Iliad – Play Review


Homer’s Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem, set during the Trojan war, a long ten year siege on the city of Troy, by Greece.  The poem is long and complex and centers more specifically around the short period of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the great warrior Achilles.  Setting this poem to a performance on stage, would seem like a challenge of epic proportion.  But it is effortlessly done at the current production of the “Iliad” running at www.thestage.org, in San Jose, CA.

Based on Homer’s Iliad, writers Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, created the stage piece, over a period of 5 years, utilizing video, video transcriptions, improvisation, original music and diligent research.  It was translated by Robert Fagles.  Kenneth Kelleher is a brilliant director who has directed over 20 productions for The Stage, and once again he did a marvelous job, in The Iliad.

DAVE LEPORI/SAN JOSE STAGE COMPANYDavis Jackson, as The Poet, for the most part rises to the demands of "An Iliad," a 100-minute solo showJackson Davis in the role of the poet, gives a spell binding performance.  Although the story itself covers only a few weeks in the final year of the war, the Iliad alludes to the preceding events, including the cause of the war, the hundreds of thousands of wounded soldiers who returned home to find their spouses and fashions changed, and those who kept fighting but had forgotten the true cause of the war.  Towards the end, it sets the stage for the sequel, the Odyssey, also attributed to Homer.  This poem is regarded as more or less a complete narrative of the Trojan War.  Davis holds the audience as he tells this complex tale, alternately playing various characters, and using the many props, to set the stage for the next sequence of events.

Paris, a wayward and handsome younger brother of prince Hector of Troy, abducted Helen, the most beautiful woman and wife of the Greek king Menelaus, and brought her to Troy, as his wife, and thus began the Trojan war, that lasted for 9+ years, and took tens of thousands of lives.  Towards the end of the war, where the poem begins, Agamemnon, the Greek leader has abducted Chryseis, a daughter of a Trojan priest, and he refuses to give her up, despite being offered wealth and riches by the father.  Chryseis prays to Apollo who causes plague on the city.  Agamemnon returns Chryseis back but abducts Briseis, Achilles’ captive, as compensation.  This angers Achilles and he refuses to support Agamemnon any more in the fight against Troy.  This sets the stage for the succeeding epic battle.

English: Triumphant Achilles: Achilles draggin...

English: Triumphant Achilles: Achilles dragging the dead body of Hector in front of the gates of Troy.details (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Without Achilles, the Greek side is enormously weakened, and is getting slaughtered, prompting his closest and most dear friend Patroclus to beg Achilles, to allow him to don the great Achilles’ armor, and fight in his stead.  Soldiers imagine Patroclus to be Achilles, and Patroclus inflicts great casualty, before he is found out, and killed by Hector of Troy.  Achilles is mad with grief upon hearing of Patroclus’s death, and in turn not only kills Hector, but drags and dishonors his body.  King Priam of Troy comes to Achilles to beg for his son’s body.  Achilles is deeply moved, and not only returns Hector’s body, but halts the war for 9 days, allowing Troy to mourn Hector’s death.

Like any war, this is a classic tale, with all critical ingredients, like politics, regret, deep losses, innocent victims, and women taken as captives, against their will.  Like any war, time and again, the fighters, winners and loosers alike, appeal to the higher power, for mercy, for compassion, for winning.  This is one of the greatest stories ever told and Jackson Davis does a fabulous job of conveying this complex narrative.  There is a point when he puts this war into larger perspective and names every single war fought and recorded in history.  Wow, wow, wow!  Sickened by war and the destruction it inflicts, the poet says, “Every time I sing this song, I hope it’s the last time”.

 

 

 

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Rapid Non-Invasive Treatment for Stroke


Dr. Mark Borsody, Founder and Chief Medical Officer at Nervive Inc, spoke about stroke healthcare, at www.bio2devicegroup.org event.

Stroke has been a #1 cause of severe disability, #2 cause of death in the world (responsible for more than 5 million deaths, each year), and it is 4th leading cause of death in the US.  About 800,000 people in the US have stroke, each year.  One American dies from stroke, about every 4 minutes.  In fact, stroke is responsible for putting the biggest healthcare burden, worldwide and the burden is likely to increase in the foreseeable future, said Dr. Borsody.  Stroke results from “plumbing problem”, in the brain.  Ischemic stroke is caused by blockage of a blood vessel due to reasons like thrombosis or arterial embolism.  Hemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding of blood vessels of the brain, either directly into the brain or into the surrounding brain tissue.

