1 year ago

Human clinical study begins at UAB for groundbreaking brain tumor treatment

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) continues to evolve as a worldwide leader in biomedicine, research and innovation.

Incysus Therapeutics, Inc., a Birmingham-based biopharmaceutical company, has now announced the initiation of a Phase 1 clinical study of a novel Drug Resistant Immunotherapy (DRI) technology for the treatment of patients with newly-diagnosed glioblastoma.

This trial is being conducted at UAB and is now active and open for enrollment.

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM or glioblastoma) is a devastating and fast-growing brain tumor that typically results in death within the first 15 months after diagnosis. GBM is inherently resistant to conventional therapy and accounts for approximately 52% of all primary brain tumors.

A release from the company outlined Incysus’ innovative DRI approach, which seeks to combine conventional chemotherapies with a γδ T cell-based immunotherapy to modify the tumor microenvironment and drive the immune system. By using alkylating agents such as temozolomide, chemotherapy can activate immunity through the upregulation of the DNA damage response (DDR) pathway. A significant challenge is that such chemotherapies also kill the white blood cells needed to drive an immune response. Incysus’ technology “chemo-protects” immune cells to allow them to remain functional while DDR activation creates an immune signal that allows directed killing activity against cancer cells.

Incysus is the first company to use this type of therapy in patients, and the research marks a landmark moment for Incysus, the overall biotech industry in Birmingham and anti-cancer research across the globe.

Dr. L. Burt Nabors, MD, the co-head of neuro-oncology at UAB and the study’s principal investigator, stated, “The initiation of this clinical trial represents a significant milestone towards developing effective immune-based therapies for the treatment of GBM. We are pleased to work with … the team at Incysus to bring this innovative therapy to patients for the first time.”

Further information on the clinical trial is available here.

Incysus is a UAB spinoff company. Its success in the Magic City — and this kind of potentially revolutionary research spearheaded by UAB — is a prime example of why many legislative and industry leaders in the state, especially in the Birmingham area, are calling on Governor Kay Ivey to fund a world-class genomics facility at the university. They argue that the project could make Birmingham the “Silicon Valley of Biomedicine.”

RELATED: Planned UAB genomics project could make Birmingham the ‘Silicon Valley of Biomedicine’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

12 hours ago

Shelby, Tuberville vote against Democrats’ $1.9 trillion spending bill

U.S. Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) on Saturday voted against H.R.1319, the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion spending bill supported by President Joe Biden.

The bill originally passed the House with no Alabama Republicans supporting the bill, and — after numerous changes were made in the Senate — the same has now occurred in the upper chamber in a party-lines 50-49 vote. Due to Democrats using the budget reconciliation process to consider this legislation, they were able to act without bipartisan support. The measure will now head back to the House.

The spending bill, which is supposed to be for emergency COVID-19 relief, includes a litany of pet provisions slipped in by Democrats, such as the expansion of Obamacare subsidies and funding for blue state bailouts, Planned Parenthood, union pensions and other items unrelated to the pandemic.

The legislation includes $350 billion to bail out long-mismanaged state and local governments, multiple times the amount experts estimate was needed to address COVID-related items. Only 5% of the funding included for K-12 schools would be spent during the current fiscal year, with 95% instead spent over the next seven years. Additionally, agriculture-related funds in the bill would be spent over the next decade.

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“I voted against this bill today because it could further wreck the economy and ignite inflation,” Shelby explained in a written statement. “This legislation includes a host of non-COVID-related left-wing policies.”

“Not only does it cost the American taxpayers $1.9 trillion, but only nine percent of the funding in the bill goes toward the immediate fight against COVID and one percent toward vaccines,” he continued. “The bill does nothing to get kids back in classrooms and, instead, includes a massive cash bailout for some mismanaged states and local governments. Democrats are forcing a liberal wish list of pet projects through Congress that’s masked as a pandemic rescue package. I am disappointed that we were blocked at every turn from engaging and passing real COVID relief in a bipartisan, targeted manner, just like the Senate did five times last year.”

Republican senators attempted to improve the bill during a process that began Thursday and finally ended shortly after noon local time on Saturday. Tuberville himself filed 23 amendments to the legislation, focusing on providing targeted health and financial relief to those most impacted by the pandemic.

