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.

PROTACs are small molecule drugs that harness the cell’s disposal system to degrade disease-causing proteins. The field is exploding, but it faces a number of hurdles, as I write in Nature Biotechnology.

The field of epitranscriptomics, or RNA epigenetics, is taking off, offering new insights into cancer, memory, aging and virtually every aspect of biology. You can read my report in the July 5, 2019 issue of Science.

NASH has replaced hepatitis C as the most important nonalcoholic liver disease. Read how researchers and companies are responding. (Click on link at upper right).

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.)

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.