12 August 2009

Orphan Cure Research Center

No, this isn't about sick orphans. But it could be.

Dichloroacetate. Bacteriophages. Copper. Scorpion venom. A list such as this could go on and on, with each element being a potentially world-altering treatment against disease. And the other factor that binds these elements together is that none--none--is being studied by pharmaceuticals because they cannot be patented.

I understand pharmaceutical companies are businesses and they need to make a profit. Let them. But to leave potential cures as orphans because the investment cannot be fenced for profitability is a chasm that business and industry may not bridge...but can be bridged, nonetheless.

I wrote several times about dichloroacetate, also known as DCA. I suggested We undertake the clinical trials of DCA's effects, of "switching on" cancer cells to make them extremely vulnerable to radiation and chemotherapy, here in Puerto Rico as a national project and make it a gift to the world. I now say We should do so for "orphan cures" of all types, cures that pharmaceutical companies will not touch because the ROI is too low for their stockholders.

Bacteriophages are microorganisms that eat bacteria. The eaters eat only specific bacteria, so if you need to eliminate Bacteria A, you get an A-Eating Bacteriophage and once the Bacteria A is gone, the A-Eater dies. Has done so for millions of years. And the bacteria have no defense...unlike antibiotics.

Phage therapy, as its called, is a big deal in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Has been for decades because antibiotic research was out of reach. To this day, you can take a sample of your infection to a local drug store, get it analyzed and you'll receive a phage blend specifically blended for you. Cost: about $3.00.

Although phage therapy is gaining adepts in the U.S. of part of A., most of the research is academic, i.e., not aimed at medical treatment of diseases in humans. The cost of shepherding a drug--or just one bacteriophage--through the near-endless hoops of the FDA easily exceeds a few hundred million dollars. Imagine trying to do that with thousands of bacteriophages.

Phage therapy works, but it won't become a powerful new weapon in medical centers unless it gets researched and proven. As antibiotics lose potency, phage therapy is the clear low-cost alternative. But low-cost also means low or no profit.

Copper reduces the potency of bacterias and viruses. Yes, viruses, particularly H1N1, known as "politician's flu." (Swine, hogs, pigs, politicians, same species.) Copper's myriad effects could revolutionize sanitation in hospitals and clinics, not to mention daily life. But it remains outside the realm of patents, so Big Pharma won't care.

Scorpion venom, a powerful neurotoxin, has been found to be very effective at reducing brain cancer tumors. But you can't patent scorpion venom unless you isolate the specific chemical and make that your wonder drug. (Digitalis, anyone?) But since anyone can get scorpion venom, Big Pharma won't dare.

There are other examples and more will emerge as researchers comb the Earth and its details with new eyes. But where can this research be supported, with government money so that the profit motive is sidestepped in favor of broader results?

I say Puerto Rico should be that Orphan Cure Research Center. As I wrote before: One doesn't become an adult until one achieves what is considered "adult" things. Lacking a war, nations must rise to their levels of adulthood by taking on unique challenges. Puerto Rico's imposed transformation from economic rut to world-class prosperity ended some 25 years ago. We can now stand on Our own...if We only believed enough in Ourselves. And that belief cannot--will not--be built by winning beauty crowns, boxing belts, statuettes or rings. It will be built by creating something larger than an individual or a sports team, something larger than one institution, agency or company, something so large that other nations turn to Us and recognize that not only are We putting forth an admirable effort, We are capable of achieving such a worthy goal.

LIke I said before, it will take money. But one of the irrefutable axioms of economics (one of the very few) is that goverment investment in research has invariably high ROIs, in the range of 50% to 150%. So altruism can also lead to pure profit in terms of economic growth. And the impact of Puerto Rico taking center stage in such an effort is inspiring, an affirmation, a step forward for a nation that too often has waited for the world to act in its favor.

It won't be easy; nothing truly worth doing ever is. We have to do something, We have to be something more than what We are now and unless We strive, We will shrivel, more and faster than We have up to now. And if not this, then something else, but it has to be a goal that stretches Us to reach Our potential and not a goal that has Us throwing away what's left in the mindlews pursuit of the unearned.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

Update: 17 August--We can add bug repellants, too...

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