This included amendments to ensure that rural states like Alabama receive a minimum of 30% of all funds appropriated for testing and vaccinations, elementary and secondary schools, small businesses, colleges and universities, restaurants, and state and local governments. To ensure our nation’s most vulnerable have access to the resources needed to combat COVID-19, Tuberville also filed an amendment to remove funding designated for foreign countries and transfer those funds to support American nursing homes. Additionally, he filed amendments to increase funding for veterans’ healthcare and assist state veterans’ homes across the country in protecting their residents from coronavirus outbreaks.

RELATED: Democrats block Tuberville amendment barring federally funded schools from allowing biological males to compete in female sports

“Democrats refused to negotiate with Republicans on this bill from the start because they knew this reconciliation process was their best chance to pass President Biden’s progressive wish list,” Tuberville stated. “To put it into perspective, until today, the most partisan vote on the past five COVID relief bills was 92-6. This bill is a broken promise to the American people – one that hides under the name of ‘COVID relief’ when it should actually be called ‘liberal relief.’ Instead of targeting funds to the people, communities, and businesses who actually need it, this bill sends billions to bail out poorly managed states and puts less than 1% of funding toward vaccines.”

He concluded, “$1 trillion from past relief bills has not yet been used, and the small percentage of the funds in this bill that will actually go to people who really need it will take years to get there. This legislation is a reckless use of taxpayer dollars when what Americans and our economy really needs now is a plan to start reopening.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Auburn defeats Mississippi State 78-71 for Bruce Pearl’s 600th career win

In a season filled with uncertainty, injuries, and the looming notion that Auburn had self-imposed a post-season ban, the Auburn Tigers finished their season on a high note.

Bruce Pearl managed to get his team involved and excited in a season where they could have easily folded and written this season off. However, Pearl got his team focused on the season at-hand and managed to pick up his 600th career win against Mississippi State today.

On Auburn’s post-game radio broadcast, Pearl talked to Andy Burcham after the game. On how he got his team motivated in a year like this, he said, “Really happy with our effort tonight. I was concerned heading into this game knowing that this is our last practice, and this is our last game. You know, we aren’t playing for the tournament, so what is going to be the motivation?”

Effort is the main takeaway from Pearl’s response, and his team has struggled with almost every problem this season except effort.

With what is an admittedly underwhelming season by Auburn’s standards, the Tigers used effort to defeat Mississippi State 78-71 in front of their home crowd in Auburn Arena.

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Earlier in the week, Pearl said that this week of practice was different than any he has ever had at Auburn because the players and coaches knew that this was without a doubt the last game of the season.

For the Tigers, four different players scored in double figures. Allen Flanigan continued to improve and led the team in scoring with 22 points along with four rebounds and two assists.

The team as a whole had one of their best halves of the season in the second half of this game.

Auburn shot 82% from the charity stripe this game which is well above average for the Tigers. They also shot 5-10 from three in the second half, and were over 50% from the field as a whole.

Defensively, the Tigers stepped up big and made it more difficult for the Bulldogs to answer Auburn’s scoring runs. On what changed in the second half, Pearl said, “We played a little bit more zone in the second half. I think we did really well in the zone in this game.”

With Sharife Cooper still out, Auburn needed players to step up again. While Flanigan and Williams led the way in scoring, Jamal Johnson stepped into the point guard role once again this season.

Johnson has been selfless in bouncing around to whatever position he has been needed. He shot 4-8 from deep and dished out seven assists in this game.

On Cooper’s absence, Pearl said, “To win two out of the last three games without Sharife, is just a testament to how much our guys have improved as well as how great of a job my staff has done.”

JT Thor led the team in rebounding with nine boards in the game. Thor also scored ten points against the Bulldogs including a three-pointer.

Dylan Cardwell had one of the more impressive highlights of the game with a turn around three-point jumper as time was running out on the shot clock. In the final game of the season, Cardwell took his first and only long range shot of the season and drained it.

On Cardwell’s circus-type shot, Pearl said, “You know what’s funny is that he hasn’t worked on that shot, but he has been working on his three-point shot. So that was pretty cool, wasn’t it?”

On what it means to get his 600th career win, Pearl said, “It means I’m old, that’s what it means. I’ve been doing this a long time.”

