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About a year ago, a grad student came running up to Wolfgang Kuebler, looking all excited: The mice, he said — well, to be honest, the mice didn’t look great, but they looked a heck of a lot better than they did before.

Not long before, Kuebler’s students at The Charité in Berlin had anesthetized mice and dropped a bit of Streptococcus pneumoniae down their throats, just enough to sicken but not kill. The mice quickly lost weight, temperature, and appetite. They looked “runty,” said Kuebler.


Then they gave them a drug that perhaps no pneumonia-ridden mouse had ever received, plucked from another field of medicine entirely: Kalydeco, one of several powerful pills developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals over the last decade to treat the rare disease cystic fibrosis

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