in their interests to tell you their product is perfectly safe and didn't kill more than half of the 100 rats they tested on. At least, not right away.

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121136)

And, then of course there's the constant commercials for a drug you should "ask your doctor about" -- sometimes they don't say what it treats

That would be the commercials intended for the Canadian or international markets.... in Canada, it's not legal to advertise for drugs, and the way around that is to avoid mentionning both the drug name and what it treats in the same advert. On the other hand, that legal loophole has led to some of the more amusing Viagra and Cialis commercials out there...

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121018)

He will be disqualified from the science fair for using living cells, chemicals and drugs. He will then be expelled and arrested in accordance with the schools zero tolerance policy.

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (1)

Spritzer (950539) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120426)

Nah. Some kid who tested 6 different denture adhesives in Coke will win because the judges actually understand WTF he did. At least that's how it worked at science fairs when I was in school.

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (3, Insightful)

KUHurdler (584689) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120724)

Nah. Some kid who tested 6 different denture adhesives in Coke will win because the judges actually understand WTF he did. At least that's how it worked at science fairs when I was in school.

You probably should have learned how to explain your volcano better.

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36121204)

I won 2nd place at the State Science Fair because some other kid had a Commodore 64 computer with pixels flashing on the screen. He explained that this was the beginning of a program to track Soviet submarines off the US East Coast. Computers were still novel enough at that point, apparently, that they had no idea that all he had done was program some pixels to flash. But I'm not still bitter about it. ;)

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120430)

I don't know, I heard some kids at the same fair got a pig and an elephant to make love.

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120764)

I don't know, I heard some kids at the same fair got a pig and an elephant to make love.

That was the senior prom.

(I'm sorry, I'll shut up now)

Re:My money is on him winning that science fair. n (1)

deadhammer (576762) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121028)

I don't know, I heard some kids at the same fair got a pig and an elephant to make love.

Ridiculous! Haven't you ever heard that song by Loverboy?

dam rg (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120394)

Dam. He got skillz

Great Expectations (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120416)

He has also tested the drug combination on living cells with results that 'exceeded his expectations.'

This may or may not be impressive depending on what his expectations were. Hopefully they were higher than "causes massive trauma to healthy tissue," where "causes significant trauma to healthy tissue" would exceed expectations.

Re:Great Expectations (4, Funny)

Beardydog (716221) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120504)

Notes:
11:45 am - Upon administration, injection site immediately burst into flames. Combustion of patients blood followed, with progressive explosive rupturing of all blood vessels in a pattern emanating from injection site. End-stage release of parasitic alien spores ( from eyeballs ) noted in earlier formulations has been reduced to a degree exceeding expectations. Recommend further human trials to determine ( presence of? ) risk factors for blood combustion.

Re:Great Expectations (1)

zanian (1621285) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120624)

True. Badly worded. However, I imagine, being a Grade 11 student his expectations were virtually nil. I wouldn't have expected much from what seems like a computer simulation freak accident. But then again, I didn't potentially discover the cure for Cystic Fibrosis

Re:Great Expectations (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121208)

It said in the article that the drugs acted together in a manner stronger than each drug individually, which is impressive. I'm with you that my expectations would have been along the lines of "I hope something measurable happens", so this would have been way above that.

Re:Great Expectations (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121106)

I couldn't help but notice that he used a super computer as a part of his project. Call me old fashioned, but I really don't like this use of technology to avoid actually getting your hands dirty. It just strikes me as throwing money at a problem whereas in the past the actual displays were a lot more interesting, as they'd actually be able to show more than just print outs and diagrams.

That being said, I wouldn't be surprised if there was parental involvement, that's always been a buzz kill, especially if you're the one student whose parents aren't doing the work for you.

Re:Great Expectations (1)

Freyir (2012520) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121370)

If we have a new tool to solve problems with, why shouldn't it be used in conjunction with traditional methods? Even the summary mentions that he also performed experiments on living tissue. It's not an either/or issue.