Pearl later continued saying, “I hold myself to a high standard. I answer to God and God only, and he has a really high standard. There is no way I can meet that standard, but I’m going to try, and that is what I expect from the people around me.”

Auburn’s coach will be looking for more wins in the future. As for now, the Tiger’s season is officially over, and Pearl will be looking forward to getting to work on next season.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

13 hours ago

Alabama finishes regular season with win over Georgia, looks ahead to SEC tournament

Alabama is enjoying one of their best seasons in recent memory and continued with their winning ways today as they defeated Georgia 89-79 in the Bulldogs’ house.

The Tide have been cruising through the SEC this season, with only two blemishes on their conference record.

With the regular season SEC championship already claimed by Bama, they now have their sights set on the SEC tournament title. They will get a double bye in the tournament and will be the favorite to win it all as the number one seed.

Simply put, if Alabama plays like they have all year, they should have no problem winning the SEC tournament. They have not won their conference tournament in 20 years, so this team will be looking to make a statement that Tide basketball is back.

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Continuing to play as they have all season will consist of not straying far from their game plan, as well as keeping the ball in the hot hand. However, for Alabama the hot hand is almost everywhere on the court.

In the win today over the Georgia Bulldogs, they had five players score in double figures. Jahvon Quinerly led the team in scoring with 18 points. Quinerly also had four rebounds and four assists in today’s game.

Georgia got out to an early 14-point lead in the first half of this matchup but couldn’t hold on as Alabama took over the second half. The Bulldogs kept the game close in the closing minutes, but there was no stopping the Tide’s barrage of threes.

Alabama went 10-22 from deep, which at 45% is well above their season average of 35%. Even from the three-point line where Alabama has looked comfortable all year, they are still improving.

John Petty and Jordan Bruner both went 2-3 from downtown in the win over Georgia. If these two can keep shooting lights out along with Jaden Shackelford and Quinerly, then the Tide will have to continue to live on the three-point line. Head coach Nate Oats has stated he doesn’t want to “live or die by the three,” but Bama has prescribed to the don’t fix what isn’t broken method this season.

While their players can score underneath on the drive, when a team is hitting long range shots like the Tide are, they don’t just stop for philosophy’s sake unless a team makes them abandon the three.

For a team like Alabama, which has been dominant all year, to continue improving into March should have other teams concerned for the upcoming tournaments. As a one seed in the conference tournament, and a projected two seed in the NCAA tournament, the Tide are by no means underrated.

However, with limited non-conference play this season, the Tide could possibly show the nation that they deserve a one seed in the NCAA tournament if they can win their conference tournament.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

14 hours ago

How Back Forty Beer Company helped to launch Alabama’s brewery scene

About 13 years ago, making beer in Alabama was just a dream for people like Jason Wilson, whose Back Forty Beer Company would go on to help lay the foundation for today’s thriving craft-beer scene.

“I called the ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) board and said I’d like to fill out an application for a manufacturing brewery in Alabama,” Wilson recalls. “They said, ‘Son, we’ve not given one of those out since Prohibition.’ I said the application should be short then. They said, ‘If you’re willing to try, I’m willing to send it to you.’”

Both as a fledgling beer baron and during his time as president of the Alabama Brewers’ Guild, Wilson helped push for state laws that allowed stronger beers, brewery taprooms, big bottles including growlers, and on-premise sales—all essential to the industry’s growth.

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Getting started wasn’t easy for the Gadsden native. While raising capital to equip his Gadsden brewery, he had to use a Mississippi brewery to make his premiere beer, Truck Stop Honey Ale.

“They agreed to let me come down on weekends, as long as I was out by Sunday,” says the gregarious Wilson, who stepped down from daily operations in 2019, becoming chairman of Back Forty’s board and self-styled chief storyteller.

Back Forty, which sold its first beer in January 2009, opened its Gadsden brewery three years later and steadily built a seven-state distribution footprint. In 2018, a satellite brewery, taproom, restaurant, and outdoor beer garden opened in Birmingham under a licensing agreement with Doug Brown.

The Birmingham facility, near historic Sloss Furnaces, opened an expansion early this year that increases brewing capacity, adds a canning line, and provides a venue for rehearsal dinners and corporate events.

