The Readout Damian Garde

What does Pfizer’s $11.4 billion buyout mean?

Yesterday, Pfizer agreed to spend the above-mentioned sum on Array BioPharma, a company that specializes in the yesteryear cancer technology that just happens to be having a moment at the expense of newer ideas.

As STAT’s Matthew Herper explains, Array has made its name developing pills that home in on specific genetic mutations tied to cancer. As a numbers game, that means treating a relatively small number of patients but getting positive enough results to justify high prices.

This is by no means happening in a vacuum. Array contemporaries Loxo Oncology and Ignyta have recently been the targets of multibillion-dollar acquisitions, and the share prices of the similar Blueprint Medicines and Turning Point Therapeutics have risen on the idea that they might be next. 

But it’s worth noting that a rising tide sometimes leaves boats behind. Last year, when GlaxoSmithKline bought Tesaro, a maker of targeted cancer therapies, investors speculated that the rival Clovis Oncology could be next. Sixth months later, Clovis remains independent and about 42% less valuable than it was in January.

Your (belated) big IPO week is here

Last week was expected to be a proving ground for biotech IPOs. It was not, and that brings us to this week. Five drug development startups are expected to make their Wall Street debuts in the coming days. Here, with some data from Renaissance Capital, is a quick look at what to expect

  • Stoke Therapeutics, led by former Sarepta CEO Ed Kaye, is looking to raise $101 million at a $509 million valuation to support its work on therapies for rare disease. 
  • Akero Therapeutics, like seemingly half of the drug industry, is developing a treatment for the fatty liver disease NASH, and it's seeking $75 million at a $430 million valuation to do so.
  • Among the preclinical entrants is Atreca, which is at work on a cancer immunotherapy it believes can work in harmony with checkpoint inhibitors like Keytruda and Opdivo. It’s raising $125 million at a $484 million valuation.
  • Fans of etymology will discern that Dermavant Sciences hails from the Roivant family of biotech startups and focuses on dermatology. The company wants $100 million and would be valued at $323 million.
  • Finally, Prevail Therapeutics is looking to raise $125 million to fund its work on gene therapies for neurological disorders including Parkinson’s disease and frontotemporal dementia. It would be valued at $672 million in the IPO.

Gilead’s Truvada patent issues aren’t over

Gilead Sciences has faced months of backlash over the HIV-prevention pill Truvada and the government’s purported role in discovering it. That all seemed to subside last month, when Gilead agreed to donate enough pills to cover 200,000 patients over about a decade, but now two lawmakers want a probe into just how Truvada came to be.

As STAT’s Ed Silverman reports, a pair of Democrats are asking the Government Accountability Office to look into how the feds handle patents and licenses when a new drug traces at least some of its development to taxpayer-funded science.

If, in fact, Truvada’s intellectual property is cribbed from public-sponsored research, “this would mean that a private entity has generated billions of dollars in revenue over several years while infringing on government-owned intellectual property, and that the government either failed to detect the infringement or was aware but failed to prevent it.”

Read more.

Do you want some Theranos news?

“No” is OK. 

Anyway, former Theranos President Sunny Balwani convinced a judge to let him fight his criminal and civil charges at the same time. This is a minor victory for Balwani, because now his attorneys can request information in the civil case that might inform their defense in the criminal one.

As a reminder, Balwani faces the same criminal fraud charges as Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos’s former CEO and his former girlfriend. Holmes is due back in court next month for a hearing that might finally set a debt for that criminal trial, in which she and Balwani could get a maximum of 20 years in prison and up to $2.7 million in fines.

In the meantime, Holmes has gotten married, according to Vanity Fair. So there’s also that.

More reads

  • Watch: An introduction to CBD — and what Washington might do about it. (STAT)
  • Celgene hands cancer drug back to BeiGene, plus $150 million. (Bloomberg)
  • Chicago biotech sues Third Rock, bluebird bio CEO over gene therapy license. (Boston Business Journal)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Tuesday, June 18, 2019


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