A gene found only in humans and active in the cerebral cortex can enlarge the ferret brain

The human brain owes its characteristic wrinkled appearance to its outer layer, the cerebral cortex. During human evolution, the neocortex, the evolutionarily youngest part of the cerebral cortex, expanded dramatically and had to fold into wrinkles to fit inside the restricted space of the skull. The human neocortex supports advanced cognitive skills such as reasoning and language. But how did the human neocortex become so big? The answer may lie in genes that are unique to humans, such as ARHGAP11B.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden found that this human-specific gene, when introduced into the developing brain of ferrets, can cause an enlargement of their neocortex. ARHGAP11B causes neural progenitor cells, which are cells that produce neurons, to make more of themselves for a longer period of time. The result is an expanded neocortex. The human neocortex is roughly three times bigger than that of our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, and is the seat of many of the higher cognitive functions that are unique to humans, such as our speech or the ability to learn. A key question for scientists is how in human evolution the neocortex became so big.

Spotlight

Spotlight

Related News

Medical

Vernal Biosciences Announces Strategic Leadership Appointments to Drive Growth in mRNA and LNP Formulation

Vernal Biosciences | January 03, 2024

<p> Vernal Biosciences, a leading manufacturing and services company specializing in mRNA and lipid nanoparticle (LNP) formulation, proudly announces the additions of Sven Lee, Chief Commercial Officer, and Richard P. Hamel, Chief Financial Officer to its leadership team. Both distinguished leaders will strengthen Vernal&rsquo;s position as a premier mRNA and LNP Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO) while using their deep experience to deliver Vernal&rsquo;s integrated mRNA manufacturing solutions to a growing marketplace.</p> <p> Chief Commercial Officer - Sven Lee</p> <p> Sven will lead the Commercial team, including business development, marketing, technical sales, and alliance management. His team will help customers define their manufacturing needs and provide creative solutions that leverage Vernal&rsquo;s innovative technologies and manufacturing operations. Sven has a 30-year track record achieving remarkable business growth across the biotech and pharma sectors. Prior to joining Vernal, Sven was a Board Member and the Chief Commercial Officer at BioCina, an Australian based CDMO. Prior to BioCina, Sven spent six years as the Chief Business Officer of Abzena, a fully integrated, global biologics and bioconjugate CDMO. Sven has also held prominent roles in sales, marketing, and strategic planning at other CDMOs and life sciences companies including Global VP of Business Development at Catalent Biologics, Sr. Director of Global Business Development &amp; Sales at TerumoBCT, Crucell (now Janssen), and Biogen.</p> <p> As Chief Commercial Officer, Lee says, &ldquo;I am thrilled to be a part of a dynamic team specializing in high purity mRNA and LNP solutions for client partners in the rapidly advancing field of biotechnology of vaccines and therapeutic development for clinical trials and commercial use.&rdquo;</p> <p> Chief Financial Officer &ndash; Richard P. Hamel</p> <p> Richard will be responsible for Vernal&rsquo;s finance strategy and will lead the finance organization, including planning, treasury, tax and reporting, Richard is an accomplished financial executive with over 25 years of experience managing finance teams, improving business performance, and developing systems, processes, and procedures to streamline operations for high growth life science companies. Most recently, Richard was CFO at ReciBioPharm where he played a key role in integrating and managing several business units within ReciBioPharm. Prior to joining ReciBioPharm, he was CFO at United BioSource in Blue Bell, PA helping carve out the business from Express Scripts and building a stand-alone finance organization. Prior to joining United BioSource, Richard spent over seven years at inVentiv Health/Syneos in various financial roles of increasing responsibility including finance, shared services and treasury. Earlier in his career, Richard held a range of finance positions at ThermoFisher, AB Volvo, Kodak, Diageo and EY.</p> <p> As CFO, Richard will support Vernal Biosciences in achieving its ambitious goals and driving long-term success. &ldquo;I am excited to join the Vernal team and apply my experience to further bolster the company&rsquo;s already strong mRNA and LNP portfolio and further expand its unique capabilities,&rdquo; said Hamel.</p> <p> CEO and Founder of Vernal Biosciences, Christian Cobaugh says, &ldquo;On behalf of all Vernal employees and our investors, I am excited to welcome Sven and Rich to Vernal&rsquo;s talented leadership team. Their collective experience and success that they bring to Vernal and our clients complements our expansion, including the recent addition of our GMP facilities and operations. Sven has spent most of his career helping customers find creative solutions in clinical manufacturing and Rich has successfully built and integrated several businesses in the life sciences sector, from early stage to global scale. Their additions to our team will help Vernal democratize access to high purity mRNA and LNPs for all stages of research and development.&rdquo;</p> <p> <strong>About Vernal Biosciences</strong></p> <p> Vernal Biosciences is a leading CDMO specializing in mRNA and LNP manufacturing. Vernal provides comprehensive high purity platform manufacturing solutions for mRNA-based medicines and vaccines, from research to clinical development. Our dedicated team of experts, our platform solutions, and GMP facility show our commitment to our partners, enabling them to focus on accelerating their programs to clinical development to improve patient lives.</p>

