Judge: Solve dispute over pal to sign-language gorilla Koko
Monday, December 17
CINCINNATI (AP) — A judge has ordered the Cincinnati Zoo and a conservatory to resolve a custody dispute over a gorilla loaned as a companion to the late Koko, who was famous for mastering sign language.
U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg recommended out-of-court mediation Monday, writing that the zoo and The Gorilla Foundation appear to value what’s best for the 37-year-old silverback gorilla named Ndume. The organizations have until Thursday to submit a joint proposal.
The zoo sued in October for Ndume’s return. The gorilla was loaned to the California-based foundation in 1991 under a contract revised to guarantee his transfer after Koko’s death.
Zoo officials claim Ndume has since lived in isolation to his detriment. The foundation says a transfer would harm him and pose unnecessary risk.
Football dominates television viewing as holiday nears
By DAVID BAUDER
AP Media Writer
Wednesday, December 19
NEW YORK (AP) — Professional football — the lifeblood of live television this time of year — illustrated its dominance in the ratings this past week.
Four NFL games finished among the Nielsen company’s 20 most popular prime-time programs, with NBC’s Sunday night and Fox’s Thursday contests the top two. Both games featured Los Angeles teams.
Add in three pre-game shows, and football accounted for seven of Nielsen’s entries.
The games usually dwarf regular programming. For example, Fox drew 17.4 million to its Thursday night game. Its next most popular show, “Last Man Standing,” had 12 million fewer viewers.
Similarly, the 18.1 million people who watched NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” were nearly 10 million more than “The Voice.” CBS’ lineup has a broader base of support and no pro football in prime-time, but it should be noted that its highest-rated show, “60 Minutes,” comes on after football on the East Coast.
CBS won the week in prime time, averaging 7.2 million viewers. NBC had 6.2 million viewers, Fox had 5.1 million, ABC had 3.6 million, Univision had 1.4 million, ION Television had 1.3 million, the CW had 1.2 million and Telemundo had 1.1 million.
ESPN was the week’s most popular cable network, averaging 2.4 million people in prime time. Fox News Channel had 2.04 million, Hallmark had 2.02 million, MSNBC had 1.91 million and USA had 1.31 million.
ABC’s “World News Tonight” topped the evening newscasts with an average of 8.9 million viewers. NBC’s “Nightly News” was second with 8.6 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 6.4 million
For the week of Dec. 10-16, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: NFL Football: Philadelphia at L.A. Rams, NBC, 18.12 million; NFL Football: L.A. Chargers at Kansas City, Fox, 17.41 million; “60 Minutes,” CBS, 14.55 million; “NCIS,” CBS, 12.28 million; “NFL Pregame,” NBC, 11.66 million; NFL Football: Minnesota at Seattle, ESPN, 11.63 million; “NFL Pregame,” Fox, 10.34 million; “Football Night in America,” NBC, 9.22 million; “FBI,” CBS, 9.04 million; “The Voice” (Tuesday), NBC, 8.97 million.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.
Coming soon in 2019, a year to watch in Indonesian cinema
December 12, 2018
Associate Professor and Head of Film and Television, University of Nottingham
Thomas Barker owns shares in MD Pictures and Media Nusantara Citra.
Partners: University of Nottingham provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.
Indonesian drama Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts by female director Mouly Surya triumphed at this year’s Indonesian Film Festival – equivalent to the Oscars in the US. It won ten awards, including best film, best director, best cinematography and best lead actress.
Described as a “satay western” in industry publication Variety, the film is a powerful feminist work set in the dry, sparse hills of Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara. After screening at Cannes Film Festival and as Indonesia’s entry for the Oscars, it represents Indonesian cinema’s rapid ascent to the world stage.
Marlina competed for best film against three other films – romantic drama film Aruna dan Lidahnya (Aruna and Her Palate) by Edwin (last year’s winner for best director), award-winning film Sekala Niskala (The Seen and Unseen) by Kamila Andini, and biopic Sultan Agung by Hanung Bramantyo.
Indonesia’s best films of the year are rarely the most popular films at the box office. This year’s two top films are romantic flick Dilan 1990 with 6.3 million viewers, followed by horror movie Suzzanna: Bernapas dalam Kubur with 3.2 million viewers.
