Storytelling in Science Communication

The end of this excellent presentation by Dr. Katie Pratt concisely details the attributes of science storytelling and shows the final product in a video that condenses two months on an Antarctic icebreaker into less than five minutes.

 

Here’s an excellent story by Jennifer Ouellette on Dr. Frances H. Arnold of the California Institute of Technology, recipient of half of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2018.

Here’s a cool backstory by Dr. Lauren Wolf on Dr. Livia Eberlin of the University of Texas at Austin, a 2018 MacArthur Foundation Fellow.

Elion-Hitchings Building Tour

  1. As discussed in my post last week, I had the opportunity on Saturday to tour the old Burroughs-Wellcome US headquarters building in Research Triangle Park, NC. Designed in 1969 by architect Paul Rudolph, the building was completed in 1972. The building became known as the Elion-Hitchings Building after BW scientists Trudy Elion and George Hitchings shared the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Sir James Black.

    The building was acquired by Glaxo when they merged with Wellcome in 1995 (Glaxo had built its US headquarters in RTP in 1983, just north of the BW property.).

    Now GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the company began liquidating buildings and consumer products over the last two years. When they announced their intent to sell the Elion-Hitchings Building in April, 2011, I suggested that someone purchase it to fashion into hipster condominiums. My hopes were dashed when United Therapeutics purchased it and two other buildings for $17.5 million in late June of this year. United Therapeutics has a 55-acre lot adjacent to the GSK property where they’ve constructed a new headquarters building of their own.

    What follows is a Storify compilation of my tweets from Saturday with photos that I sent out. I’ll post other photos later.

  2. davidkroll
    Triangle folks: You can still come to tour the Elion-Hitchings Bldg in RTP today 9:00 – 12:40 for $15 at door http://bit.ly/T5YrxE
  3. davidkroll
    Just arrived at former GSK-held Elion-Hitchings Bldg, now owned by United Therapeutics. http://pic.twitter.com/qOiH8kf7
  4. sciencegeist
    @davidkroll It looks like the building is held up by giant lab jacks
  5. davidkroll
    You can’t erase the GSK. Logo outline on frosted glass. #elionhitchings http://pic.twitter.com/RiJPqN3a
  6. davidkroll
    I wonder if GSK was still paying these 1996-97 wages? #elionhitchings http://pic.twitter.com/okKeIVAU
  7. davidkroll
    This was the view for the executive secretarial pool. RTP requires that 40% of lots remain wooded #elionhitchings http://pic.twitter.com/YGGT75i4
  8. sbeckwral
    @davidkroll Very cool! Didn’t know that stat!
  9. Since Stephanie is a news producer for WRAL-TV in Raleigh, I thought I should do some fact-checking and find the source for this factoid once I got home. Turns out that I was wrong — I underestimated the wooded requirement.

    According to RTP’s Land Management plan, the built-up area of each lot is limited to 30%, leaving much more of the pine forest than I had originally cited.

  10. davidkroll
    The #elionhitchings patio where Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood appeared in “Brainstorm”; Burroughs-Wellcome then http://pic.twitter.com/AO67RfIK
  11. ProteinWrangler
    @davidkroll really cool building. just read it was in the movie “Brainstorm.” thought it looked familiar. thanks for sharing!
  12. I then realized that bombarding my Twitter followers with my tour photos required an explanation:
  13. davidkroll
    If my timeline is wondering what I’m writing about: I’m touring the 1966 Paul Rudolph creation that was US HQ for Burroughs-Wellcome…
  14. davidkroll
    The bldg was acquired by Glaxo and its subsequent iterations. Sold to United Therapeutics recently. First time open to public in decades.
  15. davidkroll
    One drawback to working in such an angular building: #elionhitchings http://pic.twitter.com/IvpaFt9X
  16. davidkroll
    2nd floor offices have nicer views than 5th (exec) floor. Hex design bring you closer to trees #elionhitchings http://pic.twitter.com/2YzFSHVQ
  17. davidkroll
    Can any GSKers tell us why all #elionhitchings bldg rooms have the MAI prefix? http://pic.twitter.com/zOnsbEbF
  18. collabchem
    Thank you @davidkroll great building, like a trippy Escher drawing but whiteboards were insightful big pharma relics http://pic.twitter.com/1S3T9nZ1
  19. MaverickNY
    @davidkroll like being stuck in a time warp, for posterity
  20. collabchem
    Thank you @davidkroll great building, like a trippy Escher drawing but whiteboards were insightful big pharma relics http://pic.twitter.com/1S3T9nZ1
  21. The story here is that I had originally purchased three tickets for later in the day before I realized that the time conflicted with my daughter’s soccer match. So on Friday night, I ran a little Twitter contest to give away these tickets.

