Weekend update

Congress returns to Capitol Hill from its week long Independence Day recess tomorrow.

The Wall Street Journal keeps presenting interesting articles about the Crispr technology. That technology works as follows:

An enzyme called Cas9 can be programmed to latch onto any 20-letter sequence of DNA. Once there, the enzyme cuts the double helix, splitting the DNA strand in two. Scientists supply a snippet of genetic material they want to insert, making sure its ends match up with the cut strands. When the cell’s repair mechanism kicks in to fix the cut, it pastes in the new DNA.

The weekend issue included an interview with “[Professor] Jennifer Doudna, a Crispr pioneer who runs a lab at the University of California, Berkeley.” Ms Doudna states “I frankly have been flabbergasted at the pace of the field.  We’re barely five years out, and it’s already in early clinical trials for cancer. It’s unbelievable.” Ms. Doudna and a colleague just released a book called A Crack in Creation. Both the book and the article look at the related ethic issues created by the technology.

Tonight the Journal reported that “A holder of [22] key patents to the Crispr gene-editing technology [the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard] is willing to join a world-wide joint patent pool—a development that medical and legal experts think could hasten the development of new human therapies.’

The Boston Globe reported today about a criminal scheme involving drug rehabilitation facilities.

Patient brokers, some of whom are themselves in recovery from drug addiction, are paid by marketers working for treatment centers eager to sign up patients with private insurance plans. 

The brokers use phony addresses to sign up people immediately [on healthcare.gov] — a change of address is an exception to the usual limitation that customers can sign up only during the end-of-year open enrollment period — and to take advantage of the best-paying PPO plans in states in which they don’t live. 

The brokers, patients’ families, or marketers for the treatment centers pay the insurance premium. Within a few weeks, the insurer is billed tens of thousands of dollars for what is often subpar care.