Monday, April 3, 2017

The Readout by Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Welcome to The Readout, where we keep you on top of the latest in biotech. For more in-depth coverage, check out our premium subscription service, STAT PlusOn Twitter: @damiangarde@megkesh, and @statnews.


The Trump administration's latest biotech connection

We all know that Betsy DeVos is a Theranos investor, that Steven Mnuchin holds shares of Biogen and Celgene, and that Dr. Scott Gottlieb is basically a biotech mutual fund. But the latest disclosures from the Trump White House highlight an interesting and previously undisclosed link between the administration and the drug development business.

Gary Cohn, the dazzlingly well-paid former Goldman Sachs president who now serves as Trump’s chief economic adviser, is an investor in one of biotech’s biggest curiosities. Samumed, based in San Diego, is promising to cure baldness, revolutionize arthritis, and get rid of wrinkles. And its Ron Popeilish pitch has helped it raise a staggering $200 million from some unlikely investment sources.

Among them is Cohn, who made a pair of investments in the company worth more than $1 million each (he doesn’t have to be more specific than that). Notably, Cohn’s Samumed stake is the only biotech holding among assets totaling at least $254 million. Perhaps something about the company’s potential was particularly resonant.

The Gottlieb forecast: Rough waters on industry ties

Dr. Scott Gottlieb is likely to cruise to confirmation as FDA commissioner, but before things become official, he's got a Senate hearing coming up Wednesday. 

A deeply scientific Readout survey found that 35 percent of you expect him to be grilled about his industry ties, including consulting with pharma giants like GSK.
Large numbers of you also predict he'll face some tough questions on drug pricing and deregulation. By contrast, you're not expecting much discussion of opioids at the hearing. 

We'll be watching to see just how prescient you are.

Dishman dishes on the Precision Medicine Initiative

Given the whirling uncertainty around all things NIH, we ask, and ask again: What's up with the Precision Medicine Initiative?

STAT chatted with PMI Director Eric Dishman about plans for recruiting a million volunteers, safeguarding data privacy in the Trump era, and probing what he called the "dark matter" of genetic data.

We also asked what working in government's like compared to Silicon Valley. The former Intel exec's answer: "Both cultures have lots of acronyms."

Read more on STAT Plus.

Speaking of the NIH...

The Biotech Devil's Dictionary

There’s a lot of jargon, coded language, and outright nonsense in biotech, and we want to clear up — and celebrate — as much of it as we can through this glossary. Have a phrase to contribute? Email it over.

clinically meaningful, (adj.): A handily hard-to-define term one can use when a drug doesn’t show a statistically significant benefit in a clinical trial but needs to be marketed anyhow.

“Forty-four-month median OS in patients treated with Afinitor compared to 37.7 months for the placebo/crossover arm; not statistically significant but clinically meaningful.” — an ad for a Novartis cancer drug, spotted by Dr. Vinay Prasad.

More reads

  • A five-year-old with neuroblastoma enters CAR-T trial. (BBC News)
  • Four challenges Emma Walmsley faces at the helm of GSK. (Financial Times)
  • Why is clinical research so messed up, and how can we fix it? (MedCity News)

Have a news tip or comment you want to send us?

Send us an email

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Damian & Meghana

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