    ADME-Tox guru and Collaborative Chemistry writer Sean Ekins was fortunately able to use one of my tickets — and I’m glad he did because his post on the visit is truly elegant and reflective on the metaphors this building holds for the past and present state of drug discovery. He also has much cleaner photos than I do here.

  22. collabchem
    Pharma architecture and informatics, whiteboards as the silo of ideas, symbol of demise: http://www.collabchem.com/2012/10/21/pharma-architecture-and-informatics-whiteboards-as-the-silo-of-ideas-symbol-of-demise/ ThankU @davidkroll for Ticket
  23. And from the organizer:
  24. georgesmartTMH
    Thanks to the over 300 people who came and visited the Burroughs Wellcome building this morning…..and thanks to… http://fb.me/1FpDobZb5
  25. Many thanks to George Smart and Triangle Modernist Houses for making this tour possible. Volunteers told me that George had been negotiating this tour for several years. The vacancy made by the GSK sale to United Therapeutics provided an excellent time for the tour to take place.

    Thank you to all involved in making this possible.

Metamorphosis

Warning: rare self-indulgent post.

Blogging has been and will be light over the next few days while we are packing up things around here to move to our next, more permanent home.

In the meantime, you may have noticed here and on Twitter that part of my big news is that I will begin writing under my PharmMom-given name.

My dilemma has been that I have two Twitter accounts. @AbelPharmboy has been the one I use for all blog-related stuff as well as any other gems of my mind that can fit into 140 characters.  Thanks to you, I have 1,600 followers at that account. However, I also have a real name Twitter account that I used for my now-fledgling-and-almost-nonexistent music career and local banter with folks in the Durham-Chapel Hill area. That one only had 200 followers until I began announcing my metamorphosis.

With the pending blog move and melding of my IRL and online identities, one of my mentors, Twitter follower, writer, editor, and Johns Hopkins journalism professor, Mary Knudson, asked what I was going to do regarding the two avatars I use for each Twitter account.

One of my dear friends was enthusiastic about me coming up with a new avatar for the real name account but I’ve been worried about losing old followers who might not recognize the real name avatar.

But coming to the rescue from across the pond is my devoted reader and neuropharmacology enthusiast, Synchronium – world-famous for showing not one but both nipples in the British press.

Here is my metamorphosis:

Follow me now @davidkroll on Twitter.

More news on our move as it becomes available.

The Henrietta Lacks Foundation awards first assistance grants to HeLa descendants

Yesterday, author Rebecca Skloot made the following announcement at her website:

Today, the Henrietta Lacks Foundation awarded its first ever grants thanks to donations from Rebecca Skloot, and many readers. The first awards cover full tuition and books for five descendants of Henrietta Lacks starting fall semester 2010, as well as an emergency grant for one of Henrietta Lacks’s sons. More information about the inaugural Henrietta Lacks Foundation grants coming soon. For more information on the foundation, or to make a donation, click here.

As some readers know, I have been a big fan of Skloot’s book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and I have been the beneficiary of the cervical carcinoma cell line established in 1951 from the Ms. Lacks’s tumor.

When Rebecca announced last year that she was to establish a foundation to funnel profits and donations to assist the Lacks family, one of her primary goals when embarking on this project more than ten years ago, she also asked me to serve on the board of the Foundation.