The article says the students were aided by help of academic/industry mentors. In a sense, this can level the playing field, as each student has an expert in their corner. On the other hand, some mentors may suggest better project topics or have more expertise in a given area than others, but that's life. Pick a good mentor.

JERRY LEWIS CAN REST IN PEACE NOW !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120432)

And so can labor day and WGN !!

Re:JERRY LEWIS CAN REST IN PEACE NOW !! (1)

devleopard (317515) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120470)

Um, no. Jerry Lewis = MS, not CF.

Re:JERRY LEWIS CAN REST IN PEACE NOW !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120532)

Um, no. Jerry Lewis = MS, not CF.

I can't figure out what Jerry Lewis has to do with Microsoft, nor why you're bringing up compact flash in relation to either of them.

Re:JERRY LEWIS CAN REST IN PEACE NOW !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120716)

I can't figaro out what is worster, this is not MD (MS?) but CF, or jeryy lewis is live and breatheing air. why? I am FRENCH and he make us all look retard.

Amazing! (1)

GregC63 (1564363) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120438)

I hope it is a usable treatment. Sounds like an extremely smart young man, his parents must be very proud.

He will shortly find himself in court... (3, Insightful)

mckorr (1274964) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120450)

as Big Pharm sues him for using their drugs in a manner not properly prescribed. This will effectively lock him down while they rebrand the drugs, package them, and patent the cure for their profit.

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (2)

hjf (703092) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120476)

does that work in Canada too?

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120552)

does that work in Canada too?

We buy the same drugs, from the same companies, and usually once the USFDA approves it ... Canada just rubber stamps it for use.

So, yeah. Pretty much.

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (1)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120836)

Except those same drugs from the same companies cost far less and still produce huge profits for the pharma companies. Fancy that.

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (1)

deKernel (65640) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120932)

That is because those drug purchases are subsidized by the government via taxes collected. The drug companies don't charge less because the purchasing agent is Canadian.

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (1)

gordo3000 (785698) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121122)

yes they do. it's well proven that drug prices in the US are several time more expensive than other countries. I know for one particular example (as my friend worked at the implant company) the Japanese govt remitted 10% what they received for a sale in the US from our insurance companies (and Medicare). I've seen margins between 50-75% less on various drugs.

Collective Bargaining (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121368)

That is because those drug purchases are subsidized by the government via taxes collected.

Wrong - it is because the federal government, in combination of the provincial governments, do a collective bargin with the drug companies so that all of Canada gets one price for a drug. This works out very well because the federal government controls the laws on patents and damages and can threaten greedy companies with changing the law to allow canadian companies to made copies of their drugs. Of course this would come at a large political price but at least they have a large enough stick to threaten the pharmaceutical companies with in order to keep them somewhat reasonable.

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (1)

VolciMaster (821873) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121214)

Except those same drugs from the same companies cost far less and still produce huge profits for the pharma companies. Fancy that.

The produce "huge profits" because those who are in non-subsidized countries (ie, the US), actually pay for it

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121258)

Not true. Most drugs that're approved in Canada are also approved in the US, but there's several drugs that are approved in the US that are not available in Canada (including a few that've been pulled from the shelves for being dangerous in the US, which were never approved in Canada specifically because of those dangers), and similarly some drugs are available years earlier in Canada than the US. One of the drugs I'm taking right now is on that list... it's been available in Canada for almost a decade but still can't be had in the US.

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (1)

mckorr (1274964) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120602)

Dunno, but I'm sure they'll try. Large US corporations are not known for playing by the rules.

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120534)

Sued for running a computer simulation of administering the drugs?

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120632)

Sued for running a computer simulation of administering the drugs?

If they can patent genes which exist in humans naturally ... why not sue for running a computer simulation that uses their patented compound?

I don't know that one is any more absurd than the other.

