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Past News Items - July 2019

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In the News

Unusual Eating Behaviors May Be a New Diagnostic Indicator for Autism

Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation Clinical Trials Report Shows Notable Shift from Amyloid Approach

Parks Associates: 22% of US consumers Used a Self-Diagnosis App in Past 12 Months

NIH Awards Grant to Enable Biosciences to Develop Improved Lyme Disease Test

Released: 07/11/19

Unusual Eating Behaviors May Be a New Diagnostic Indicator for Autism

Atypical eating behaviors may be a sign a child should be screened for autism, according to a new study from Penn State College of Medicine.

Research by Susan Mayes, professor of psychiatry, found that atypical eating behaviors were present in 70 percent of children with autism, which is 15 times more common than in neurotypical children. 

Atypical eating behaviors may include severely limited food preferences, hypersensitivity to food textures or temperatures, and pocketing food without swallowing.

According to Mayes, these behaviors are present in many one-year-olds with autism and could signal to doctors and parents that a child may have autism.

“If a primary care provider hears about these behaviors from parents, they should consider referring the child for an autism screening.”

Mayes stated that the earlier autism is diagnosed, the sooner the child can begin treatment with a behavior analyst. Previous studies have shown applied behavior analysis to be most effective if implemented during the preschool years. Behavior analysts use a number of interventions, including rewards, to make positive changes in the children’s behavior and teach a range of needed skills.

Keith Williams, director of the Feeding Program at Penn State Children's Hospital, uses this therapy to help a variety of individuals with unusual eating behaviors. He said that identifying and correcting these behaviors can help ensure children are eating a proper diet.

“I once treated a child who ate nothing but bacon and drank only iced tea,” Williams said. “Unusual diets like these don’t sustain children.”

Williams also noted that there is a distinct difference between worrisome eating behaviors and the typical picky eating habits of young children. He explained that most children without special needs will slowly add foods to their diets during the course of development, but children with autism spectrum disorders, without intervention, will often remain selective eaters.

“We see children who continue to eat baby food or who won’t try different textures,” Williams said. “We even see children who fail to transition from bottle feeding.”

Mayes said that many children with autism eat a narrow diet consisting primarily of grain products, like pasta and bread, and chicken nuggets. She said that because children with autism have sensory hypersensitivities and dislike change, they may not want to try new foods and will be sensitive to certain textures. They often eat only foods of a particular brand, color or shape.

The research also showed that most children with autism who had atypical eating behaviors had two or more types – almost a quarter had three or more. Yet, none of the children with other developmental disorders who did not have autism had three or more. According to Williams, this is a common, clinical phenomenon – and it has prompted him and his colleagues to recommend some children for further evaluation.

“When we evaluate young children with multiple eating problems, we start to wonder if these children might also have the diagnosis of autism,” Williams said. “In many cases, they eventually do receive this diagnosis.”

The researchers evaluated the eating behaviors described in parent interviews of more than 2000 children from two studies. They investigated the difference in the frequency of unusual eating behaviors between typical children and those with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other disorders.

Williams says the study data show that atypical eating behaviors may help diagnostically distinguish autism from other disorders. Even though children from both groups have unusual eating habits, they are seven times more common in autism than in other disorders according to the study data.

“This study provided further evidence that these unusual feeding behaviors are the rule and not the exception for children with autism,” Williams said.

Hana Zickgraf, University of Chicago, also contributed to this research.

The authors received no funding to conduct this study and declare no conflict of interest.

About Penn State College of Medicine
Located on the campus of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa., Penn State College of Medicine boasts a portfolio of more than $90 million in funded research. Projects range from development of artificial organs and advanced diagnostics to groundbreaking cancer treatments and understanding the fundamental causes of disease. Enrolling its first students in 1967, the College of Medicine has more than 1,700 students and trainees in medicine, nursing, other health professions and biomedical research in both Hershey and State College, Pa.

Released: 07/11/19

Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation Clinical Trials Report Shows Notable Shift from Amyloid Approach

The Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) released a new clinical trial analysis report that shows researchers are now developing drugs for various targets associated with aging biology – moving beyond traditional amyloid and tau approaches.

