The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Acceleron might have a second drug on its hands

Acceleron Pharma said its in-development treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension met all its goals in a mid-stage study, news that sent the company’s stock price up more than 50% in after-hours trading last night.

As STAT’s Adam Feuerstein reports, Acceleron’s drug improved patients’ blood flow and boosted scores on a walking test, according to the company, which is saving detailed data for a later medical meeting. If the results hold up, they’ll inform the design of a later study that would support FDA approval.

That’s a key step for Acceleron, which has struggled to win plaudits for its pipeline after winning approval last year for a drug targeting the rare blood disease beta thalassemia.

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Here’s some Martin Shkreli news

Four years after Turing Pharmaceuticals famously raised the price of a generic drug (and two years after its founder was sentenced to federal prison), the company is getting sued for manufacturing a monopoly.

As STAT’s Ed Silverman reports, the Federal Trade Commission and the New York attorney general claim that Turing and ex-CEO Martin Shkreli broke the law by blocking generics companies from launching competitors to the costly Daraprim, which treats a serious parasitic infection.

In the meantime, Turing has changed its name first to Vyera and since to Phoenixus, and Shkreli is two years into a seven-year bid from an unrelated securities fraud conviction. Shkreli still maintains a controlling interest in the company, and Phoenixus is still in the business of selling Daraprim, albeit with diminishing returns.

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Maybe we have enough biotech companies already

Yesterday, Atlas Venture partner Bruce Booth noted an alarming trend: While more and more money is flowing into private biotech startups, the number of companies cashing first-time checks has steadily fallen since the beginning of last year. That means fewer new companies are getting off the ground.

As Booth points out, that might represent a mere pause in biotech’s years-long boom cycle, or it could just be statistical noise. Or “it could meaningfully reflect a changing sentiment in the long-range prospects of biotech in light of the drug pricing debate and general anti-biopharma political punditry,” he wrote, meaning that Washington’s bluster has finally made that long-foretold harm to innovation a reality.

Each of those explanations could be true, but it’s also possible the issue has more to do with Jamie Dimon than Bernie Sanders. The path for most biotech startups involves going public, and nearly 150 of them have done so since 2017. There are now more than 500 biotechs trading on the Nasdaq. And investors in turn have become increasingly skittish about supporting those companies’ constant need for cash, according to Cowen's regular biotech thermometer, not because of politics but because there’s such a glut of supply.

Insulin is uniting 2020’s bickering presidential hopefuls

The Democrats running for president have squabbled over Medicare for All, international pricing indices, and the cost of drug research. But they all agree on one thing: The cost of insulin is too damn high.

As STAT’s Lev Facher reports from Iowa, the rising price of the life-saving treatment has united the likes of Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders, each of whom has lambasted pharma for perceived profiteering, with insulin as an example.

That’s perhaps because the nuances of the American drug supply chain don’t fit neatly into a stump speech, while pointing to insulin, among the most commonly used medicines in the country, is simple. The issue is also an easy cudgel against President Trump: Eli Lilly, the original U.S. insulin manufacturer, is the former employer of health secretary Alex Azar.

Read more.

More reads

  • Scientists are moving at record speed to create new coronavirus vaccines—but they may come too late. (Science)
  • Big drug purchasers predict price hikes driven by expensive new therapies. (STAT Plus)
  • Elizabeth Holmes phones in her defense after civil lawyers quit. (Bloomberg)
  • The coronavirus questions that scientists are racing to answer. (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Tuesday, January 28, 2020


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