The Readout Damian Garde

How CRISPR evaded congressional concern

Last year, after a researcher in China unveiled an ethically fraught CRISPR experiment, there was gnashing of teeth in the halls of science and calls for moratoria. But in Washington, D.C., where things can tend toward the reactionary, there was nary a hearing, let alone a piece of legislation.

And that’s probably not a coincidence. As STAT’s Nick Florko reports, the biotech companies at work on CRISPR have employed a small group of lobbyists on Capitol Hill. Their mission hasn’t been to push specific policy but rather to educate lawmakers about the science of genome editing. And the lack of congressional controversy over the CRISPR babies scandal suggests the effort is working.

“For an issue that really is so consequential about the future of literally the shape of humanity, ... you would think that our elected representatives would be more interested,” said Marcy Darnovsky, the head of the Center For Genetics and Society.

Read more.

One way to make $10 million in biotech

Earlier this month, Atossa Genetics’s stock price rose fivefold, and the company parlayed that into cash, banking $10 million through the exercise of some previously issued warrants. On the face of it, that sounds like standard operating procedure; small biotech companies almost always raise money on the back of good news.

But, as STAT’s Adam Feuerstein explains, the Atossa case is special. The news behind the share price surge was not a positive clinical trial or a lucrative licensing deal. It was a press release announcing that the company had provided its breast cancer drug to a sick patient under the FDA’s compassionate use program. It was the third such release Atossa has put out since February.

“Nothing says ‘credibility’ quite like raising money through the exploitation of really sick people,” Adam writes in his latest column taking stock of small-cap biotech companies.

Read more.

The latest Bristol-Myers-Celgene twist is upon us

As Bristol-Myers Squibb defends its $74 billion plot to merge with Celgene through cunning use of PowerPoint, a pair of superlatively influential shoes are about to drop.

ISS and Glass Lewis, a pair of shareholder advisory firms, are days away from issuing their opinions on whether the deal is a good idea. Combined, the two companies hold about 97 percent of the market for investor advice, and their opinions on proposed mergers have historically swayed shareholder votes.

A negative recommendation would be bad for Bristol-Myers, but it wouldn’t necessarily doom the Celgene deal. In 2016, Glass Lewis recommended shareholders vote against Tesla’s bid to buy Solar City, and then the measure passed with 85 percent of the vote. And ISS and Glass Lewis have repeatedly advocated for ballot measures that would change things at Facebook, all to no avail.

Another victory for the heart valve business?

For companies in the world of transcatheter aortic valve replacement, a non-surgical means of rescuing damaged hearts, the path to clinical relevance has been long and occasionally painful. But a proposed new Medicare rule could make the procedure a more common alternative to open-heart surgery, a potential boon for the likes of Edwards Lifesciences and Medtronic. 

As STAT’s Matthew Herper reports, CMS put out a proposal that would rescind a requirement that hospitals do a certain number of surgical valve replacements before they can be reimbursed for TAVR procedures. The new rule, if implemented, could expand the number of patients who get new valves without having their chests cracked open. But there is also some risk, because CMS is going to require that centers do more procedures in order to keep doing them.

The proposal comes weeks after a pair of large studies showed that TAVR provided better outcomes than surgery.

Read more.

More reads

  • Gilead and Louisiana agree to a ‘Netflix’ subscription model for hepatitis C drugs. (STAT Plus)
  • Unicorns aren’t profitable — Wall Street doesn’t care. (Tech Crunch)
  • This old mouse: ‘Golden Girls’ unlock the mysteries of aging. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The measles virus was down and out. Now it's primed for a comeback. (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Wednesday, March 27, 2019


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