The way research is going, it will be illegal to research anything since the lawyers will have laid claim to everything, or patented a "system of examining the natural world using hypothesis and experimentation to arrive at predictive statements".

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (2)

mckorr (1274964) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120794)

Which brings up an interesting question: does patent imply copyright? Does having a patent on a compound confer copyright on source code used to simulate that compound? And if it doesn't, how long until the lawyers claim it does, and you all start calling me a bastard for bringing it up?

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120888)

And if it doesn't, how long until the lawyers claim it does, and you all start calling me a bastard for bringing it up?

Bastard! ;-)

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121086)

No problem, just pay up in monopoly money. Simulated use = simulated payment.

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (5, Interesting)

devleopard (317515) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120600)

Maybe, but not necessarily. CF isn't a huge profit center like heart disease medications or even HIV. Even though CF is the most common chronic genetic condition in the US, the numbers just aren't there. Most of the major CF meds (Pulmozyme, Creon, Tobi, Cayston, etc) is given away by the pharmas when the patient can't afford. While it may not be true for other conditions, when it comes to CF the pharmas ensure that those who need their meds get them. The emphasis for profit in CF just isn't there.

I should know - I have Cystic Fibrosis, and despite periods of no insurance, I've never done without. (Yes, I'm in the United States.)

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (1)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120864)

Wouldn't it be 300 thousand people? The article cited 1 in 3000.

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36121006)

Wouldn't it be 300 thousand people? The article cited 1 in 3000.

300000000 * 1/3000 = 100000.

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120884)

I find the lack of snarky, sniffing, Big Companies Are Eeeevil responses to your +5 Interesting comment to be ... well, interesting.

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120840)

WTF? Since when do pharma companies due for off-label uses of drugs, which is something that happens in nearly every doctor's office around the world every day?

Seriously, who the fuck modded this up?

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (1)

bunratty (545641) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120976)

What will prevent him from selling the drugs the preclinical and clinical trials needed to get approval from the FDA. He needs to show that the drugs are a safe and effective treatment for cystic fibrosis in humans. That process costs many millions of dollars. That's why companies are allowed to get a patent on a drug. If they couldn't, they wouldn't be able to recoup the costs of developing the drug, because a generic drug maker could easily undercut them and profit. That's why we have patents -- to promote innovation and sharing of knowledge.

Re:He will shortly find himself in court... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121268)

That's why we have patents -- to promote innovation and sharing of knowledge.

And yet ... you can get sued for an upgrade [slashdot.org] button.

The way patents are used now ... they do anything but promote innovation. They're mostly used to stifle competition, and seek to extort licensing fees for something obvious.

They can also patent genes that people are born with. I'm afraid I no longer believe that patents serve the purpose they were intended to.

I often do things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120456)

that exceed my expectations (e.g. getting up before noon today). Why don't you write about me ?

My High School sucked (2)

jandrese (485) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120466)

16 years old and the kid is doing drug trials? Back when I was in school we had to share Bunsen burners because there wasn't enough to go around.

Re:My High School sucked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120500)

I realize this is Slashdot... but please, the article is not that long... This was not some standard high school lab, but a kid who did something on his own initiative. If your high school sucked, you could have still done the same. Maybe it is not just the quality of the high school, but also of the student.

From tfa:

After taking Advanced Placement Biology last year, in Grade 10, Zhang decided he wanted to do what real scientists do and began contacting professors to see if he could work in their labs.

Re:My High School sucked (5, Funny)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120634)

While we did not have drug trials at school, just outside our school there was a little park where you could sometimes find syringes from whatever drug research activities were going on overnight.

Re:My High School sucked (1)

schlachter (862210) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121096)

we had drug trials in my school...and even when you couldn't afford them....someone was there to give you some for free

Re:My High School sucked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120658)

In my high school, a "drug trial" was smoking a joint to find out if the bag we were buying was real.

Re:My High School sucked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120756)

There wasn't enough dictionaries either, apparently.