While treatment options for hemorrhagic stroke are limited, current treatment options for ischemic stroke include intravenous “clot busting” through tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) or through endovascular catheter devices for blood clot retrieval.  Worldwide, an estimated 180,000 tPA treatments are done every year and 22,000 clot retrieval treatments are done.

Microphotograph of HE stained section of human...

Microphotograph of HE stained section of human brain tissue upon acute ischemic stroke. Orgininal magnification 400x (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Honing in on the major problem, Dr. Borsody discussed why do so few patients with stroke receive timely treatment.  Timely intervention is the key for treatment of stroke.  Like all cells in the body, neurons and other brain cells require oxygen and glucose delivered through the blood in order to function and survive.  A few minutes of oxygen deprivation can kill millions of neurons.  Additionally, stroke can provoke inflammation, swelling (edema), and other processes that can continue the damage for hours or days after the initial attack.  However, often treatment of stroke within 60 minutes is very rare due to the time required for patient transportation and in-hospital evaluation.  Effective treatment for stroke can be simple, but it needs to be immediate.  So how come there aren’t many innovations to bring the treatment to the patient, even to buy them some time?

Nervive’s Vital Flow Stimulator is a simple device that is aimed at targeting the facial nerve behind the middle ear.  The objective is to control the cerebral arteries through the facial nerve, which regulates the function of the arteries.  It is comprised of 3-4 cm coil placed over the ear.  Magnetic fields readily penetrate any tissue and creates electrical currents in neural tissues, leading to axonal and soma depolarization.  Early indications are that it is effective in treating ischemic stroke and it is safe in ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.  This device is moreover, simple enough to use without any special training.  Vital Flow complements other therapies and bring exponential benefits of rapid treatments.  The device will be inexpensive, portable, and extremely easy to transport in the ambulance.  The treatment can be administered within a few minutes.  Animal studies show increased blood flow after facial nerve stimulation and improvement in several measures after stroke.

Ending his talk, Dr. Borsody said, Nervive has a strong IP position, the technology is targeting a market with huge potential, and it is substantiated by preclinical and clinical science.  They are starting fund raising for series A round.  To emerge from the dark ages of stroke healthcare, we need some disruptive, out of box (out of hospital) thinking, said Dr Borsody.
__________________________________________________________________________________________
Mark your calendars for following events……..

May, 6 – EPPIC will host Dr. Sarvajna Dwivedi, Founder, Pearl Therapeutics that was acquired by Astra Zeneca for $1.15B, last year.  Register at http://www.eppicglobal.org, @EPPIC_GLOBAL
May 16, 17 – #TiEcon 2014 will feature Healthcare Track to showcase and discuss new innovative technologies in Life Science and healthcare industries, @TiEcon
May, 2014 – Healthcare Code-a-thon will be hosted by http://www.healthtechnologyforum.com @HealthTechForum
May 20, 2014 – “Pathways to Sustainable Health” conference hosted by http://www.healthtechnologyforum.com
You can follow me on Twitter at @DarshanaN
Every Tuesday exciting speaker – http://www.bio2devicegroup.org

 

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Joseph Haydn (Chamber Music) by Saint Michael Trio at Villa Montalvo Arts Center


This trio of super talented ensemble, entertains and enthralls, delights the audience, and delineates the music of diverse range of composers and genres.  In addition to the classical masterworks, they perform jazz and even rock tunes.  The artists (Daniel Cher, Russell Hancock, and Michael Flexer) make the concerts informative, educational, interesting, witty, and funny.

I attended the performance titled “Haydn on Trial”.  Franz Joseph Haydn, one of the most prominent and prolific composers of the classical period (1732-1809) has also been accused of being simplistic, mechanical and at times, also trivial.  Rising to his defense, the trio performed various pieces of Haydn’s music, interspersed with interesting commentary.  Speaking as if to a jury, Russell Hancock made a strong case to get Haydn acquitted, from the unfair accusations.

Haydn was one of the first composers to write ...

Haydn was one of the first composers to write a pitch change as well as a written out solo for the timpani in a symphonic movement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joseph Haydn pioneered the sonata form of music that would dominate the world of classical music, for over 200 years.  Unlike Bach whose music is precise, controlled, and mathematical, Hayden’s music is a story-telling enterprise.  Hayden introduced narrative aspect to the music.  After the stage is set, the tension is built up to introduce additional themes (like characters in a story), then it is developed further, eventually leading to reconciliation, and finally there is coda or the end with recapitulation.