There are 102 potential treatments for Alzheimer's disease in clinical development with the majority (74%) focused on novel targets beyond amyloid and tau, according to the report. More than half (63%) of these potential treatments are in phase 2, when a drug is further evaluated for safety and tested for efficacy for the first time. The ADDF has supported nearly 20% of these clinical-stage drugs.

As the field shifts toward these new approaches, many of the new treatments being investigated are focused on targets associated with aging biology. This clinical trial report reinforces findings of a recent review published in Neurology®, which underscores a scientific strategy based on the biology of aging as an effective approach to prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease.

"Given that aging is the leading risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, the ADDF has long focused its attention to better understand why the aging brain is vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease," said Howard Fillit, M.D., Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer of the ADDF. "We are supporting a diverse pipeline of drugs aimed at neuroinflammation, vascular problems, synapse loss, and metabolic and mitochondrial dysfunction, among other aging malfunctions."

Dr. Fillit noted biomarkers (measurements of biological processes) are critical to advancing clinical research as the field develops more non-amyloid and non-tau drugs. "More affordable and accessible biomarkers, such as a blood test, eye scan, or digital tool, will help to ensure that drugs are hitting their intended targets and being tested in patients most likely to respond to the drug," he explained.

Last year, the ADDF created the Diagnostics Accelerator, a $50 million research initiative with funding from leading philanthropists including Leonard Lauder, Bill Gates, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, among others, to fast track the development of biomarkers and diagnostic tools for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias and help to advance the development of more targeted treatments.

"Alzheimer's is a complicated disease that can be caused by many factors," added Dr. Fillit. "Like other diseases of aging including cancer, diabetes and heart disease, it is likely a combination of drugs addressing multiple target pathways will be needed to effectively treat Alzheimer's. Combination therapy through precision medicine is ultimately the goal."

The ADDF's survey of the clinical trial landscape of Alzheimer's drugs is based on the federal website ClinicalTrials.Gov. The findings focus on drugs that are disease-modifying to slow, stop, or possibly reverse the disease once cognitive symptoms are present, as well as drugs that treat behavioral symptoms, such as agitation, and drugs that can prevent cognitive decline in at-risk people before a diagnosis.

Alzheimer's disease affects nearly six million people in the United States and about 50 million globally. With a growing aging population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects the burden of Alzheimer's disease will nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060. New, effective treatments could delay the onset of Alzheimer's by five years reducing the number of people with the disease and cost to society by about 40% respectively by 2050.

About the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation
Founded in 1998 by Leonard A. and Ronald S. Lauder, the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation is dedicated to rapidly accelerating the discovery of drugs to prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer's disease. The ADDF is the only public charity solely focused on funding the development of drugs for Alzheimer's, employing a venture philanthropy model to support research in academia and the biotech industry. Through the generosity of its donors, the ADDF has awarded over $115 million to fund more than 590 Alzheimer's drug discovery programs and clinical trials in 18 countries. To learn more, please visit:

SOURCE Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation

Released: 07/11/19

Parks Associates: 22% of US consumers Used a Self-Diagnosis App in Past 12 Months

New research from Parks Associates reveals 15% of US broadband households have used a telecare service in the past 12 months. Also, 22% of US broadband households have used a self-diagnosis app, such as iTriage, WebMD, Symptomate, and Ada, in the past 12 months. The research firm will host the sixth annual Connected Health Summit: Independent Living and Wellness on August 27-29 at the Pendry San Diego in San Diego, California, to examine the business and service opportunities emerging through the rising consumerism in the US healthcare market.

"The home has become a focal point for consumer health and wellness," said Dina Abdelrazik, Senior Analyst, Parks Associates. "Parks Associates research shows consumers using more health-based IoT solutions and smart home products with health-related use cases. We are excited to hear about the business strategies emerging from these new technologies."