Re:My High School sucked (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120758)

Yea I was thinking the same thing when I heard a kid going to the Intel science fair saying, "I have been doing research in applied Physics for the last five years." Freak at 12 I had to get the principle's permission to launch a model rocket at school! Man things seem to be getting better but it makes me feel old.

Nothing to see, move along. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120490)

His 'mentor' probably spoon fed him everything, and the media is surely over-hyping the importance and effectiveness of this. My money is on us never hearing another peep about this 'breakthrough' ever again.

Re:Nothing to see, move along. (2)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120818)

I really wish there were a drug to cure (or at least stabalize) Sour Grape Syndrome (SGS).

I have Cystic Fibrosis, and this rocks (4, Interesting)

devleopard (317515) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120516)

As a 34 year old dealing with the health issues and the ridiculous costs that let me breathe, digest my food, and not be knocked on my butt by blood sugar spikes, I'm excited by this. Goes to show that sometimes we just need some fresh thought at a new problem - the traditional, mega-millions research methods may not be the answer. (similar to Space-X :: NASA)

Re:I have Cystic Fibrosis, and this rocks (1)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120748)

Lets just hope the live trials go well. It showed promise from the simulation and on live cells. Hopefully it isn't disruptive to other systems in your body.

Re:I have Cystic Fibrosis, and this rocks (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120816)

As a 34 year old dealing with the health issues and the ridiculous costs that let me breathe, digest my food, and not be knocked on my butt by blood sugar spikes, I'm excited by this. Goes to show that sometimes we just need some fresh thought at a new problem - the traditional, mega-millions research methods may not be the answer. (similar to Space-X :: NASA)

Of course the research seems to have been funded on the mega-million dollar level, which the high school student taking a small subproject in a lab with a solid research plan. It's a little unfair in university labs that when we split up projects so that a bunch of undergrads can get research experience, the ones who produce positive data get so much more acclaim than those who do the same work after being assigned a slightly different chemistry, set of conditions, etc. The lab as a whole will get credit in the academic community, but the storyline is more exciting when a single unqualified kid gets credit in the lay-person media. When I split up projects into undergrad-digestible chunks, I got the students to still work together on analyzing and interpreting results so that in the end, they present the data together and get to share in the recognition. I suppose the downside was that I had to pay close attention to which students contributed more to the projects and evaluate accordingly.

Automated testing ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120518)

Perhaps slightly offtopic, but reading this story i can't help but wonder why supercomputer systems such as these aren't being used to just 'randomly' try combinations of existing drugs against various known conditions ?

Obviously the kid here seems to have stumbled onto something great, and i certainly don't mean to dismiss that, but 2 existing drugs "fixing" a disease the article claims is one of the [10 Worst Hereditary Conditions], kinda makes me think that a simple script trying combinations of drugs against significant diseases on the very same supercomputer would have found this (and potentially hundreds of similar cases) in no time.

Re:Automated testing ? (3, Informative)

lbgator (1208974) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120862)

In that vein, FoldIt [fold.it] is a game where the goal is to make proteins that match target sites. Promising results get tested in labs. Same gist as what you suggest, but you get humans to play tetris instead of a computer trying random proteins.

I'd love to see some real information (1)

csubi (950112) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120524)

as TFA does not contain much. Just some extremely vague, general text. I understand it is for "the masses" but I'd prefer information that some might have trouble understanding instead of the no information that is easy to understand...

Bad Summary:Should be 16 year old AND HIS MENTOR (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120640)

Who appears to do this sorta thing professionally. The 16 year old should be given a BIG pat on the back for contacting a LONG list of scientists to find one that would work with him. Unfortunately, the news industry really likes to play up the whole "Kid Genius" story, since it make all of us feel old, and useless. :)

Re:Bad Summary:Should be 16 year old AND HIS MENTO (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120842)

Who appears to do this sorta thing professionally. The 16 year old should be given a BIG pat on the back for contacting a LONG list of scientists to find one that would work with him. Unfortunately, the news industry really likes to play up the whole "Kid Genius" story, since it make all of us feel old, and useless. :)

I doubt they'd have as many people passing around the article if it focused on a normal research group working as intended and including (as is typical) young mentees in the process so that they can learn about the research process.