Haydn was a prolific composer.  He has written 104 symphonies, 54 piano sonata, 24 operas, 76 quartets, 31 concertos, 16 masses, 3 oratories, and 30 songs.   Haydn needs to be compared to the context and the constraints of his time.  Haydn spent nearly 80% of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Esterhazy family, at their remote estate, in Austria.  He did not enjoy the kind of liberty in composing his music, like Beethoven, for instance.  Haydn wrote pieces requested of him.  Haydn was instrumental in the development of chamber music, such as the piano trio and he is also widely recognized as the pioneer of Symphony and String Quartet.  Haydn was born on the border of Austria and Hungary and he brought the Hungarian folk music elements into his music.  Haydn was also a friend of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and a teacher of Ludwig van Beethoven.

St. Michael Trio performed fantastic pieces of Haydn’s compositions and made a brilliant case on behalf of Haydn.  They proved unequivocally that Haydn if not held to contemporary standards, was a brilliant composer, who also introduced “surprise” elements into his music.

Russel Hancock (Piano), Daniel Cher (Violin), and Michael Flexer (Cello) performed beautifully, presenting the music in highly engaging and interesting manner.  Each of the artists hold high profile careers in the private sector and balance their professional roles with their passion for music.  They are artists-in-residence at MenloCollege, perform frequently at StanfordUniversity, and are artists-in-residence at the VillaMontalvoArtsCenter.  What San Jose Mercury News says is right on the money, “If these guys were a company, I’d buy stock”.  For further information or for tickets to their performances, go to http://www.saintmichaeltrio.com .

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ગુજરાતી ગઝલ ની બેઠક


ગુજરાતી ગઝલ ની બેઠક

ગુજરાતીના ગૌરવ ને બે અરિયા માં ટકાવી રાખનાર અને ગુજરાતી ભાષા ને જીવંત રાખનાર બધાના લાડીલા પ્રજ્ઞાબેન દાદભાવાળાએ હમણાં જે બેઠક યોજેલી તેમાં હ્યુસ્ટનથી આવેલ દેવિકાબેન ધ્રુવ અને બે એરિયાના મહેશભાઈ રાવલે ગુજરાતી ગીત, કવિતા, અને ગઝલ વિશે માહિતી આપી અને સુંદર ગઝલો બોલી બધને તરબોળ કરી દીધા.

pen and ink

pen and ink (Photo credit: Cast a Line)

દેવિકાબેને તો શબ્દો સાથે વ્યાયામ કર્યો છે,પછી સોનેરી સાંજે એ એક નહિ અનેક વાતો લાવી શકે તેમ છે. એમણે ગઝલ ઉપર માહિતી આપતા કહ્યું “લખવાનું ચાલુ રાખવાથી કલમ ની કસબ કેળવાય છે અને પછી તેમાં સંવેદના ઉમેરાય ત્યારે ગઝલ બને છે. ગઝલ ના નક્કી થયેલ સ્વરૂપ જાણવા પડે અને સતત પ્રયાસ કરતા રહેવું પડે.” તેમણે ગઝલ સંભળાવી:

જેવી મળી આ જિંદગી, જીવી જવાની હોય છે
સારી કે નરસી જે મળી, શણગારવાની હોય છે.
જુઓ તમે આ આભને કેવી ચૂમે છે વાદળી,
કોને ખબર ક્ષણ માત્રમાં, તરછોડવાની હોય છે.