Despite having no big audiences, the four Indonesian Film Festival nominations are indicative of broader changes occurring in the country’s film industry as it marks two decades since the end of the New Order regime.
Since the collapse of the New Order regime in May 1998, four Indonesian films have been featured at Cannes – arguably the world’s premier film festival. Edwin, the director of Aruna dan Lidahnya, became the third Indonesian to screen at Cannes with his short film Kara, Anak Sebatang Pohon (Kara, The Daughter of A Tree) in 2005, after senior auteur Garin Nugroho with Daun di Atas Bantal (Leaf on A Pillow) in 1998 and Serambi in 2006, and Eros Djarot with epic film Tjoet Nja’ Dhien in 1989.
In 2016, Wregas Bhanuteja’s short Prenjak (In The Year of the Monkey) won one of Cannes’s top awards, Leica Cine Discovery Prize.
Recognition at Cannes is a symbolic marker of the rise of a new generation of Indonesian filmmakers and the strength of their talent, innovation and hard work. Other film festivals have also become regular stops for Indonesian filmmakers every year now. Sekala Niskala won awards at festivals in Berlin, Germany; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Adelaide, Australia.
Marlina and Aruna also mark the growing transnational collaborations that are bringing Indonesian cinema to markets outside Indonesia.
Marlina was a multinational co-production that included AstroShaw (Malaysia), HOOQ (Singapore), Purin Pictures (Thailand) and Shasha & Co Production (France).
Aruna is the sixth title co-produced by South Korea’s CJ Entertainment. Its first foray into Indonesian cinema came by way of a US$10,000 production grant for Joko Anwar’s 2015 film A Copy of My Mind, followed by horror hit Pengabdi Setan (Satan’s Slaves) in 2017. CJ co-produced Pengabdi Setan with local production house Rapi Film. Through the partnership, Pengabdi Setan has been distributed to 40 territories worldwide.
CJ also invested in exhibition when its subsidiary CGV purchased Indonesia’s second major cinema operator, BlitzMegaplex, in 2015.
More and more foreign investors are seeing Indonesia as the next big market. This progress can in part be traced back to the international success of action film The Raid released in 2011. Its main stars, Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim and Yayan Ruhian, have been picked up for multiple roles including a cameo in Hollywood box-office hit Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The big American giants are increasingly looking to Indonesia not just as a location but as a source of stories and talent.
Action film Wiro Sableng 212 was Fox International’s first feature film in Southeast Asia.
Directors Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel, known as Mo Brothers, created Headshot for Netflix in 2016, followed by another Timo film, The Night Comes for Us, in 2018.
Rich Indonesian flavours
All four films enrich Indonesia’s sense of nationhood by exploring questions of culture and history.
In Sekala Niskala, Kamila Andini follows the legacy of her father, Garin Nugroho, in creating a richly ethnographic image of Balinese culture that speaks to the nation’s diversity.
Aruna celebrates Indonesia’s rich culinary traditions based on author Laksmi Pamuntjak’s exploration of Indonesian food and cooking.
As with Sultan Agung, director Hanung Bramantyo has turned to historical epics as a source of stories that also ruminate on Indonesian history. His next major project is an adaptation of Bumi Manusia, based on the book by Indonesia’s great writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer. The movie is set to be the big story of 2019.
Marlina, Sekala Niskala and Sultan Agung are all made outside the film-making centre of the capital Jakarta. In particular, Yogyakarta is fast becoming a second centre with many filmmakers choosing to live or shoot in the city. Hanung, a native of the city, now often works there and Kamila Andini teaches at the new Jogja Film Academy.
Reducing production costs and avoiding traffic jams might be prime motivations, but working in Yogyakarta also gives filmmakers space to think and create stories that reimagine a different version of Indonesia.
The city has become a set for commercial features such as horror film Keramat (Sacred) and festival hit Siti.
A notable group of filmmakers that includes Yosep Anggi Noen (Istirahatlah Kata-Kata), Ismail Basbeth (The Carousel Never Stops Turning), Ifa Isfansyah (Sang Penari – The Dancer) and Garin now operate out of Yogyakarta.
Indonesia’s film industry is leading when it comes to women making a profound impact as lead figures and vocal proponents of reform.
