Author: David Benson

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Study Finds Cervical Cancer Vaccine Costs for Developing Countries Overstated

November 17, 2016

In a study published online in Vaccine, researchers from Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Princeton University, Yale School of Medicine and the University of Victoria have concluded that the cost of manufacturing and supplying human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines to developing countries is much lower than companies currently charge. Using the best available evidence to support their findings, the study’s authors found that after the first set of vaccines are manufactured for affluent markets, the cost of producing more vaccines for developing countries should drop dramatically. Currently, two companies – Merck (Gardasil) and GlaxoSmithKline (Cervarix) – manufacture the vaccines which protect against HPV infection, the leading cause of cervical cancer, the second most common cancer among women worldwide.

“After manufacturing a first set of 15.4 million doses of Gardasil-4 to sell in affluent markets each year, the second set for developing countries costs between 48 and 59 cents a dose, a fraction of the Merck’s stated cost of $4.50 per dose,” said Donald Light, PhD, a professor of comparative health policy at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine and the study’s corresponding author. “The amount of Cervarix produced is much lower, so costs are higher, but if produced at the same volume as Gardasil, the cost per dose of Cervarix would be about the same.”

In their study, the researchers noted that approximately 85 percent of the more than 500,000 new cases of cervical cancer and more than 90 percent of the deaths caused by the disease each year occur in lower- and middle-income countries. Both Merck and GlaxoSmithKline currently rank high in the global Access to Medicines Index and provide discount and charitable programs that increase access to HPV vaccines for some countries. The researchers wrote, however, that setting lower vaccine prices, “…is an important moral commitment by the companies to reduce global health inequities by preventing cancer and deaths in lower income countries.”

Because the researchers lacked access to verifiable manufacturing information from the companies, their analysis relies on published and commercial literature for information about the manufacturing of vaccines and on interviews with experts in the field. In doing so, the study authors based their conclusions on an examination of the estimated annualized capital costs, vaccine yield, the quantities and costs of raw materials, the personnel needed to manufacture the vaccines, factory and administrative overhead and the cost of filling and packaging of vaccines.

The article has major implications for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, that negotiates lower prices for vaccines for the world’s poorest countries. The authors believe that Gavi should reevaluate the price of HPV vaccines in light of this article, as price reduction would “greatly increase Gavi’s capacity to vaccinate more children.”

The research was initiated and partly funded by Doctors Without Borders, with the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine making a substantial contribution. Staff from Doctors Without Borders commented on drafts of the final report, but did not participate in the study design or analysis.

  • Rowan alumni Jean and Ric Edelman commit $25 million for University’s Fossil Park

Rowan alumni Jean and Ric Edelman commit $25 million for University’s Fossil Park

Jean and Ric Edelman (right) celebrate their $25 million gift for the Edelman Fossil Park at Rowan University with (from left) Rowan President Ali Houshmand, Fossil Park Director Kenneth Lacovara, and Board of Trustees Chairman Linda Rohrer.

October 17, 2016

Making history doesn’t matter much to Jean and Ric Edelman.

Making an impact—a tangible, lasting impact—does.

To that end, the Edelmans today pledged $25 million to preserve and expand the Rowan University Fossil Park in Mantua Township, N.J.

Their gift—the second largest in University history and the largest ever given to Rowan by alumni—will help transform STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education through one-of-a-kind, hands-on discovery and world-class research at the Fossil Park.

The park will be named the Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park at Rowan University. Learn more about their gift here.

“We want our giving to have a measurable impact on people’s lives,” says Ric, a 1980 alumnus, who, with Jean, a 1981 alumna and University trustee, founded Edelman Financial Services in 1987. The company is one of the largest independent financial planning and investment management firms in the nation.

“It wasn’t our goal to donate $25 million to the University. Instead, our goal was to determine how much money it would take to create a world-class museum and learning experience at the Fossil Park, and that’s the amount it will take,” continues Ric, who has been ranked the No. 1 Independent Financial Adviser in the nation three times by Barron’s. He’s also a #1 New York Times bestselling author, and in August, Forbes ranked him among the Top 10 Wealth Advisers in America.

“We want the Fossil Park to be a world-class destination for families on the same scale as the Smithsonian, Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Franklin Institute.”

Ambitious plans for the Fossil Park include a state-of-the-art museum and visitor center, a fossil preparation lab that will reveal how scientists study fossils, a nature trail, a paleontology-themed playground, social spaces to accommodate special events and—most importantly—the opportunity for students and families to participate in paleontological digs at the site, helping scientists discover fossils from the dinosaur age.