પ્રજ્ઞા બહેને કહ્યું “હું લખવા બેશુ છું તો ક્યારેક ગઝલ ની બદલે જોડકણું બની જાય છે.” દેવિકા બહેને સમજાવ્યું ગઝલ માં બહાર નું અને અંદર નું સ્વરૂપ હોય છે. અને રદીફ એટલે છેલો શબ્દ મહત્વનો હોય છે. અને તેની આગળનો શબ્દ છે તેને કાફિયા કહેવાય છે. રદીફ અને કાફિયા ગઝલની અંદર ના ભાવ વ્યક્ત કરવામાં વજન આપે છે. કુલ મળીને ચારસો જેટલા છંદો છે . પરંતુ મોટા ભાગ ની ગઝલો માં થોડા છંદો જ વપરાય છે. થાળી માં રંગબેરંગી ફૂલો હોય તે સુંદર દેખાય પણ તેમાં પેટર્ન ગોઠવી અને હાર બનાવીએ તે પ્રમાણે શબ્દો માં થી ગઝલ બને. રંગબેરંગી શબ્દોમાં ભેળવવાની વાત ની ગંભીરતા, કહેવાનો મિજાજ, સવેદના ની લાગણી અને પછી કરવાની શબ્દો ની ગોઠવણ. ત્યારે મહેશભાઈ રાવલે સંભળાવી ગઝલ ઉપર એક જાજરમાન ગઝલ.

સંબંધ ના ઘેરાવા વચ્ચે થી ટપકવાની ગઝલ
અંગતપણાની આડ વચ્ચેથી ટપકવાની ગઝલ
ડૂમો બની ઘૂંટાય ભીતર લાગણી સંજોગવશ
તો, પાપણોની ધાર વચ્ચેથી ટપકવાની ગઝલ
જ્યાં બોલવા જેવું કશું બાકી રહે નહીં, એ પળે
નિઃશબ્દતાનાં તાણ વચ્ચેથી ટપકવાની ગઝલ

હૂં તો કહું છું આ હતી સાંજ વસુલ થઇ જવાની ગઝલ. પરંતુ આ તો હતી માત્ર શરૂઆત. મહેશ ભાઈએ બે ચાર ગઝલ સંભળાવી અને દેવિકાબેને કાવ્ય તથા ગઝલ સંભળાવી. દેવિકાબેને અમેરિકા ઉપર ની ગઝલ સંભળાવી પછી અમેરિકા ના શિસ્ત ને અનુસરી ને સમય પૂરો થયો તે પ્રમાણે ધર્યા કરતા જલ્દી બેઠક નો અણધાર્યો અંત આવ્યો।

શિસ્તના શાસન થકી આ ચાલતું નગર જુઓ,
આભની વીજળી સમુ આ આંજતું નગર જુઓ.
પૂર્વની રીતો અને વે‘વારથી જુદું ઘણું,
માનવીને યંત્ર માંહે શારતુ નગર જુઓ.
રાત દી‘ આઠેપ્રહર ડોલરની દોડધામમાં,
આદમીને હર પળે પલ્ટાવતું નગર જુઓ.

તો મિત્રો પાછા મળશું આવતા મહિનાની બેઠકમાં। ત્યાં સુધી લખતા રહેશો, વાંચતા રહેશો, અને નીચેના બ્લોગ ને જરૂર માણશો।

દેવિકાબેન ધ્રુવ – http://devikadhruva.wordpress.com/
મહેશ ભાઈ રાવલ – http://drmahesh.rawal.us/
વિજયભાઈ શાહ – http://www.vijaydshah.com/
પ્રજ્ઞાબેન દાદભાવાળા (શબ્દોનું સર્જન) – http://tinyurl.com/lpkvuuv

 

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“Every Five Minutes” by Linda McLean – Play Review


“Every Five Minutes” is not for the faint of the heart or someone unwilling to look at harsh realities staring us in the face.  Linda McLean is an award winning playwright from Scotland.  Extensive list of her award winning plays include Any Given Day, Strangers, Babies, Shimmer, One Good Beating, Riddance, Herald, What Love Is, This is Water, Uncertainty Files, Cold Cuts, Doch An Doris, Word for Word, andSex & God.

In “Every Five Minutes”, she lays before the audience, the harsh realities of political dissidents, imprisoned for years, and how the experience can forever alter their life.  This is however, not a political play.  To make it a political play would diminish the fragile reality of Mo’s life.  Mo (Rod Gnapp), a political dissident is released after 13 years of imprisonment.  When in prison, he was frequently in solitary confinement, and was water boarded and tortured.  Mo comes home to his wife, Sara (Mia Tagano) and is spending an evening with his close friends Ben (Sean San Jose) and Rachel (Carrie Paff), later joined by Ben and Rachel’s teenage daughter, Molly (Shawna Michelle James).