I’ll have more to say about this process when a formal press release is made. But for the time being, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to do my part to honor the memory of Henrietta Lacks and assist her descendants.

URGENT FDA WARNING: Do not use Miracle Mineral Solution

This FDA warning just came across my newsfeed regarding “Miracle Mineral Solution” or “Miracle Mineral Supplement” – also abbreviated MMS. This is absolutely obscene.



FDA NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: July 30, 2010
Media Inquiries: Elaine Gansz Bobo, 301-796-7567, elaine.bobo@fda.hhs.gov
Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

FDA Warns Consumers of Serious Harm from Drinking Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS)
Product contains industrial strength bleach

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to take Miracle Mineral Solution, an oral liquid also known as “Miracle Mineral Supplement” or “MMS.”  The product, when used as directed, produces an industrial bleach that can cause serious harm to health.

The FDA has received several reports of health injuries from consumers using this product, including severe nausea, vomiting, and life-threatening low blood pressure from dehydration.

Consumers who have MMS should stop using it immediately and throw it away.

MMS is distributed on Internet sites and online auctions by multiple independent distributors. Although the products share the MMS name, the look of the labeling may vary.

The product instructs consumers to mix the 28 percent sodium chlorite solution with an acid such as citrus juice. This mixture produces chlorine dioxide, a potent bleach used for stripping textiles and industrial water treatment. High oral doses of this bleach, such as those recommended in the labeling, can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of severe dehydration.

MMS claims to treat multiple unrelated diseases, including HIV, hepatitis, the H1N1 flu virus, common colds, acne, cancer, and other conditions. The FDA is not aware of any research that MMS is effective in treating any of these conditions. MMS also poses a significant health risk to consumers who may choose to use this product for self-treatment instead of seeking FDA-approved treatments for these conditions.

The FDA continues to investigate and may pursue civil or criminal enforcement actions as appropriate to protect the public from this potentially dangerous product.

The FDA advises consumers who have experienced any negative side effects from MMS to consult a health care professional as soon as possible and to discard the product. Consumers and health care professionals should report adverse events to the FDA’s MedWatch program at 800-FDA-1088 or online at www.fda.gov/medwatch/report.htm.


The product website is still live and it is full of the most unreal claims I’ve seen in any online marketing scheme:

This Breakthrough can save your life, or the life of a loved one.
Please read.

The answer to AIDS, hepatitis A,B and C, malaria, herpes, TB, most cancer and many more of mankind’s worse diseases has been found. Many diseases are now easily controlled. More that 75,000 disease victims have been included in the field tests in Africa. Scientific clinical trials have been conducted in a prison in the country of Malawi, East Africa.

Separate tests conducted by the Malawi government produced identical 99% cure results. Over 60% of the AIDS victims that were treated in Uganda were well in 3 days, with 98% well within one month. More than 90% of the malaria victims were well in 4 to 8 hours. Dozens of other diseases were successfully treated and can be controlled with this new mineral supplement. It also works with colds, flu, pneumonia, sore throats, warts, mouth sores, and even abscessed teeth (it’s the only thing that controls and cures abscessed teeth).

The inventor believes that this information is too important to the world that any one person or any group should have control. The free e-book download on this site gives complete details of this discovery. Please help make sure that it gets to the world free. There are many medical facts that have been suppressed and this invention must not be added to that list. The name of the e-book is The Miracle Mineral Supplement of the 21st Century. This book tells the story of the discovery, and how to make and use it. This book can save your life. Give it a try.

No. No. Don’t give it a try.

Instead:

The FDA advises consumers who have experienced any negative side effects from MMS to consult a health care professional as soon as possible and to discard the product. Consumers and health care professionals should report adverse events to the FDA’s MedWatch program at 800-FDA-1088 or online at www.fda.gov/medwatch/report.htm.

Five favorite molecules

This post was meant to go up yesterday but I was distracted by the lengthy conversation I had with my wife, a physician-scientist, about this very topic.

Many of you who attended the ScienceOnline2010 conference here last January probably met Carmen Drahl, the Princeton-trained chemist who now writes for Chemical & Engineering News and their appropriately-named drug discovery blog, The Haystack, as well as their Newscripts feature.