Purchased by Rowan in January for $1.95 million, the 65-acre tract contains thousands of 65-million-year-old fossils from the Cretaceous Period—the heyday of the dinosaurs. Located behind a suburban shopping center, the former ancient sea floor was mined for nearly a century for its greensand (or marl) by the Inversand Company, which sold the sediment as an organic fertilizer and water treatment product. Since the 1920s, researchers have excavated fossils there as Inversand continued its work.

Last year, company officials announced they would end operations at the quarry within the year. Recognizing the value of the land as both a home to “citizen science” and as a world-class research site, Rowan purchased the tract, located just four miles from its Main Campus in Glassboro.

The Edelmans’ gift will help Rowan create a vibrant Fossil Park and educational opportunities of international caliber, says Rowan President Ali A. Houshmand.

“The Edelmans’ passion for sharing discovery and science will transform and expand Rowan’s capacity to educate for generations to come,” says Houshmand.

“Their vision and generosity will make it possible for tens of thousands of students, families and researchers to explore a range of hands-on sciences at a globally significant site—paleontology, of course, but also geology, biology, environmental science, and more. Visitors will be able to dig up the past and learn about the future of our world through many disciplines. The Edelman Fossil Park will be an international science center and a premier destination for our region.”

Researching the Cretaceous Period

Led by world-renowned paleontologist Dr. Kenneth Lacovara, park director and founding dean of Rowan’s School of Earth & Environment, researchers at the Fossil Park are working millimeter by millimeter to carefully examine the fossils, sediments and geochemistry of the site to gain a clearer picture of the period when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. They’re investigating the idea that the fossils—sea turtles, sharks, boney fish, crocodiles, mosasaurs and dinosaurs, among them—represent a mass die-off of the animals that once lived there.

Lacovara’s team is trying to determine if the six-inch bone bed from the end of the Cretaceous Period is related to the mass extinction that wiped out the 165-million-year reign of the dinosaurs.

The Fossil Park also is the site of wildly popular “community dig days” during which children and families can search for the fossils of ancient sea creatures with their own hands, alongside researchers. Since 2012, nearly 15,000 visitors—some traveling from as far away as Michigan, Georgia, California and England—have connected with the Earth’s deep past by digging for fossils. Two thousand spots for the fifth annual Community Dig Day on Sept. 10 were filled up in 23 minutes when registration opened online.

Alumni support

The Edelmans are two dedicated alumni who generously share their time and talents with the institution, Houshmand notes. Their $25 million gift is the third largest to a public college or university in the state. Gifts to Rowan occupy three of the five top spots on that list and include the landmark $100 million gift from Henry and Betty Rowan in 1992, the Edelmans’ gift, and $15 million from the Henry M. Rowan Family Foundation in 2014.

“A $25 million gift is special no matter how you look at it, but it is especially meaningful when individuals give so generously to their alma mater,” Houshmand says. “This gift speaks to the Edelmans’ experiences as students here, the impact that our faculty and staff had on them then and today, and the trust that they have in us to be good stewards of their investment.

“We could not feel more honored, and we promise to make them even more proud of their alma mater.”

For the Edelmans, the Fossil Park is a prudent investment, Ric says.

“We’re particularly excited about the vision, commitment, enthusiasm, and hard work” that have helped build the institution, he notes. “Rowan is entirely deserving of our financial support. We hope other alumni will demonstrate their support as well.”

‘We’re fulfilling a dream of his—and a dream of ours’

For years, the Edelmans have earmarked science and science education as key areas of their philanthropy.

In 2002, they gave $1 million to establish the Edelman Fund in support of Rowan’s planetarium, which bears their name. In 2006, they established a program that allows elementary schools to bring students to the facility—free of charge—to experience astronomy programs that enhance their classroom work. To date, nearly 60,000 individuals have attended shows at the Edelman Planetarium—the largest in South Jersey. Annually, more than 6,000 K-12 students learn about the solar system, space and beyond at Rowan’s facility.

In 2010, the couple donated more than $240,000 to fund the instrumentation for a full-dome digital projection system at the planetarium to ensure that the facility remains a leader in astronomy education.

Maintaining—and expanding—the public’s opportunity to experience the thrill of scientific discovery through Dig Days is crucial to the Fossil Park’s future, the Edelmans agree.

“The Fossil Park has the ability to provide access to science for children of all ages. There’s nothing better than hands-on science,” says Jean. “We want people to make the Fossil Park, the planetarium and the University a destination.”