Nothing after the opening scene where the two couples are enjoying the drinks, proceeds in a logical, linear fashion.  The fragmented scenes that mirror the fragmented reality of Mo’s fractured mind, feel initially overwhelming.  It is only when one quits trying to make any logical sense that the obviousness of PTSD or the post traumatic stress, becomes apparent.  The brilliance of the play lies as much on the tough subject matter it tackles, as in what it does not focus upon and the closure that it does not provide to the audience.  The play does not dwell on the fact that Mo is seized from his home, without due process of the law and held for 13 years, or that he is tortured, perhaps outside the boundaries of legal and ethical, or the brutality of his captors; the play does not concern itself with providing a linear story line or explaining the details.  Rather, it dunks the audience into an emotional experience of a fractured, tormented mind, an experience so intense, that it requires surrendering; for a short while, it requires living inside Mo’s mind, living his reality, plagued by the demons that taunt him and haunt him, including the clowns (Patrick Alpatone and Jomar Tagatac), the Almighty who talks to him, his sisters, and the towering ghost of his father.  One walks away with a powerful experience.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This play may not unfold in a logical fashion, but nothing about it is incidental.  For instance, the title alludes to the fact that perhaps during interrogation, Mo might have been awoken every five minutes.  It may also point to the fact that a PTSD mind weaves in and out of sequences and events, excitement and despair, every few minutes, often dragging the loved ones along.  At the end of the play, if the lack of clarity leaves one with more uncertainty and questions than answers, the intensity of the experience leaves no doubt of its emotional impact.  Like the writer of the play, the director, Loretta Greco has done a brilliant job in putting together the entire carefully crafted but completely fragmented sequence of scenes, including the captors preparing Mo for his release.  The ritualistic preparation feels almost akin to preparation of a dead body, for the final burial.  On the other hand, it may point to the fact that while the captors were doing their job, they were not entirely cruel people.  Or it may allude to the fact that they wish to wipe out any trace of how Mo was treated during his imprisonment.  And only truly stellar actors like Rod Gnapp and Mia Tagano can pull of such intensely powerful acting required in this production.

 

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And that is how her beautiful day ended…….


The poem below is a repost of my poem posted on International Day for Violence against Women.  After I saw the little Google Glass clip, tears filled my eyes.  Here is link to the clip – watch till the end - http://tinyurl.com/o63vzfr

Google Glass Explorer Exchange 36287

Google Glass Explorer Exchange 36287 (Photo credit: tedeytan)

All across the world, in one form or another, she’s mutilated
Someone’s daughter, sister is raped, murdered
Often she has fewer rights to property, inheritance, equal pay
She remains as a story between the binders, can’t have her say
Sometimes it’s a challenge simply being a woman, she’s often tired

Around the world, at least one in three women has been abused
Her voice is stolen, often of her rights, she is deprived
In the US, every 15 seconds, a woman is assaulted, beaten
Thank you Google Glass for giving a voice to this woman
Hope people will always join together for such abuse to end

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“Entrepreneurs must Focus on Market Pain” – Norman Winarsky, SRI


EPPIC organization was found in 1998, with a mission to promote networking, entrepreneurship, and mentoring for life science professionals.  Each year, EPPIC Annual Conference provides a wonderful forum to realize this mission. EPPICon on March 29, 2014 was held at Westin, SF and began with opening remarks by Dr. Norman Winarksy, Vice President at SRI Ventures.

SRI or Stanford Research Institute was found in 1946 to help Stanford University professors make an impact in the world.  It has a staff of 2500, of whom 1000 have advanced degrees and current revenue is in the range of $600M. InvestorPeterGerber&InventorDougEnglebartMany revolutionary technologies like the mouse (invented by Doug Engelbart whom I had an opportunity to meet, before he passed away, when I took his picture inserted here with the first red mouse that investor Peter Gerber is holding), electronic banking, robotic surgery (which spun out as Intuitive Surgical), and SIRI to name a few, have come out of SRI.  All SRI personnel are taught to identify the value proposition and work towards that goal, said Winarksy. SRI is a non-profit organization but gives 34% of royalty to the individual or the team that worked on the specific technology and that is how SRI competes with high salaries in Silicon Valley.  SRI process always begins with identifying the market pain, ideally a larger market opportunity.  Out of about 2000 opportunities identified, about 3-4 get funded and get about 10X return; many of the others become licensing deals and the rest die.  Currently Tempo, a smart calendar is showing a lot of promise, said Winarsky. This was a great start to a day that proceeded with excellent panels, speed pitch sessions and SIG networking opportunities.