Read More

Medical

Capricor Therapeutics Announces Collaboration with the National Institutes of Health for Clinical Trial of Novel Exosome-Based Multivalent Vaccine

Capricor Therapeutics | January 24, 2024

Capricor Therapeutics a biotechnology company developing transformative cell and exosome-based therapeutics for the treatment and prevention of rare diseases, today announced that Capricor’s proprietary StealthX™ exosome-based multivalent vaccine (StealthX™ vaccine) for the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 has been selected to be part of Project NextGen, an initiative by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to advance a pipeline of new, innovative vaccines providing broader and more durable protection for COVID-19. As part of Project NextGen, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, will conduct a Phase 1 clinical study with Capricor’s StealthX™ vaccine, subject to regulatory approval. NIAID's Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (DMID) would oversee the study. “We are extremely pleased with the external support from the NIH, which highlights the clinical potential of our StealthX™ exosome platform technology and provides non-dilutive support for the advancement of our vaccine candidate,” said Linda Marbán, Ph.D., Capricor’s chief executive officer. “Our proprietary vaccine is multivalent, delivering both the highly mutagenic S protein (Spike) and the more stable N protein (Nucleocapsid) which potentially may offer broader and longer lasting immunity against SARS-CoV-2. We view the NIH SARS-CoV-2 project as the first clinical step towards development of a next generation vaccine platform that may be extended to other infectious diseases. Our platform is designed to combine the speed of response of an mRNA vaccine with the potential efficacy of a protein vaccine. Further, our StealthX™ vaccine is free of both adjuvant and lipid nanoparticles and in preclinical studies has generated a strong immune response at low doses. We believe our StealthX™ vaccine may offer a clinically meaningful alternative for highly mutating or novel infectious agents.” Dr. Marbán continued, “This is the opportunity we have been waiting for as it allows the exosome technology to be brought into the clinic as we continue to focus our resources on CAP-1002 for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Beyond SARS-CoV-2, we look forward to exploring the potential therapeutic utility of this platform, and more broadly, expanding our pipeline into therapeutics and future partnership opportunities.” About Capricor’s StealthX™ Vaccine The StealthX™ vaccine is a proprietary vaccine developed internally by Capricor utilizing exosomes that were engineered to express either spike or nucleocapsid proteins on the surface. Preclinical results from murine and rabbit models published in Microbiology Spectrum, showed the StealthX™ vaccine, resulted in robust antibody production, potent neutralizing antibodies, a strong T-cell response and a favorable safety profile. These effects were obtained with administration of only nanogram amounts of protein and without adjuvant or synthetic lipid nanoparticles (LNPs). Exosomes offer a new antigen delivery system that potentially could be utilized to rapidly generate multivalent protein-based vaccines. Exosomes, first identified as extracellular vesicles, are small vesicles enriched in specific subsets of proteins, RNAs and lipids and responsible for cell-to-cell communication. About Capricor Therapeutics Capricor Therapeutics, Inc. is a biotechnology company focused on the development of transformative cell and exosome-based therapeutics for the treatment and prevention of rare diseases. Capricor’s lead candidate, CAP-1002, is an allogeneic cardiac-derived cell therapy currently in Phase 3 clinical development for treating Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Further, Capricor has entered into a partnership for the exclusive commercialization and distribution of CAP-1002 for DMD in the United States and Japan with Nippon Shinyaku Co., Ltd. (U.S. subsidiary: NS Pharma, Inc.), subject to regulatory approval. Capricor is also developing its exosome technology as a potential next-generation therapeutic platform. Our proprietary StealthX™ exosome platform has potential for a broad range of new therapeutic applications in the field of vaccinology as well as targeted oligonucleotide, protein and small molecule therapeutics to treat or prevent a variety of diseases.