Director Mira Lesmana, producer Shanty Harmayn, musician Melly Goeslaw, script writer Prima Rusdi and others were leading figures in the Indonesian film society movement. They protested the 2006 Indonesian Film Festival when it awarded best film to Ekskul (Nayato Fio Nuala) because the film plagiarised music. They also challenged the constitutionality of the Censorship Board in court to force legal and institutional reform.
In her acceptance speech after winning best director, Mouly Surya urged: “All the women here who dream of becoming a film director, you can do it.” Alongside Mouly Surya and Kamila Andini, many female directors such as Upi (My Stupid Boss), Viva Westi (Jendral Soedirman) and Nia Dinata (Ini Kisah Tiga Dara) already have prominent roles as directors and scriptwriters.
The stories behind the Indonesian Film Festival tell us a lot about the profound changes and developments in Indonesian cinema over the past two decades.
More local audiences are watching local films, bringing total admissions in 2017 to 42.7 million. That’s more than double the annual figure from three years prior.
Indonesian film production is vibrant, with more than 100 titles released every year. Most importantly, Indonesian films are of a quality that rivals the best in the world. 2019 will therefore be a year to watch in Indonesian cinema.
Drug development is no longer just for Big Pharma. Researchers at Bio-X explain
December 20, 2018
MD/PhD, Stanford University
Teresa Purzner receives funding from the Felix and Heather Baker BioX Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship, the Neurosurgery Research and Education Foundation Foundation (NREF), Stanford SPARK, the Department of Developmental Biology, Stanford School of Medicine, the Weston Havens Foundation and NIH grant R21HD076367
I am a graduate student and resident in the field of neurosurgery and would like to share an unusual and very personal story of developing a drug. Developmental biologist Dr. Matthew Scott and I went from purely basic biological research in our lab at Stanford University to discovering a target for drug development to identifying a drug for a pediatric brain cancer called medulloblastoma to a clinical trial – all within five years and for just US$500,000, with the money raised through philanthropic donations.
That’s surprising for two reasons. First, the odds of successfully getting a drug to clinic are very low. For every 10,000 candidate drugs, only five are ever tested in clinical trials. The few that do make it into pharmacies have on average a $1 billion development cost for research, testing and clinical trials. For this reason, the gap between scientific discoveries and clinical trials is commonly referred to as the “valley of death.” The other reason my experience is atypical is because most new drugs are developed for a disease of interest by pharmaceutical companies. In contrast, we identified existing drugs that were developed for other diseases, but could be repurposed.
Our basic science approach shaved a decade off the usual development time. The clinical trial will begin this winter, so whether we succeed remains to be seen. But our story is worth sharing as a promising path for finding new drug candidates.
A rare childhood cancer in need of treatment
A very specific disease led me to drug development. Medulloblastoma is the most common pediatric brain tumor. Brain cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in children. Children with medulloblastoma undergo surgery, then whole brain radiation, and finally chemotherapy. Even kids who survive the disease are often burdened with severe therapy-related problems – such as intellectual and social impairment, endocrine dysfunction, hearing loss and secondary, treatment-related cancers – that harm their long-term quality of life.
Medulloblastoma, intractable in the past, was primed for discovery of transformative therapies by new scientific discoveries. Research advances revealed that genetic damage to a single signaling system in cerebellum cells, called the hedgehog signaling pathway, caused a third of all medulloblastomas. The hedgehog pathway has been a good target for drugs.
The underlying biology is unusually straightforward. Hedgehog signaling during normal brain growth stimulates the proliferation of cerebellum cells. When no more signal is made, soon after birth, the cerebellum growth stops. A genetic mutation or chemical that activates hedgehog signaling at later times leads to uncontrolled growth of the cerebellum and eventually medulloblastoma. My goal was clear – to be able to shut down hedgehog signaling and stop the growth of this cancer.
Drug development, on average, takes 14 years and costs up to $2 billion.
Discovering a new drug target
The first step was finding a lab with a history of important discoveries in the hedgehog signaling pathway and a mentor interested in translating basic discoveries into medicine. Matthew Scott was that mentor. His team had linked hedgehog signaling to cerebellar development and medulloblastoma.