For the latter, Dr. Drahl pointed us toward a recent “Crosstalks” paper in Chemistry & Biology by Thomas U. Mayer and Andreas Marx of the University of Konstanz (and her interview with the authors) who mused as follows from their abstract:

Which five molecules would you take to a remote island? If you imagine yourself as a castaway on an island you might pick water, glucose, penicillin, and ethanol in combination with aspirin. However, as a scientist, you may ask yourself which molecules impressed you most by their chemical or biological property, their impact on science, or the ingenuity and/or serendipity behind their discovery. Here, we present our personal short list comprising FK506, colchicine, imatinib, Quimi-Hib, and cidofovir. Obviously, our selection is highly subjective and, therefore, we apologize up front to our colleagues for not mentioning their favorite compounds.

The full paper (PDF) is freely available at the time of this post (thank you, Cell Press!) and the science historian in me is delighted by reading it. I’ll be giving this out to my pharmacology students on day one of the upcoming semester and charge them with selecting and justifying a molecule of their own.

But the authors pose two different questions – a) which molecules, drug or not, would you take as the sole occupant of a desert island, and b) which drugs most impress you with their chemistry, biology, or impact on science.

She’s now asking for people to fill out this survey of their own five molecules to take to a desert island (or drop comments on her blogpost).

We approached the question as “what five drugs would you take to a desert island if you were the sole occupant?”

My thought process was to think about what would be most likely to kill you if you were alone as an otherwise reasonably healthy mid-40s dude coming off a bout of pneumonia. Antibiotics and vaccines have arguably had the greatest impact on the leap in life expectancy observed during the 20th century. Vaccines wouldn’t be necessary if you were alone, but antibiotics would be crucial, especially if you fell and broke bones.

But what antibiotic? One probably wouldn’t be encountering highly drug-resistant bugs so would ampicillin be best? Would you want two antibiotics? Perhaps one antibacterial and one antifungal, the latter giving the humid, tropical climate.

For any sort of painful encounter, I’d want morphine. Yes, it’s best injected and I don’t think one would be stranded with syringes as well, but there are oral morphine formulations that have reasonable bioavailability. Perhaps it would be good enough mixed in with coconut milk. If not, I’d take Actiq fentanyl lollipops or hydromorphone.

A good, daily analgesic might help. Aspirin has a lot of advantages despite the evolution of other analgesics like ibuprofen and naproxen.

I’m not sure how my asthma would be on a desert island, but I’d rather not chance it so I’d definitely use up a slot with my rapid-acting beta2-agonist, albuterol.

And if you have a strong, penetrating family history of depression like me, I’d bring an antidepressant – probably escitalopram. Think that’s not necessary? If you can’t even get up and go fishing or build a shelter because you are so paralyzingly depressed, an antidepressant drug could be just as life-saving as a broad-spectrum antibiotic.

Ahh, but malaria – maybe I’ll keep the morphine but give up the naproxen and bring some chloroquine.

This is kind of tough, eh? Some of the choices depend on your own pre-existing conditions.

What five drugs would you bring if stranded on a deserted island?

Even if you comment here, please be sure to put your choices in Carmen’s survey here. She notes that she’ll post some of her results next week.

New blog home, same old story: dietary supplement adulteration with prescription drugs

If you are new to this blog, you should know that our laboratory and collaborators work on all aspects of physiologically-active compounds from natural sources – plants, fungi, bacteria, marine organisms, etc.

So, I am equally interested in prescription drugs and herbal or non-botanical dietary supplements. There are still some products on the shelves of health food stores that can actually provide health benefits if manufactured properly and taken in high enough doses.

However.

A common practice by unscrupulous supplement manufacturers is to add prescription drugs, or close structural relatives, to their herbal product to make it appear to the consumer that their product has beneficial effects.

In the last two weeks, the US FDA MedWatch program has announced two voluntary product recalls for dietary supplements adulterated with undeclared prescription drugs.

