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We look into the safety issues associated with Valsartan and the knock-on effects for patients and the industry after much of supply of the API was recalled. And, after the spectacular failure of IBM’s Watson Health, we find out what the future holds for artificial intelligence in healthcare.

Also, we take a look back at the history of one of pharma’s most influential tools – the Petri dish – to find out how this simple piece of equipment has helped to shape drug discovery for more than a century, and examine the casual connection between Herpes Simplex Virus 1 in people carrying a specific gene and the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s disease, could this link help researchers to finally crack the mystery of Alzheimer’s?

Plus, we speak to the team behind antiSMASH, an online tool being used by scientists in the hunt for bacterial metabolites, explore ways that pharma companies are fighting respiratory issues caused by fine dust and pollution, and round up key trends for 2019, from global studies to digital therapeutics.

In this issue

A costly oversight: the ongoing impact of the valsartan recall
Blood pressure drug prices soared last year when much of the supply of API valsartan was recalled after traces of a probable carcinogen were found. With recalls and warnings about sartans continuing through the year, Ross Davies looks into the safety issues associated with the drug and the knock-on effects for the industry.
Read the article here.

Not so elementary, Watson: the roadblocks for AI in pharma
The high-profile flaws shown by IBM’s Watson for Oncology in 2018 have dented the reputation of AI-driven systems for healthcare and pharma R&D. So what are the roadblocks standing in the way of finding success in using machine learning to drive clinical research and drug discovery? Chris Lo reports.
Read the article here.

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The Petri dish: telling the story of pharma’s most humble ally
Well known to anyone familiar with a science classroom, the Petri dish has been used in medicine for well over a hundred years. Has it changed? Yes and no, but to find out more Charlotte Edwards looks at how Petri dishes have influenced drug discovery in the past, and how newer concepts like organ growing and synthetic platforms are developing.
Read the article here.

Exploring the causal link between herpes and Alzheimer’s
Decades of research have revealed a significant correlation between the Herpes Simplex Virus 1 in people carrying a specific gene and damage in the brain. Could this link suggest a new treatment for Alzheimer’s? Ross Davies reports.
Read the article here.

antiSMASH: on the hunt for new antibiotics
Online tool antiSMASH is being used by scientists on the hunt for interesting bacterial metabolites with potential uses for creating new antibiotics, and its accompanying database was recently updated to bring its content up to 25,000 bacterial genomes. Chris Lo talks to antiSMASH co-developer Kai Blin to find out more about the software and its benefits.
Read the article here.

Tackling consequences of air pollution with drug R&D
Air pollution is a leading cause of death globally; as well as being responsible for new cases of chronic respiratory illnesses, such as asthma and COPD, and lung cancer, it can also aggravate symptoms for existing patients. The spike in cases has induced the global pharma industry to continue its focus on research and development for respiratory illnesses. Allie Nawrat investigates.
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Trends for 2019: from global studies to digital therapeutics
The digital transformation is marching ahead, but what does that mean for the industry? Christian Hebenstreit, general manager and senior vice president for the EMEA region at Medidata Solutions, shares his thoughts on the trends shaping the pharma industry in 2019.
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Next issue preview

In the next issue of Pharma Technology Focus, we find out why there is currently no supply of the pink Migraleve over-the-counter migraine tablets – which contain buclizine to relieve nausea on the onset of migraine – in the UK, explore the potential of modifying non-toxic nano-material from corn into active ingredients for targeted drug delivery, imaging or diagnostics, and examine how machine learning is helping to accelerate research into personalised medicines and rare diseases.

Also, we take a look at Scotland’s pharmaceutical industry and what needs to happen for the country to maintain its status as an industry leader, and examine how thermostabilised viral vaccines can help ensure the optimal potency of vaccines in developing countries.

Plus, we explore what biotech’s biggest ever IPO tells us about drug manufacturing and check on the outlook for CRISPR gene editing technology at this important juncture.