Drug company launches global hunt for ‘superhumans’; A pharmaceutical company hopes that finding people with extraordinary characteristics could lead to new medicines

Drug company launches global hunt for ‘superhumans’

A pharmaceutical company hopes that finding people with extraordinary characteristics could lead to new medicines

By Denise Roland

1:41PM GMT 28 Jan 2014

A drug maker has enlisted the help of the general public to track down people with extraordinary characteristics whose genetic make-up could form the basis of new medicines.

UCB, a Belgian pharmaceutical company, has launched a competitionto find and describe individuals, families or communities who possess rare characteristics such as low sensitivity to pain or the ability to heal from injury quickly.

It hopes that the submissions will identify groups who have previously gone unnoticed by medical researchers and that the genetic basis of their abilities can be used to develop new drugs.

Dr Duncan McHale, vice president of global exploratory development at UCB said he had an “open mind” about what kind of traits would be most useful to explore.

“For example, individuals or groups who exhibited exceptional wound healing after surgery or trauma might warrant further investigation. Equally, those who have consistently displayed exceptional resistance or immunity to infections, or who, after a robust clinical diagnosis, displayed unusually fast or spontaneous disease remission might be the basis for a winning submission,” he said.

Dame Kay Davies, director of the Medical Research Council’s functional genomics unit at the University of Oxford said UCB’s approach “potentially holds much promise”.

Extraordinary individuals have inspired medical research in the past, but tracking them down has proven difficult, especially since those with protective traits may never come into contact with a medical professional.

A ten-year-old Pakistani street performer’s ability to cut himself with knives and walk on burning coals without experiencing pain caught the attention of researchers in 2006. Scientists have since discovered that he and a handful of other people in the region lack a particular protein on the surface of their nerves and hope to replicate this trait to treat severe pain.

A new osteoporosis drug, currently in late stage clinical trials, is based on the study of an Afrikaner community in South Africa with exceptionally strong and dense bones.

The best submission will be awarded $10,000 (£6,020), and extra bonus awards of at least $1,000 will go to entrants judged to have provided an “especially interesting or relevant entry”.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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