Another in a long litany of erectile dysfunction products boosted with compounds like those found in Viagra or Cialis comes to us from Vialipro by Good Health, Inc.:

Good Health, Inc. is conducting a voluntary recall after an FDA lab analyses found that the product tested from certain batches of Vialipro contain Sulfoaildenafil, an analogue of Sildenafil, an FDA-approved drug used as treatment for male Erectile Dysfunction (ED) making this product an unapproved drug. The undeclared ingredient may pose a threat to the consumer because the interaction of the analogue with some prescription drugs (such as nitroglycerin) may lower blood pressure to dangerous levels. Consumers with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease often take other prescription drugs.

The Vialipro product website is dead as of the time of this writing.

Such practice with this product class is extremely sophomoric: the FDA has had a testing program running for several years to detect these compounds in male sexual enhancement products. The FDA hasn’t updated their consumer information page since February, 2009, but this guide lists a large number of herbal products identified since 2004 as having prescription, phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors in them.

The practice is simply disingenuous and damages the reputation of botanical supplement manufacturers (and botanical researchers) who are trying to play by the rules and rigorously study these products.

Case two comes courtesy of J&H Besta Corporation and their Joyful Slim/Slim-30 “Natural Herb for Weight Loss”:

FDA lab analysis of this herb supplement was found to contain the undeclared drug, desmethyl sibutramine, an FDA-approved drug used as an appetite suppressant for weight loss. Sibutramine is known to substantially increase blood pressure and/or pulse rate in some patients and may present a significant risk for patients with a history of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias or stroke.

The Joyful Slim website is still live (because they sell other products) but contains this ironic image:

A reason to shop from them is that they let you know about product recalls? Well, I guess that's a nice consumer feature. (From joyfulslim.com on 27 July 2010)

The FDA press releases to which I’ve linked (1, 2) contain information for the consumer on returning the products for refund and reporting any adverse reactions associated with product use.

This is cheating, my friends, and these are only the cases that are detected by the FDA. These incidents make me wonder just how many cases of reported dietary supplement efficacy are due to physiologically-active adulterants – the abundance of clinical trial failures of well-characterized, chemically-qualified herbal supplements may speak to this very issue.

JUNIORPROF returns to blogging with the #PainResearchMatters campaign

As I’ve noted elsewhere, practicing biomedical scientists often turn to blogging out of passion for their work and their desire to connect with the public to raise awareness about societal benefit of their research.

Exhibit A: Pain researcher, JuniorProf.  JP has come roaring back from a hiatus, joined Twitter, and has put forth a near-manifesto on his previous posts about pain research and why it is important:

1) The World Health Organization considers relief from pain to be a universal human right
2) Migraine headache is the most common neurological disorder in the world
3) More people seek medical attention for pain than for any other reason
4) Nearly 50% of people who seek medical treatment for pain report that they do not achieve pain relief with treatment
5) Chronic pain conditions disproportionately affect women

And like many of us, some critical personal and training experiences led him to this particular research area. You’ll learn about these if you go further in his post.

On a personal note, JuniorProf is a good online friend and has helped me out professionally as well. Our friendship began when he was a commenter at DrugMonkey and PhysioProf’s place. I told JP that his comments were so insightful and content-rich that he really needed to start his own blog.  So, he did (I wish I had that power of persuasion over others.).

Work issues pushed his nose to the grindstone at the university and on grant applications, but I knew he’d be back when he was ready.

He is now inspired.

Some of the most useful drugs in the management of pain come from natural products, such as morphine from Papaver somniferum. Unfortunately, some pain medications also have the potential to cause drug dependence. For this reason, chronic pain is largely undertreated. So, I’m really looking forward to learning more from JP about the advances in his field and his work that is designed to truly relieve human suffering.

I hope that you’ll follow his writing as well.

Update: Zuska now has a detailed post up on her migraines, allodynia, and the litany of drugs she has gone through to find some relief with botulinum toxin injections (Botox). That is why pain research matters.

And a hat-tip to DrugMonkey for making me aware of #PainResearchMatters