Connected Health Summit will feature the session "Investing in the Future of Connected Health," Thursday, August 29 at 3:00 p.m., where investment veterans and corporate insiders will share their perspectives on the current climate for connected health investments. Speakers for the session:

  • Edmond Banayan, Chairman, Los Angeles Venture Association (LAVA) Healthcare
  • John Gardner, Venture Partner, NGP Capital
  • Alyssa Jaffee, VP, 7wire Ventures
  • Thomas Kluz, Head, Global Healthcare Investing, Qualcomm Ventures
  • Cyril Philip, Principal, Providence Ventures

"We are betting that now is the right time for future leaders of healthcare to empower a more engaged and informed consumer," said Alyssa Jaffee, VP, 7wire Ventures. "As whole populations become more connected and more knowledgeable about their personal health, they will look for frictionless experiences, which in turn will lead to a stronger, more resilient healthcare system that achieves better outcomes at a lower cost."

Connected Health Summit will explore new strategies and innovations that will expand and improve independent living solutions for consumers and caregivers, including innovative monitoring and smart home solutions, and examine consumer adoption and usage of connected health technologies and key adjacencies between smart home, healthcare, and independent living ecosystems.

Additional research from Parks Associates:

  • 80% of consumers report a desire for help with at least one health need, with weight loss and improving sleep quality as the top two needs.
  • 40% of consumers in broadband households own at least one connected health or wellness device.
  • 1 in 4 respondents with a chronic condition feel on-demand remote consultations would help them better manage their conditions.

Connected Health Summit provides industry players with in-depth analysis on the growth of the connected health device and solutions markets, with insights and implications for consumers, health providers, and payors. The event is focused on the emerging opportunities—and specifically on new consumer engagement strategies—for multiple industries.

About Connected Health Summit
Parks Associates' sixth annual Connected Health Summit: Independent Living and Wellness is an executive conference focused on the impact of connected devices and IoT healthcare solutions on consumers at home.

Connected Health Summit provides insights on new business models, IoT technologies, consumer behaviors, and deployments relevant to consumer healthcare solutions. The conference addresses opportunities for new solutions, including smart home platforms, on-demand services, voice assistants, and wearables, to empower consumers, caregivers, and providers with new insight into patient health.

Released: 07/11/19

NIH Awards Grant to Enable Biosciences to Develop Improved Lyme Disease Test

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded a one-year Phase I Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant for $225,000 in funding to Enable Biosciences to develop an improved Lyme disease test.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 300,000 people will be infected with Lyme disease each year in the United States. The current test identifies only 40% of early-stage cases, leaving many patients untreated and vulnerable to severe damage to the joints, heart and brain. Enable Biosciences' Antibody Detection by Agglutination-PCR (ADAP) technology is up to 10,000 times more sensitive than comparable tests, permitting earlier and more accurate detection of Lyme disease. The test will also better distinguish between Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, such as tick-borne relapsing fever and babesiosis, that require different treatment regimens.

Columbia and Tulane universities are sub-awardees of the grant.

"We are thrilled to be working on this collaborative project with two highly-acclaimed researchers, professors Monica Embers, Ph.D., of Tulane University, and Brynn Levy, M.Sc. (Med)., Ph.D., of Columbia University," said Enable Biosciences CEO David Seftel, M.D., MBA. "We anticipate that Enable's tests will advance the treatment, clinical outcomes, and management of tick-borne diseases."

Dr. Embers is a world-leading expert on Lyme disease and is affiliated with the Tulane National Primate Research Center, one of the first centers to develop a primate model of Lyme disease. She also serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation. Dr. Levy is Professor of Pathology and Cell Biology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and Medical Director of Columbia's Clinical Cytogenetics Laboratory. He will contribute archived serum samples and oversee clinical validation for the project.

"We will automate this test in a Phase II project so that earlier and more accurate diagnosis will be widely available," said Enable Automation Lead Jesse Cortez, Ph.D.

About Enable Biosciences: Enable Biosciences is a South San Francisco-based diagnostics company commercializing licensed technology from UC Berkeley and Stanford University. For more about Enable, visit

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