Exploring the Future Frontiers of Human Health, with Francois Nader

The President & CEO of NPS Pharmaceuticals predicts tremendous growth for the pharmaceutical industry in the coming years as new cures and treatments are developed.

Francois Nader: I think we have tremendous, tremendous growth, tremendous potential in exploring the frontier of human beings. We are just at the very, very beginning of a very exciting adventure. And think of diseases as common cold, right. There is nothing terribly unusual about common cold, right. Yet we don’t have a cure for common cold yet, okay. Which is kind of ironic, right. Which means that innovation could be very small for small things like common cold or big things like Alzheimer’s and diabetes. We have multiple products for the diabetes today. We don’t have a cure for diabetes yet. Actually if you add Alzheimer’s and diabetes it could bankrupt our healthcare system. Yet we don’t have a cure for diabetes and we don’t know how to deal with Alzheimer’s yet. So if I look at the future a couple of things will happen.

One, we have phenomenal tools that will enable us to diagnose and to be more specific in better understanding the mechanism of virtually any disease. And the second aspect would be based on that we can start now, charter the road to better understanding the brain which will be a huge advancement.

We don’t know much about the brain. We know a few things here and there. But the brain is a huge unknown scientifically still. We don’t have a lot of tools yet to better understand how we think, the memory and everything related to our behavior. So the brain will be probably the next frontier.

But we should not forget that we have still about 6,000 rare diseases that do not have a treatment so we have a lot of work to do. And we cannot do it alone. I mean money and investment is one thing but we need to continue working on the framework of the regulatory agencies and how we can partner with the regulators to have a clearer path forward to having the new drugs approved.

The biggest challenge we face is science is moving so fast that the regulators have to catch up. They have to catch up to understand and catch up even more to regulate us which is a very daunting challenge and I really believe that the regulators are doing the right things in most of the cases. But at the same time I can only see the challenges that they have to better understand how the science is progressing. And you hear every day about the genomes and our understanding of the genomes. I mean this is absolutely flabbergasting the progress we’ve made over the last 15 years in better understanding the inner mechanics of how we work. And from there will come new medications, will come new cures, new treatments.

 

The President & CEO of NPS Pharmaceuticals predicts tremendous growth for the pharmaceutical industry in the coming years as new cures and treatments are developed. He also speaks about the broad scope of pharmaceutical research. The coming decades will see advances in treating minor issues such as the common cold, as well as broad steps forward in the fight against the frightening destruction of Alzheimer's disease.


The biggest challenge moving forward, says Nader, is for regulators to keep up with the radical growth and achievements sure to come. Policy and science need to remain on the same page in order to maximize the positive effects of research.

China's "artificial sun" sets new record for fusion power

China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

The science of sex, love, attraction, and obsession

The symbol for love is the heart, but the brain may be more accurate.

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Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
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There never was a male fertility crisis

A new study suggests that reports of the impending infertility of the human male are greatly exaggerated.

Sex & Relationships
  • A new review of a famous study on declining sperm counts finds several flaws.
  • The old report makes unfounded assumptions, has faulty data, and tends toward panic.
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