Next EPPIC event will be held on May 6 at 6pm at Cubberley Theater, 4000 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto.  Dr. Sarvajna Dwivedi, CSO at Pearl Therapeutics will talk about the entrepreneurship journey that took him and his co-founder to build from a tiny spin out, from Nektar Therapeutics, a world class multi-site organization.  Pearl Therapeutics was bought by Astra Zeneca last year, for $1.15 B.  To register for the event go to http://www.eppicglobal.org .

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Novel Approaches to Immune Therapy & Monitoring for non-Hodgkins Lymphoma


Dr. Russell Pachynsky, co-founder and CSO at CombImmune, spoke about their unique approach to immune therapy and monitoring for aggressive non-Hodgkins lymphoma patients, at www.bio2devicegroup.org event.  One of the clinical pain points with large B cell lymphomas, also called DLBCL is patients often do poorly after chemotherapy and current methods to identify high risk patients often lead to variations in patient outcomes, said Pachynsky.  Currently the standard method used is the IPI or International Prognostic Index but it is far from perfect where clinical outcomes are often discordant to risk prognosis. The IPI  is based on clinical assessments during the initial work-up of the patient which include age, Ann Arbor Stage, Serum LDH level, number of extranodal sites of the disease, and performance status.  Based on these, a patient receives the total score and higher the total score, higher the chances of them being at great risk of relapse and disease reoccurrence.  The challenge however is that the IPI does not capture the molecular heterogeneity of DLBCL.

English: Monoclonal antibodies for cancer. ADE...

English: Monoclonal antibodies for cancer. ADEPT, antibody directed enzyme prodrug therapy; ADCC, antibody dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity; CDC, complement dependent cytotoxicity; MAb, monoclonal antibody; scFv, single-chain Fv fragment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CombImmune offers a unique molecular diagnostic test that accurately identifies high risk patients.  After running FFPE tumor tissue through rt-PCR and based on certain algorithms the assay can identify patients who may be in need of more aggressive treatment.  Currently, first line therapy that is generally administered is R-CHOP therapy.  About 75% of patients with DLBCL respond to the standard R-CHOP therapy.  However, 50% of patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients die despite receiving the therapy.  And there is nothing approved for maintenance therapy, for DLBCL patients.  Standard second line therapy consists of R-DHAP or R-ICE therapy and those who do not respond to that may go for bone marrow transplant.  Although it is more toxic, the Dose adjusted EPOCH or DA-R-EPOCH chemotherapy is currently in a Phase III CALGB trial 5303 (http://www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials/search/view?cdrid=433265&version=HealthProfessional) vs R-CHOP in newly diagnosed DLBCL patients. If more found to be more efficacious, DA-R-EPOCH may offer DLBCL patients another option for first line therapy. There are also other combination therapies with R-CHOP in Ph2 and Ph3 trials including lenalidamide, bortezomib, GA-101, ibrutinib, idelalisib, and many others. According to Dr. Pachynski, there are over 100 programs currently evaluating new DLBCL therapies and it will be important to understand which patients will become Rituxan refractory and relapse earlier in their disease. All patients do not require this aggressive treatment and a molecular diagnostic assay will minimize the unneeded additional therapies and over treatment.

CD137 - JasonYonehiroCombImmune’s unique assay the Two Gene Score or TGS has been validated in 692 DLBCL patients.  One of them is a measure of the tumor (LMO2) and one is a measure of immune response (CD137).  LMO2 and CD137 are robust, independent, and prognostic determinants of DLBCL.  This technology has come out of work at Ron Levy’s lab, at Stanford.  Compared to TGS the IPI captured only 7% of high risk patients, while the validation cohort, the TGS captured 28.5% of high risk patients.  Based on this test, high risk patients can be administered more aggressive first line of treatment, while wait and watch approaches can be taken with low risk patients.

