NIH grants, GSK’s Benlysta lupus breakthrough (Weekend Rounds)

Among the life science current events from last week: NIH grant rankings, lessons from GSK’s Benlysta lupus drug breakthrough, Medtronic’s battle with GPOs, the self-creation of a urethra, and debates over the value of an Ohio local investment group.

A review of life science current events reported by MedCity News this week:

Top NIH grant funding by institutions, states for 2010. Look at the list and consider the debate over NIH budget cuts and increases currently going on in Congress. Johns Hopkins is a runaway leader in getting NIH grants, followed next by the University of Pennsylvania ($577 million), University of Washington ($571 million), University of Michigan ($565 million) and University of California San Francisco ($538 million).

GSK’s Benlysta: The new face of a ‘blockbuster’ drug (with more to come). “So that’s the picture of the new blockbuster drug: expensive products targeting ever more specific segments of the patient population. And as GSK and other pharmaceutical companies continue working on biologics, expect more of this to come.”

Wake Forest scientists grow body parts in lab; new urethras work normally. It’s a medical breakthrough right out of science fiction: Diseased or damaged body parts can be replaced with new tissue grown from a patient’s own cells. These tissue-engineering advances have become a reality through the work of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, part of the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Medtronic’s break from GPOs: It’s about competition (for hospitals, too). Hospital systems across the country join the nonprofit associations as a way to band together and collectively boost their negotiating power as they seek better prices for medical devices and other supplies. But Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) has argued in recent weeks that it could save money for the healthcare system if it went around the purchasing associations and negotiated with health providers directly.

JumpStart becomes target of criticism from local entrepreneurs. “JumpStart has come under withering criticism from a small group of entrepreneurs who argue that the Cleveland economic development group employs a bloated infrastructure, is too risk-averse and doesn’t create enough jobs to justify the tax dollars it receives.”