SKINET? (1)

aztrailerpunk (1971174) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120642)

I assume they produce slower Terminators. "Com with me if you want to live eh."

Re:SKINET? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120732)

Ya, but the best Terminators are all from Alberta and BC, and function better at the higher altitudes.

Manitoba SKINET was working on cross-country Terminators, but the demand just isn't there.

Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120646)

I've lost a few members of my family to this disease, so if they come out with a treatment for this it'd be fantastic.

Meanwhile in America... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120672)

...no one can agree whether or not the theory of evolution is valid.

(In defense of the States, there's no real evidence of evolution to be found within their borders)

Priorities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120684)

Beating out "an 18 year-old [who] discover[ed] a particularly beneficial strain of bacteria from a traditional lacto-fermented food found in a less developed society, and a 16 year-old [who] show[ed] how to harness the natural adaptive intelligence of the human body during pregnancy", the second place prize went to "a novel way for vegans to eat dessert [hunter-gatherer.com]."

Stiff competition (1)

senorpoco (1396603) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120688)

The team that came second invented a better way to make sorbet. Not to diminish their achievement in the advancement of humanity in the field of frozen desserts but I would feel a little outdone.

This is awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120740)

Now imagine how much more awesome it would be if academic journals weren't $20k a year.

The Real Deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120786)

Did you guys not read the full article or see this on the news? This kid took 2 drugs that were being tested with consent of the drug company and put them together, and it seems to work. WOW how about that it takes a simple solution to solve a problem. Also this kid will be working with the drug company to see what in the 2 compounds is actually working to fix the cells. Sounds to me like he has found a job for the future.

And why did he do this? To win a $5000 scholarship for university, which he did win.

Re:The Real Deal (2)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120886)

To be fair, it is scientifically interesting if he can prove that the drugs in combination perform better than they do individually, and, if so, to what magnitude. Sometimes, making cocktails of drugs don't work due to unintended consequences or bad side effects; and sometimes it does. Show that he's mature enough to follow through on an interesting idea is what shows his potential as a scientist worth funding.

Totally Overated Pseudo Research (3, Insightful)

Wdi (142463) | more than 2 years ago | (#36120846)

Sorry, but this is *not* any innovative science. Rather, it is a computational reproduction of facts already well known. Nothing more than a typical molecular modeling class assignment during a graduate chemistry education.

He did not invent any new drugs - the really breakthrough was by the researchers of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, see for example VX-770 [cff.org].

He did not discover the mechanism of action of the drugs. Rather, he took published protein structures and published compounds and re-ran some docking studies (of the same type Vertex and other pharmaceutical companies probably spend hundreds of thousands of processor hours on, with the difficulty that they had to check tens of thousands of compounds, not just two already known to work).

He was not the first to notice that different promising compounds in clinical trials have different points of interaction with the defective proteins of CF. Thinking that a drug combination may be useful is not exactly a new and brilliant insight, and this was for example even discussed a couple of months ago in CE&N (the general chemistry member journal of the American Chemical Society). I am very confident that is has been evaluated before, and probably there are patents already filed.

The only interesting point here is that the guy is 16,not 20 or 22 like the normal chemistry student. But then pressing the right buttons in a molecular modeling software is really not that difficult, especially when you already know the outcome you want to reproduce.

Re:Totally Overated Pseudo Research (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36120870)

Grow up.

Re:Totally Overated Pseudo Research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36121070)

If you discover a new way of doing things, that's an innovation. Why didn't *you* push the right buttons?