Additionally, CombImmune’s TGS test is useful in monitoring and enhancing immune response to cancer.  Energizing the immune system to illicit a more robust response can be a key to more efficacy of treatment.  It is already known that new DLBCL patients have impaired immune mediated NK cell cytotoxicity and lower CD137 expression.  DLBCL patients have a compromised immune system, at the time of the diagnosis.  It is also known that increased tumor infilterating leukocytes are prognostic and predictive.  Clinical outcomes are generally good with increased counts, and poor, when lower.  It is also known that active monitoring of patient immune system may improve clinical outcomes.  The TGS diagnostic test and PF05082566 (anti CD137 mAB) can capture true high risk patients who are Rituximab non-responders.  Rx may play synergistic role with antibodies to stimulate CD137 expression in NK/T cells.  Sequential dosing of co-stimulatory agents have anti-cancer synergy.  Currently, there are a number of pathways and co-inhibitation therapeutics under investigation.  Many of them will likely increase CD137 expression.  Dr. Pachynski said, TGS is a powerful way to monitor immune response of the tumor.  The event was followed by Q&A.

 

 

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“Cesar Chavez” – Movie Review


Today is Cesar Chavez day, a state holiday in California, Colorado, and Texas.  This holiday is in honor of one of the greatest community activists, in recent history, and it is intended to promote community service.  Here is the review on the movie recently released on Chavez’s life and work.

The movie chronicles the civil rights struggle of Chavez, and his steadfast commitment to securing fair living wages and decent work conditions for farm workers, through civil disobedience, and other non-violent means.  The story begins in 1962, in Delano, CA.  Chavez worked in the fields until 1952 and then became an organizer for the Community Service Organization, a Latino civil rights group.  In 1962, Chavez left the CSO and co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), later called the United Farm Workers (UFW).  Very early in the struggle, Chavez insisted that they would challenge the growers and rich lobbyists strictly through non-violent means.  Despite the boycotters facing many challenges, including arrested under false pretext, getting beat up by the police, getting shot at by the growers, and being doused by pesticides, Chavez insisted that under his leadership, they will not resort to violent means.  “You always have a choice”, he said.  And yet when people resorted to violence, he went on a fast, insisting that he would only break his fast, if every single member would sign a pledge of non-violence.  He also realized the strength in numbers and says, “we need an army of boycotters”.  Chavez also realized that if divided the farm workers will succumb to the growers, but with collaboration and unity, they will succeed.  He supported Filipino American farm workers and won their support.

This is a beautiful movie that chronicles his struggles that inspired millions of Americans to stand up and fight for social justice.  When the growers decided to bypass the American market and sell to England and countries in Europe, Chavez traveled to Europe and made his case directly to the people there and won their support in boycotting grapes from the US.  Chavez’ ultimate triumph in getting growers to the table and get them to accept the demands from the workers, for social justice and fairness, is indeed a heartwarming testament to the tenacity, commitment, and power of one individual to change the world.

Michael Pena is fabulous in his role as Cesar Chavez.  America Ferrera in her role as Cesar’s wife, Helen Chavez, packs quite a punch.  Helen Chavez supported her husband’s struggles but she was also torn between this struggle and her role as a mother.  When her son, Fernando (Eli Vargas) was getting picked on, in the school, on account of his father’s struggles, she became a lioness, coming to the rescue of her son.  During his teen years, Fernando Chavez, alienated from his peers, due to his father’s struggles, blamed his father and turned away from him, which deeply pained Chavez.

Cesar Chavez has left a giant legacy and he has been commemorated in a number of ways.  He has been a recipient of many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and there is a portrait of Chavez in the National Portrait Gallery, in Washington, D.C.  There are books on Cesar Chavez, colleges named after him, parks and roads named after him, and postage stamps and navy ships named in his honor, and more.

This movie beautifully tells the story of the intensely challenging reality of the American farm workers’ lives, during 60′s and 70′s, and Chavez’s role in getting the society to acknowledge the harshness of their life and agree to certain fair wages and living conditions.  While there is an important history lesson embedded here, there isn’t a single dull moment in the movie.  Director Diego Luna has done a marvelous job of capturing the essence of Chavez’s long civil rights struggle and balancing it with a peak into how his struggle impacted other workers and his own family.  On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I rate this movie a 4.8 and I assert that it should be must-see movie for students of American History.

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OncoProtein based Program for Early Detection of HPV induced Cervical Cancers  


Dr Johannes Schweizer, VP of R&D at Arbor Vita Corporation talked about Arbor Vita’s proprietary OncoE6™ Cervical Test that Predicts Development of Cervical Cancer at www.bio2devicegroup.org event.  Information on 3 great upcoming conferences EPPIC, TiEcon, and HealthTechForum with great speakers on healthcare tracks, is posted at the end of the article.