To discover a better therapy, we focused on identifying proteins that control normal growth of the cerebellum. We hoped this would provide clues about signals controlling the growth of tumors.
We used advanced techniques to look at modifications of thousands of proteins, particularly those altered by hedgehog signaling. We identified an enzyme called protein kinase CK2 that causes normal cells to divide in the developing cerebellum by activating hedgehog signaling. Medulloblastomas are derived from cerebellum cells, and like normal cerebellum cells are dependent on hedgehog signaling for growth. We inferred that CK2 might also be required for growth of the tumor cells.
Using mouse tumors and human tumor cells, we tested drugs shown to be safe in humans and discovered ones that blocked CK2, and killed off medulloblastoma cells. The drugs were effective even against the most aggressive forms of human and mouse medulloblastoma that are resistant to current therapies. Half the mice with medulloblastomas treated with CK2 blockers survived for over a year. Mice receiving the placebo died within 17 days of tumor growth.
After we discovered how well CK2 drugs blocked medulloblastoma tumor progression, our group partnered with Stanford SPARK, an academic drug development program; Senhwa Biosciences, a biotechnology company that owns the only human-tested CK2 inhibitor; and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium (PBTC), an NIH-funded group of 12 pediatric hospitals dedicated to clinical trials for brain tumors in children. A clinical trial to test CK2 inhibitors for children with medulloblastoma is planned for this winter. It is expected to run for three years.
Smart architecture fosters collaboration
Close to 95 percent of new drugs are developed by large drug companies. Drug development doesn’t typically happen in academia, and even when it does it is usually not done by a basic science researcher.
Large drug companies focus on common, more lucrative diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and conditions like pain management that affect tens of millions in the U.S. alone, for example. By some accounts, it costs, on average $1 billion to get a drug to market. Drug companies recover their investments when there are large markets for their drugs, such as with statins. The US Preventative Services Task Force suggests that more than 17 million people would be good candidates for these drugs. The promise of profits is small with less common diseases. Could it be that developing new therapies for less common diseases, such as childhood brain cancer, may best be done by partnerships involving academic scientists?
This project began during a serendipitous encounter between members of the Scott lab, which studies how genes control animal development, and the Elias lab, which specializes in a technique that allows scientists to detect changes in proteins. Both of these labs were located in the Clark Center – the home of Stanford Bio-X, a program and building designed to promote interdisciplinary research and encourage cross-pollination.
Students must walk through other labs to get to stairways and exits. Desks and benches from different labs are intermixed. Large instruments, core facilities, and the coffee bar and restaurant areas are shared to encourage intermingling. Within the building are faculty from more than 25 Stanford departments.
Shared success provides rich rewards
What happened in our work with SPARK could in principle happen at biomedical centers all across the country, but several convergent factors were required for success.
First, we were lucky that the technology licensing office at Stanford connected our project to SPARK, which in turn connected our academic team with startup CEOs, seasoned pharmaceutical executives and patient advocates. Without this string of strategic connections, we would not have had the know-how to take the project beyond the bench, nor the credibility to convince Senhwa to sponsor the trial.
Second, our research was supported by philanthropists and was driven by scientists and clinicians who are not financially invested in the success of the project. Therefore, creating profitability from a therapy developed for a rare disease, which is a major barrier for pharmaceutical companies, was not a problem we had to tackle. This allowed us to repurpose someone else’s drug, which dramatically reduced the time and cost required to bring a therapy to patients.
Finally, our collaboration with Senhwa was solidified by the PBTC, the nonprofit consortium created by the National Cancer Institute to improve treatment of primary brain tumors in children. Without federally funded, multi-institutional collaborations, like the PBTC, the cost and expertise required for designing and implementing trials for children with brain cancer would have been well out of our reach.
In medicine, you experience tremendous fulfillment when you provide hope, and when you alleviate the fear and suffering of others. In drug development, you grind through countless biological, political and financial barriers and hope to come out having transformed an idea into an actual physical product that may change how we treat disease.
Our experience has provided a rich sense of excitement and potential for improved patient survival and recovery. In contrast to the stories of combative and avaricious high-stakes science and drug development we sometimes hear, our success can be attributed to a diverse team of international collaborators who donated their time and energy to support a common goal – providing better options for children with brain cancer.