The Pulse: The Next BRCA

Curbing Antibiotics Overuse

Ugh! You’re sick with the flu. Or is it a bad cold? Or a sinus infection? Not even your doctor typically knows; there’s currently no practical way for doctors to determine with high accuracy whether your infection is bacterial -- requiring antibiotics -- or viral – considering antiviral agents. But that may change. Duke researchers are fine-tuning a test that uses genetic signatures in a droplet of blood (Theranos, are you listening?) to determine whether an infection is in fact bacterial or viral. The Duke team reckons it will be a few years before the test is ready for primetime (it currently takes 10 hours), but the innovation shows great promise for the appropriate use of antibiotics or antivirals and more precise, individualized care.

The Next Big Gene

There’s buzz about BRCA genes -- the genetic variations of which are associated with an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer or prostate cancer (as well as fallopian tube, peritoneal, and pancreatic cancers). But another gene may soon sweep headlines, and the attention of women worldwide: It’s called BRIP1, and women with a mutation to the gene are three times more likely to develop ovarian cancer than those without it, according to a new study in the Journal of the US National Cancer Institute. About 18 in every 1,000 women develop the disease, and the risk more than triples to 58 in 1,000 women for those with the variation. The finding may lead to a genetic test to identify women at greatest risk with interventions that would halt expression of this gene, preventing ovarian cancer.

Precision Medicine NBD

Sad but not surprising: Precision Medicine isn’t top of mind for the majority of healthcare providers, according to a survey by Health Catalyst. In fact, while some academic centers and researchers are pioneering the field, nearly 60% of hospitals don’t consider the approach a key goal for the next five years; nor do they have plans to integrate genetic data into their electronic health records anytime soon. The results emphasize the need for more educational programs like Illumina’s Understand Your Genome that promote the understanding and adoption of Precision Medicine protocols in the clinic.

Hiring All Robots

More than 5 million jobs will be lost by 2020 as a result of advances in genetics and digital health, according to World Economic Forum. Administrative jobs will account for the majority of losses, as digital technologies are quickly replacing traditional office tasks. But even the country’s top med-school students are at risk for losing prospective jobs to robots and digital health tools, with medical schools preaching old-school conventional protocols instead of Precision Medicine.

Better, Stronger, Faster: Why Nootropics Will Be Big Business In 2016

Pills that make you smarter? Sounds like a money-maker. In fact, nootropics startups are already cashing in, with Silicon Valley and Wall Street execs keen to mix meds that allow them to work harder, longer, and perhaps with more creativity.

Read my thoughts on nootropics and what start-ups need to establish dominance in the growing field via

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