Arbor Vita was found by Dr. Peter Lu, in 1998 with an aim to apply discoveries of the role of PDZ proteins to the development of novel therapeutics and diagnostics.  Numerous pathogens have been found to cause diseases by binding to a PDZ protein and thereby disrupting normal cell signaling.  The ability to regulate PDZ/PL interactions represents new opportunities in controlling multiple signaling cascades in complex diseases and have recently been a focus for human drug targets.  Arbor Vita has identified nearly all of the PDZ domains in the human proteome and has decoded most of them.  Arbor Vita’s platform technology is targeted towards several diseases.  Its stroke treatment asset was recently sold to NoNO, Inc.  Avian flu Dx is the first FDA cleared rapid Dx test.  At this event, Dr Schweizer discussed Arbor Vita’s diagnostic and treatment technology for HPV induced cancers.

Cervical cancer is a leading cause of mortality, worldwide.  HPV induced cancers are transmitted through sexual contact and kill over 275,000 women, every year.  These do not receive as much attention because the mortality rates are lower in the US and other developed countries.  But mortality from slow progressive cervical cancers peak in developing countries.  In India for instance, every 7 minutes, a woman dies from this disease.  The current mode of detection is through pap smears, which have poor sensitivity and poor specificity.  In the US, out of 100,000 women tested, 23,000 are likely to be hr-HPV positive.  But from these, only 6 women are likely to have cancer.  This indicates that the current screening methods are sensitive but are not sufficiently specific to detect pre-cancerous and cancerous activity and low specificity leads to over treatment.  Pap tests give about 20% false positive and false negative results.  The only reason it still work is because of the frequency of testing in the case of this very slow moving cancer, said Schweizer.  Also pap tests require lot of infrastructure and set up that is often not easily available in developing regions.

Arbor Vita’s OncoE6TM Test is the only test that specifically identifies the viral E6 oncoprotein that causes cervical cancer.  And it is simple to administer with specimen captured with a polyester tipped cervical swab, which can also be captured by the woman on her own as well.  Elevated E6 oncoprotein correlates to cancerous activity and development of high-affinity anti E6 mAb is a key to feasibility.  There are 15 HPV types that cause cancer.  Among these, HPV 16 and HPV 18 are leading causes of cervical cancers, worldwide.  This test is specific to these two viruses.  Further this test is robust and lends to easy storage at ambient temperature.  The entire process from sample collection to getting the results can be completed in 2.5 hours.

Schweizer shared some of the data from its clinical trials.  The data indicates that in a head to head comparison with OncoE6TM, the DNA test results in nine fold over treatment including colposcopies and biopsies.   OncoE6 Cervical Test on the other hand, has high specificity for women with high grade disease cancers.  OncoE6 Cervical Test efficiently identifies women in need of clinical follow-up, among the many more with clinically irrelevant HPV infections.  In a one year follow up, E6TM promised to be a solid predictive marker as high specificity and high PPV are keys to lower referral rates and clinical follow-up.  This was very interesting talk and was followed by Q&A.

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Please see below information on some excellent conferences and events coming up in the Bay Area, in next couple of months.

March 29, 2014 (day after tomorrow) EPPIC (www.eppicglobal.org) is hosting annual conference at SF, Westin.  Panels include Neglected & Rare Diseases – http://bit.ly/1c1vvTR, Innovations in clinical Development of Novel Agents, Point of Care gold rush and there will be speed pitch and SIG networking opportunities.  Promises to be a great conference.

May 16, 17, 2014 TiE SV (www.tiesv.org) will host TiEcon (www.tiecon.org) , the largest entrepreneurship conference.  This year it will feature #healthcare track with focus on Disruptive Technologies in Healthcare.

May 20, 2014 HealthTech Forum (www.healthtechnologyforum.com) will host annual conference around the theme “Pathways to Sustainable Health” at Parc 55 Wyndham, SF and will feature excellent panels and speakers on Medical Research in the Cloud, Patient Engagement in Behavioral Health, Improving Health in Global Underserved Communities and more.

www.bio2devicegroup.org meets every Tuesday and next Tuesday Dr. Russell Pachynski, co-founder, CombImmune, will talk about “Novel approaches to Immune Therapy and Monitoring”.

Check out new job opportunities 1) Embedded Software Engineer – Mountain View, CA 2) Quality manager – Mt Laurel, NJ - http://bit.ly/P1H0QK

 

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