Read More

Industrial Impact

Nimbus Therapeutics Announces Expansion of Its Immunology Drug Discovery Pipeline

Nimbus Therapeutics | January 08, 2024

Nimbus Therapeutics, LLC a biotechnology company that designs and develops breakthrough medicines through its powerful computational drug discovery engine, announced the advancement and expansion of its pipeline with the addition of discovery programs targeting innate immunity pathways. These programs, targeting the salt-inducible kinase (SIK) family and cyclic GMP-AMP synthase (cGAS), represent promising opportunities to leverage Nimbus’ industry-leading computational and structure-based drug design expertise to develop highly selective, potent medicines addressing areas of significant unmet need. "Building on the success of our TYK2 program, we are broadening our drug discovery engine to unlock new difficult-to-drug targets with compelling biology,” said Peter Tummino, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer of Nimbus. “SIK and cGAS are critical targets in highly prevalent diseases that are well suited to Nimbus’ structure-based drug design approach. We look forward to advancing our discovery and development programs across oncology, immunology, and metabolism to deliver transformative medicines to patients.” Nimbus is advancing its Phase 1/2 trial (NCT05128487) of NDI-101150, a small molecule inhibitor of hematopoietic progenitor kinase 1 (HPK1), and has reported positive dose escalation data showing potential monotherapy clinical benefit for patients with solid tumors. Furthermore, the company expects to initiate IND-enabling activities this year for its oncology program targeting Werner syndrome helicase (WRN). In collaboration with Eli Lilly and Company, Nimbus continues to progress the development of novel targeted therapies that activate AMPK to potentially treat a broad range of metabolic disorders. Nimbus continues to expand its platform capabilities with ongoing investments in cutting-edge technology for drug discovery. Alongside proprietary computational tools which the company has developed in-house, Nimbus’ platform leverages state-of-the-art technology through collaborations such as its recently announced partnership with Anagenex, a leader in generative AI for drug design. Jeb Keiper, M.S., MBA, Nimbus’ Chief Executive Officer, will provide an overview of the company’s progress and pipeline and anticipated milestones for 2024 and beyond at the 42nd Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference on Monday, January 8, 2024 at 7:30 am PT. About Nimbus Therapeutics Nimbus Therapeutics is a clinical-stage, structure-based drug discovery company developing novel small molecule medicines designed to act against well-validated but difficult-to-drug targets implicated in multiple human diseases. Nimbus combines leading-edge computational technologies with a tailored array of machine learning-based predictive modeling approaches. Nimbus’ pipeline includes a clinical-stage HPK1 inhibitor for the treatment of cancer (NCT05128487), as well as a diverse portfolio of preclinical programs focused on cancer, autoimmune conditions, and metabolic diseases. Nimbus is headquartered in Boston, Mass.

Read More