“The Fossil Park is bringing families together. To provide those opportunities is absolutely priceless,” she adds. Jean rejoined Rowan’s Board of Trustees in 2014 after serving from 2008-’12.

When Lacovara gave a presentation on the park before the trustees, board members immediately saw purchasing the site as a wise investment, she notes. Their gift builds on that, she adds.

“Ken gave a wonderful presentation. Everybody loved the idea,” says Jean, noting that Lacovara is also a 1984 Rowan alumnus. “We’re fulfilling a dream of his—and a dream of ours. We’re excited to be a part of it.”

The Edelmans’ support for the Fossil Park is monumental scientifically and educationally, says Lacovara.

“We believe the site, scientifically, to be of global significance. The generous gift from the Edelmans will allow us to pursue this scientific story using the best techniques and in the most complete way,” says Lacovara, who applies the latest technologies to study fossils, including 3D laser scanning, CT scanning, 3D printing, robotics and techniques from medical modeling and molecular biology.

Lacovara is known internationally for his discovery of the massive plant-eating dinosaur Dreadnoughtus schrani. Found in Patagonia, Dreadnoughtus is the best example found of any of the largest creatures ever to walk the planet and is the most complete skeleton of its type unearthed.

Bringing science to the citizenry is a key component of the park’s mission and something the Edelmans embrace, adds Lacovara.

“We believe hands-on experiential education is one of the most powerful ways to change people’s lives,” he says. “The Edelmans want to help people learn and explore, and to help people improve their lives by providing pathways to success. Their vision is our vision. Their heart is in this.”

A commitment to Rowan

In addition to their philanthropic gifts to Rowan, the Edelmans have been active University supporters, giving of their time and expertise.

In 1994, they each received the Rowan Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, which honors graduates who have brought credit to the institution through personal and professional accomplishments and humanitarianism.

Ric, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Communications, was the keynote speaker at the University’s 1999 Commencement ceremony, where he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree. In 2007, he was inducted into the Rowan University Public Relations Student Society of America Hall of Fame. He serves as a member of the advisory board for the College of Communication & Creative Arts. He is the first to be named Distinguished Lecturer for the University.

Jean, who earned her bachelor’s degree in Consumer Economics and Marketing, with a minor in Nutrition, holds the distinction of being the first female president of the University’s Student Government Association. She also was named Distinguished Senior, the University’s highest student honor. Currently chair of the academic affairs/student affairs committee on the University’s Board of Trustees, she was the speaker for the 2013 Graduate School Commencement.

Rowan’s growth has been extraordinary, she says.

“When we were students, Glassboro State College was a sleepy little college. It’s quite remarkable how far we’ve come,” she notes.

About the Edelmans

Passionate about empowering others through education, the Edelmans have dedicated themselves to transforming lives through personal finance education. That was their plan when, in 1987, they set out to create a different type of financial services firm with the founding of Edelman Financial Services.

The firm provides financial planning and investment management services to more than 30,000 individuals and families and manages $16 billion in assets, with 170 planners in 42 offices coast-to-coast. The firm also provides 401(k) plans and institutional investment management for businesses. To date, the firm has won more than 100 financial, business, community and philanthropic awards, including several “best places to work” awards.

Ric hosts radio and television shows that air weekly nationwide. He was named one of the “10 most influential figures” in the investment advisory field by RIABiz.com, a highly regarded industry website.

Author of eight books, Ric in July re-released Rescue Your Money (Simon & Schuster), which tells readers how to invest in today’s tumultuous times. His books have collectively sold more than one million copies and have been translated into several languages.

One of the most successful women in the Washington, D.C. business community, Jean speaks on intrapersonal growth and development. Her book, The Other Side of Money, is a compilation of the many columns she’s written over the past decade. The book shares her insights to help readers see themselves and the world around them in a positive, loving way.

The Edelmans support a variety of charitable activities, including the Edelman Nursing Career Development Center at Inova Health System Foundation, Boys and Girls Clubs, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Northern Virginia Riding Services, and many others.

 

 

  • Pfizer acquires gene therapy firm Bamboo Therapeutics, a Rowan portfolio company, for $150 million

Pfizer acquires gene therapy firm Bamboo Therapeutics, a Rowan portfolio company, for $150 million

September 13, 2016

Children born with Canavan disease – a fatal childhood neurological condition that usually causes death by age 10 – may one day lead a longer and healthier life thanks to Dr. Paola Leone, of the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine.

Internationally, she is recognized as a pioneer of gene therapy directed to the central nervous system.

