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David Tredinnick in quacks for questions

Posted: June 3, 2010 at 8:17 am

David Tredinnick, Conservative MP for Bosworth, fulfils a traditional role, required of those who are outliers to the left of the ability curve, in the Westminster Village.  The idiot.  This has enabled him to have a long undistinguished career, previously he was best known for his role in the ‘cash for questions‘ affair, taking a cheque for £1,000 to ask a question in parliament, now his concerns are quacks and their questions.

In an ePolitix article, to promote his adjournment debate on integrated healthcare, Mr Tredinnick presents all the ability and skills that have kept him out of the 3rd reserves for the Conservative front bench.  An ungracious observation about Evan Harris, the former Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford and Abingdon, one of the previous parliaments most rational and respected members is followed by much crowing about the poor performance from one his challengers in Bosworth, the science writer Dr Michael Brooks.  Mr Tredinnick’s reasoning then goes the way of his charm with the following paragraph:

Surveys show that support for a healthcare model that allows doctors to refer to other therapists such as herbalists, acupuncturists, homeopaths and aromatherapists is increasing. The new coalition government seeking to both give more say to doctors and more choice to patients should embrace integrated health care as its model.

This is presumably referring to the infamous Northern Ireland Trial.  This was carried out by a marketing company, hired by a lobby group fronted by Boo Armstrong, who used to write articles for an AIDS denialist magazine and was latterly Chief Executive of the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health (FIH), until it fell victim to fraud.

Tredinnick would like the new government to consider this report.  He would also like them to consider regulating alternative therapists through the Health Professionals Council (HPC), rather than the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).  This is interesting as the CNHC, an offshoot of the disgraced FIH, has been struggling to recruit enough members to survive, and has already been rejected by herbalists and the Society of Homeopaths (SoH), who have previously collaborated with Tredinnick. Is this a move by these alternative elements and their political proxy reflecting a power grab in the alternative healthcare sector?

And what of Boo Armstrong, now that the FIH are disgraced she must be looking for a new job, is she in league with the legions of the dumb?  Is it coincidence that Tredinnick has cited her report?  Time will tell.  However, such an alliance would be a reflection of the fall of alternative medicine in recent years.  The collapse of the chiropractors, thanks to an ill advised libel claim, as well as the damning Select Committee report on homeopathy has put tremendous pressure on this sector.  Once Boo Armstrong and alternative medicine had the ear of Peter Hain, a former government minister of some considerable standing, now they have the ear of David Tredinnick, a minister only in his imagination.

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

Health Benefits of Pets – Mayo Clinic Video

Posted: June 3, 2010 at 8:16 am

May 10, 2010 — Health Benefits of Pets.

People will do a lot for their pets – see below:
– Somebody found a solution: Smokers are motivated to quit to protect their pets from secondhand smoke http://is.gd/iZ58
– “Do it for Fido: smokers may quit smoking because of their pet” http://is.gd/iZtQ

Posted at Clinical Cases and Images. Stay updated and subscribe, follow us on Twitter and connect on Facebook.


Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

Misconceptions about medical blogs

Posted: June 3, 2010 at 8:16 am

From the newsletter Australian Pharmacists:

“At the heart of social media is the blog, an online diary where news, gossip, industry issues, opinion and scandal jostle for space.”

I cover medical news from educational perspective on CasesBlog but I try not to include “gossip, industry issues, opinion and scandal” and with one post per day, they never “jostle for space”.

There are many different types of medical blogs, of course.

Image source: public domain.

Posted at Clinical Cases and Images. Stay updated and subscribe, follow us on Twitter and connect on Facebook.


Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

Use of ONS to protect Open Research: the case of the Ugi approach to Praziquantel

Posted: June 3, 2010 at 8:16 am

As we were collecting reactions from The Synaptic Leap for the Reaction Attempts project, Andrew Lang noticed that there might be a quick synthetic route to praziquantel via a Ugi reaction. I researched it further and found a paper (Kim et al 1998) where Ugi product 1 was indeed converted to racemic praziquantel via the Pictet-Spegler cyclization.


Using Beilstein Crossfire the only synthesis of 1 I found involves a multi-step amidation strategy. But this compound should be accessible in one step from commercially available starting materials via a Ugi reaction (shown above). Since all the starting materials are liquids we have some flexibility with solvent choice. Khalid first tried it in methanol EXP258 a few weeks ago but did not get a precipitate. He was going to monitor it by NMR next to see if the problem was high solubility of the Ugi product or with the reaction itself.