It also includes a zone for customers to enjoy special ales that are stored for months in casks, where they take on flavors from the wood. “We’re calling it the Back Forty Barrel Room,” Brown says. “We’re lining the walls with barrels aging beers.”

Brown plans other Back Forty outposts, starting with a Huntsville location that he hopes to have open in a couple of years.

The Gadsden and Birmingham breweries operate independently. Each produces the core lineup that includes Naked Pig Ale and Freckle Belly IPA. They also each produce their own seasonal and specialty beers—traditional and modern styles, and whacky-yet-it-works concepts like Peanut Butter Porter, a strong dark ale made with peanuts and peanut butter essence.

Russ Bodner, the executive chef in Birmingham, is standardizing company-wide the ingredients, recipes, and methods for making his kitchen’s popular pub food, like the Back Forty Burger and Korean Grilled Chicken Sandwich.

“When we open other locations, we’ll mirror everything—the beer menu, kitchen menu, and even the music that we play,” Brown says. “Each location will have some uniqueness but we want a common experience.”

A fifth-generation Alabamian, Wilson says he’s proud of the role breweries like his have played in fabricating Alabama’s nationally recognized food and beverage scene.

He’s seen more than four dozen Alabama breweries open since he filed that ABC application. He’s collaborated with some of the state’s best chefs, including for a dinner at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City.

“We’ve been part of an awesome culinary revolution,” he says.

Back Forty’s Flagship beers

Cart Barn Light (ABV: 4½ percent)

Pawpaw’s Peach Wheat Ale (ABV: 4½ percent)

Truckstop Honey Brown Ale (ABV: 6 percent)

Naked Pig Pale Ale (ABV: 6 percent)

Rollin in the Haze hazy IPA (ABV: 6 percent)

Bama Mosa Brut (ABV: 7 percent)

Freckle Belly IPA (ABV: 7½ percent)

(Courtesy of SoulGrown)

16 hours ago

Southern Company joins other utilities in plans for electric vehicle charging network that includes Alabama

Southern CompanyAlabama Power’s parent company, joined five other energy companies Tuesday in announcing plans to ensure electric vehicle (EV) drivers have access to a seamless network of charging stations connecting major highway systems across significant regions of the country.

The Electric Highway Coalition – made up of Southern Company, American Electric PowerDominion EnergyDuke EnergyEntergy Corporation and the Tennessee Valley Authority – wants to collaborate on a network of DC fast chargers from the Atlantic Coast through the Midwest and South and into the Gulf Coast and Central Plains regions.

Southern Company and the others are each taking steps to provide EV charging solutions within their system service territories. The announcement represents an unprecedented combined effort to offer EV drivers convenient charging across different utility footprints and allow uninterrupted travel.

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The Edison Electric Institute estimates 18 million EVs will be on U.S. roads by 2030. While many drivers recognize the benefits of driving an EV, such as the ease of low-cost home charging, some have expressed concern with the availability of charging stations during long road trips. With collaborative efforts like the Electric Highway Coalition, energy companies demonstrate to customers that EVs are a smart choice regardless of distance.

The coalition will provide drivers with effective, efficient and convenient charging options to enable long-distance electric travel. Sites along major highways with easy access and amenities for travelers are being considered as coalition members work to determine final charging station locations. DC fast chargers can get drivers back on the road in 20-30 minutes.

“At Southern Company, we are committed to being a leader in building a clean and sustainable energy future for our customers and that includes continuing to increase the reach of electric transportation for more and more drivers,” said Chris Cummiskey, executive vice president, chief commercial officer and customer solutions officer at Southern Company. “By increasing the number of EV fast-charging stations across our footprint, we are providing drivers with additional transportation options that are reliable, efficient and more convenient while helping reduce carbon emissions for the benefit of our communities we serve.”

Being a founding member of the Electric Highway Coalition is another part of Southern Company’s larger focus on electrification of the transportation industry and commitment to sustainability and clean energy. Along with the systemwide goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, last year Southern Company announced an internal fleet electrification goal where the company plans by 2030 to convert to electric 50% of its electric companies’ fleet vehicles in the auto/SUV/minivan, forklift and ATV/cart/miscellaneous equipment segments.

The Electric Highway Coalition welcomes interested utilities to join as it seeks to extend the reach of network. Additionally, its members support and look forward to working with other regional utility transportation corridor electrification initiatives.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)