At RowanSOM, where she is a professor and director of the Cell and Gene Therapy Center in the Department of Cell Biology, she is known as a tireless researcher committed to discovering treatments for conditions such as Canavan disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury.

A first

Most notably, she and her team have administered to the brain, for the first time, a genetically modified virus that expressed the healthy gene that is otherwise mutated in Canavan disease, a process that may change – and save – lives.

That has an even greater chance than ever now that Pfizer Inc., the New York City-headquartered corporation that is one of the world’s premier biopharmaceutical companies, is part of the picture and one day may produce therapeutics based on her work.

Commercialization

In July 2015, Rowan University entered into an asset transfer agreement with Bamboo Therapeutics, Inc. to commercialize a novel gene therapy developed by Leone and her team in the Cell and Gene Therapy Center in Stratford, New Jersey, for the treatment of Canavan disease, one of the most common and complex degenerative cerebral diseases in infants.

Bamboo Therapeutics, a clinical-stage company based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, that develops gene therapies for serious neurological genetic diseases, acquired the exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize Rowan University’s proposed treatment for Canavan disease.

The Cell and Gene Therapy Center was the first to demonstrate the long-term safety and benefit of a virus-based gene therapy in a clinical setting, and the study represented the first gene therapy study for a clinical neurological application ever approved by the National Institutes of Health as an Investigational New Drug application.

Acquired by Pfizer

Recently, Pfizer acquired Bamboo Therapeutics for $150 million and potential milestone payments in a deal to expand the drug giant’s presence in the experimental field.

According to Pfizer, it “will take over the company’s treatments in development, which haven’t yet been tested in people, as well as Bamboo’s manufacturing facility.”

The corporation noted, “Gene therapy – a growing and experimental technology (whose) backers hope can be effective after only one treatment – treats diseases caused by a genetic mutation by giving the patient a working copy of a missing or dysfunctional gene. No gene therapy drugs have been approved in the U.S., though many are being tested.”

“Validation of potential”

“The acquisition of Bamboo Therapeutics by Pfizer is a validation of the potential of gene therapy to provide viable therapeutic strategies for currently intractable diseases. The contribution of the Cell and Gene Therapy Center at RowanSOM to this partnership is the result of many years of research effort, institutional commitment and patient advocacy for this therapeutic platform,” Leone said. “It is especially pleasing to see recognition of the value of translational research for Canavan disease in contributing to the bigger picture so tirelessly and passionately promoted by affected patients and their families during the last 20 years.”

Bamboo will be eligible for additional payments of as much as $495 million if the company’s therapies clear various testing and regulatory benchmarks, Pfizer noted.

First sale of equity

Leone’s intellectual property was one of seven licenses Pfizer acquired; the others are owned by the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Rowan, UNC, and the University of Pennsylvania are widely recognized university leaders in gene therapy. This is the first time Rowan has sold equity in a firm.

“We were able to strategically identify a company that was favorably positioned for this kind of acquisition eventually by a large pharmaceutical company,” said Mina Zion, director of Technology Commercialization at Rowan. “We cannot imagine a better commercialization path than for our technology to pass through the hands of Pfizer.”

Rowan is sharing in the commercialization income and also received funding to promote research discovery and development focusing on treatments for neurodegenerative diseases. The University also will receive royalties on the sale of treatments that arise from the work done by Leone, who earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Padua in Italy.

Major step for Rowan

“This is the first intellectual property by a Rowan University faculty member to be commercialized by a major pharmaceutical company,” said Dr. Shreekanth Mandayam, vice president for Research.

Dr. Ali Houshmand, Rowan’s president, said, “This is a major step for Rowan University as we continue to grow our research and innovation initiatives. Most importantly, Dr. Leone’s work and affiliation with Bamboo – and Pfizer’s recent purchase – have the potential to make a huge medical impact that’s going to change people’s lives.”

  • Rowan Engineering CREATEs solutions to roadway problems

Rowan Engineering CREATEs solutions to roadway problems

September 19, 2016

Its parts move no more than 2.5 miles per hour, but the equipment housed in a hangar just off Rt. 322 and 55 in Mantua Township may be the link to transportation innovation for the Garden State and the nation.

The equipment is a 50-ton Heavy Vehicle Simulator (HVS), and its home is the brand-new Center for Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Engineering systems (CREATEs) at the South Jersey Technology Park at Rowan University.

 

About 200 people attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening for CREATEs on Sept. 14.