It was therefore with great interest that I read Mat Todd’s report this morning on The Synaptic Leap that a German patent had been issued on this Ugi strategy to praziquantel. (TSL didn’t provide a means of leaving a comment so I edited the page – which made me the author of that post but actually Mat wrote it)

I have often mentioned during my talks that Open Notebook Science could be used not only in a defensive manner to claim academic priority – but also as an offensive tactic to block patent applications. A company attempting to prevent the commercial exploitation of rival inventions has a few options. Where applicable, it can buy up an existing patent pool with the intention of sitting on it. For new inventions, it can do research and try to file patents before their competitors. But this is a costly process and it may make more sense to simply publish the inventions to create disclosed prior art, thereby blocking patent applications of their competitors.

But – as I and many others have discussed – the current publication system is not optimally suited for the purpose of simply disclosing and communicating science. Not only is it generally slow but the traditional article format requires a narrative of some sort – rarely can single experiments be published. This means that much (if not most) of research done by an individual or group will never be disclosed.

For these reasons I think that keeping an easily discoverable Open Notebook for projects designed to block patent submission by competitors makes a lot of sense – both economically and from a workflow perspective. Since researchers already have to keep a lab notebook, making it public doesn’t impose the added time that writing an article or patent will require.

In this specific example of praziquantel we were too late. But if we had recorded this experiment a few years ago it might have worked to block Domling’s patent. Now, it isn’t clear to me that EXP258 would have been enough to do that. The strategy to make praziquantel via a Ugi reaction was clearly stated but the experiment was not conclusive. However, since Domling reported that methanol worked I am sure that we would have had the “reduced to practice” evidence in the notebook shortly.

Above I used a company as an example of a party motivated to disclose inventions to protect their interests. In our case it would not be a company but rather the entire Open Science community. It is in our best interest to keep our scientific territory as unencumbered by patents as possible. Keeping Open Notebooks might be one of the simplest means of ensuring that.

Consider a humanitarian organization that might want to manufacture praziquantel. I haven’t researched it but presumably the Domling patent was filed in a number of countries beside Germany. In order to consider using the Ugi strategy, the organization would now have to deal with the patent holder. This might be the factor that makes this route untenable. Patents have proven to be problematic for humanitarian aid – even in the simple case of providing food.

But all is not lost. In addition to offering a simple 2-step synthesis of praziqantel, the Ugi route offers an easy way to make large libraries of analogs. Optimally we would like to work with someone who has experience with docking praziquantel. It might be interesting to screen not only the praziquantel analogs but also the uncyclized Ugi products themselves. When we did this for malarial enoyl reductase inhibitors (D-EXP005) we found that we did not need to cyclize to obtain compounds predicted to bind. This ultimately led to active compounds.

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

This week on Chemistry World…

Posted: June 3, 2010 at 8:16 am

1 June 2010: Have something to say about an article you’ve read on Chemistry World this week? Leave your comments below…

This week’s stories…

Basic research bill backed in US
US bill that boosts science funding passes on third attempt after Democrats employ unusual procedural tactic

Universities face hard years ahead
Funding cuts to universities across Europe as a result of the economic crisis will impact teaching and research quality for years to come, says report

Structural order gained over conducting polymer
Researchers have used copper as both catalyst and template to gain structural control over an important conducting polymer

Liquid marbles detect gases
Scientists use porous properties of liquid marbles to develop gas sensors

Instant insight: Cosmic dust as chemical factories
Daren Caruana and Katherine Holt discuss how electrochemistry could be the missing link to understanding chemistry in space

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

ASMS: Anthrax attacks

Posted: June 3, 2010 at 8:16 am

Ever since the infamous US anthrax attacks of 2001, where envelopes containing anthrax spores were mailed to a number of media outlets and two US Senators, there has been a push to develop new ways of determining the severity of anthrax infections.

John Barr, of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has developed a new, more sensitive way of monitoring the level of infection in a victim. This is keenly important as the symptoms for anthrax infection start off looking much like a cold or the flu, but can then lead to a subject deteriorating rapidly – often leading to death, even after treatment. According to Barr some 40 per cent of the victims of the 2001 anthrax letters died.

The Bacillus anthracis bacterium produces two different t toxins, the oedema factor and the lethal factor. Barr has developed a way of detecting both of these using a liquid chromatography – mass spectrometry (LC-MS) approach that can provide earlier diagnosis than any other technique. This is particularly important as providing antibiotics at an early stage in the infection can increase the odds of survival.

His method, which uses an antibody purification step to extract the toxins, can detect the toxins at concentrations as low as 25pg/ml in about two hours. If the antibody extraction step is left for around 16 hours, that detection limit can fall as low as 5 pg/ml.

The progression of the infection tends to go through a brief remission, and the changes in lethal factor levels correlate with the clinical symptoms – and during remission other methods that rely on detecting the bacteria themselves often fail during this stage.

Barr believes his results should enable clinicians to predict the clinical outcome of an infection, which could prove immensely important as there have recently been a number of anthrax poisoning cases in Scotland, after heroin addicts injected themselves with anthrax-contaminated spores.

Matt Wilkinson

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith


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