Dispatches from the Front

Biological research today is a vast enterprise, with thousands of laboratories working to answer fundamental but sometimes obscure questions about living systems.   My stories are field notes from this mostly unremarked-on world, jottings that seek to shed a bit of light on some remarkable advances in our understanding of nature and in our efforts to treat human disease.  I focus on cell biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, human genetics, physiology and pharmacology, using the tools of journalism—mainly informed  interviews with the scientists themselves–to make sense of the crucial questions that motivate today’s research.

My story on liquid-liquid phase separation, a 2018 Science magazine “Breakthrough of the Year” runner up, appears in the magazine’s December 21 special issue .

In June 2017, the FDA approved the first “tumor agnostic” cancer drug. I was first to report on this advance, a 2017 Science magazine breakthrough of the year runner-up.  (See link at upper right for my Nature Biotechnology story.)

Pharma and biotech are now targeting an obscure protein modification to treat rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other autoimmune diseases.  (See link at upper right.)

In the latest incarnation of cancer immunotherapy, companies seek to activate natural killer (NK) cells against tumors. Doing this (counterintuitively) appears safe, but will it be effective?  (Click on link at upper right.)

My story in Science magazine summarizes recent cell biology research into intriguing protein droplets that help organize cells but also may seed brain disease.  (Click on link at upper right.)

A drug that removes copper from the body appears to prevent the recurrence of metastatic breast cancer. You can read how progress has been blocked for reasons unrelated to the science. (Click link at upper right.)

There is recent progress in the unceasing battle against antibiotic resistance, as novel inhibitors of bacterial beta-lactamase enzymes are entering clinical practice.  See my Nature Reviews Drug Discovery story.

My feature story on antigen-specific immune tolerance, a targeted way to treat autoimmune disease, appeared in the March 27, 2014 issue of the journal Nature.