Re:Totally Overated Pseudo Research (3, Informative)

Wdi (142463) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121212)

The Vertex people did, and they rightfully received much praise for their results (these CF compounds are without precedent, providing a treatment option for a deadly disease).

But this has all been published, extensively, even in non-specialist journals (CE&N). *EVERY* professional chemist with a minimum interest in pharma research knows about the Vertex compounds, the different interaction points with the proteins, and the possibility of drug combinations.

Reproducing these results is a nice coursework problem, but not research. The novel results produced by what the guy did are ZERO. I am certain this project was a nice experience for him, and it may hopefully motivate him to study chemistry after finishing school. I wish him the very best for his further career.

But HE DEFINITELY DID NOT INVENT A CURE. Stating anything like that is ridiculous hype!

Re:Totally Overated Pseudo Research (2)

Draek (916851) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121132)

He did not discover the mechanism of action of the drugs. Rather, he took published protein structures and published compounds and re-ran some docking studies (of the same type Vertex and other pharmaceutical companies probably spend hundreds of thousands of processor hours on, with the difficulty that they had to check tens of thousands of compounds, not just two already known to work).

He was not the first to notice that different promising compounds in clinical trials have different points of interaction with the defective proteins of CF. Thinking that a drug combination may be useful is not exactly a new and brilliant insight, and this was for example even discussed a couple of months ago in CE&N (the general chemistry member journal of the American Chemical Society). I am very confident that is has been evaluated before, and probably there are patents already filed.

(Emphasis mine)

Thank you for so clearly demostrating what's wrong with the Pharmaceutical industry. First they brute-force through computer simulations looking for combinations that might work, then they file patents on those results as if they had done any actual research, and then just to add salt to the wound they don't even bring them to market and into the hands of patients or this kid wouldn't have even tried to do this experiment in the first place.

But then again, this is the kind of industry that blackmails governments for a living and even patents freakin' DNA so really, it shouldn't be surprising.

Re:Totally Overated Pseudo Research (1)

Wdi (142463) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121310)

Thank you for so clearly demostrating what's wrong with the Pharmaceutical industry. First they brute-force through computer simulations looking for combinations that might work, then they file patents on those results as if they had done any actual research, and then just to add salt to the wound they don't even bring them to market and into the hands of patients or this kid wouldn't have even tried to do this experiment in the first place.

But then again, this is the kind of industry that blackmails governments for a living and even patents freakin' DNA so really, it shouldn't be surprising.

You are mistaken. The Vertex compounds are now in phase 3 clinical trials and will be marketed if nothing bad shows up (and if it did, it would be a financial disaster, Vertex and various foundations spent well over 100 mil USD on this project). Drugs without FDA approval (or the Canadian equivalent) cannot yet be bought in a pharmacy, that is the law. But be assured, Vertex certainly wants them on the market - otherwise there will be no recovery of expenses, and later proft.

Finally, drug combinations can only be tested in trials when the underlying single-compound drugs have been shown to be effective and safe.

Re:Totally Overated Pseudo Research (2, Insightful)

FlyingGuy (989135) | more than 2 years ago | (#36121162)

I have MOD points and right now I want a moderation selection that says, "You'd Shit on your own mother!".

Jesus fucking Christ dude, a 16 year old, yes that is a KID, a junior in HIGH SCHOOL and you go out of your way to belittle his accomplishment!

Yes that is how we motivate the young and the obviously gifted to excel in science by crapping all over their accomplishment.

Look up the definition of asshole in the dictionary and you will find your name, address and photo.

Ohh yes and the people who modded you up will find their names, addresses and phone numbers under the definition of asshole as well.

Re:Totally Overated Pseudo Research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36121350)

Damn. You pissed this guy off. ^

pefect (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36121032)

This topic is perfect for you slash-fools who hate anything profitable, but fail to realize without a profit motivator NOTHING would get done. Evil profits evil corporates that's all you ever see on this site now.

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