$5 million in funding

The State of New Jersey, the U.S. Department of Defense/Army Corps of Engineers and the New Jersey Department of Transportation helped fund CREATEs with $5 million, investing in a facility where researchers will be able to mimic a decade’s worth of wear and tear on roadways and landing strips in less than a year.

Rowan is the only college or university in the Northeast to house an HVS, and that means teams of students and faculty will partner with and conduct research for state entities and manufacturers to improve roadways, reduce environmental impacts and more. In sections that can be dedicated to specific organizations, those researchers will be able to assess the status of existing structures and evaluate the potential of new materials and how they will hold up to cars, trucks and airplanes.

Unique engineering program

“Having the Heavy Vehicle Simulator here makes our Civil & Environmental Engineering program unique in the nation,” said Dr. Anthony Lowman, dean of the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering, under whose auspices CREATEs falls. Lowman said that Rowan Engineering teams will work in a “research-intensive atmosphere (that) innovates and pushes the cutting edge of our field.”

Rep. Donald Norcross cited the initiative with a Congressional proclamation presented at the opening.

Government, business partners

The CREATEs team already is partnering with the Army Corps of Engineers; New Jersey Department of Transportation; Earle Asphalt Co., Wall Township, New Jersey; and American Asphalt Company, Inc., Mt. Ephraim, New Jersey.

Those partnerships provide Rowan students with the hands-on experience critical to their learning experience and future careers. They also provide government offices and businesses with extensive research and development support, noted Rowan’s president, Dr. Ali Houshmand.

Houshmand said the work at CREATEs speaks to the University’s commitment to conduct studies that make a difference.  “Our research is practical, real-world research,” he said.

Among the elite

David Lambert, assistant commissioner of Capital Program Management, New Jersey Department of Transportation, a civil engineer himself, said, “It’s imperative we extend the useful life of roadway pavements. This is precisely the 21st century technology we need. Rowan stands ready to join the ranks of the elite transportation research institutions in America.”

CREATEs got its start with a conversation two years ago between Dr. Yusuf Mehta, a professor of civil and environmental engineering who heads the new facility, and Jared Oren, chief of the Engineering Resources Branch of the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center for the Army Corps of Engineers. Oren said that the work his team conducts in New Hampshire will intersect with the work done in Gloucester County. The potential to solve transportation problems for both the U.S. Department of Defense and state Departments of Transportation, including New Jersey’s, he said, is huge. “Our teams together are more than the sum of their parts,” he noted.

Tests that make a difference

CREATEs — a 50-foot by 90-foot structure that, in addition to the HVS, includes offices and space to run tests as well as an outdoor testing environment that can be designated for specific types of materials and clients — will employ up to 10 personnel in the first two years. Those professionals will be able to test asphalt, concrete, other design or construction materials, soils and more in climate-controlled environments. The maximum 2.5 mph electric-powered wheel that is part of the HVS duplicates the effect of traffic, enabling researchers to evaluate such topics as soil failure, moisture impact and road structures and for clients to ensure quality and save money.

The HVS, Mehta said, is the only way to realistically capture the impact of traffic. “This capability is so critical because laboratory studies, though essential, can only go so far.  The ability to assess performance of highway materials under realistic construction and traffic conditions is invaluable for a broad range of agencies, partners and researchers.”

For more information about CREATEs, contact Dr. Yusuf Mehta at 856-256-5327 or go to rowan.edu/creates.)

Geologist to discuss involvement in NASA mission at Edelman Planetarium

September 23, 2016

Rowan University geologist Harold C. Connolly, Jr. will discuss his work as the Mission Sample Scientist on NASA’s first mission to collect an asteroid sample and return it to Earth during a talk at the Edelman Planetarium at Rowan University on Wednesday, Oct. 5.

Connolly’s talk, which is free and open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. in the planetarium, located in Science Hall on the Glassboro campus.

As the mission sample scientist for OSIRIS-REx, Connolly will oversee research on the sample material collected during the mission. The founding chair of Rowan’s new Department of Geology in the School of Earth & Environment, Connolly will lead the team that examines up to 4.4 pounds of sample material from the asteroid, known as Bennu, to help scientists gain a better understanding about the early Solar System and the origins of life and the Earth’s oceans.

The $1 billion OSIRIS-REx mission, which launched on Sept. 8, will return the asteroid sample to Earth in 2023. During his talk, Connolly will give an update on the progress of the history-making mission and discuss his role in it.

For information, contact Amy Barraclough, director of the Edelman Planetarium, barraclough@rowan.edu or 856-256-4389. Visit the event’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/208054452944448/.