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The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Former Gates CEO sounds off on Covid-19

There's a small community of coronavirus experts out there. Susan Desmond-Hellman is not part of it. But as a former CEO of the Gates Foundation and prominent executive at Genentech, she brings a unique perspective on the outbreak now playing out globally. 

Her take: While it’s perfectly reasonable to be concerned, now is not the time to panic. There are actions the public can take, she told STAT’s Matthew Herper.

“It’s frightening for people to have a known virus … and it feels very scary,” she said. Simple public health measures, however, should keep the pathogen from getting out of control, she said — such as the requisite hand-washing and avoidance of nonessential travel. With these measures, most people should be able to protect themselves and their families from getting seriously ill, she said.

Read more.

Gene and cell therapies are gaining steam

More than 4,500 people in the U.S. and Europe have received gene therapies — including CAR-T treatments — according to a new report. That figure could increase dramatically, however. There were more than 1,000 clinical trials for gene therapies underway at the end of 2019, and regenerative medicine trials have room for more than 60,000 patients to enroll around the world.

Notably, financing for the field hit $9.8 billion last year, and the report found that there’s an increase in reimbursements for hospitals that provide costly CAR-T treatments — both indicators that this is a burgeoning field.

Read more.

Does ‘The Art of the Deal’ cover vaccines?

Is patient privacy a relic of the past? And how big can biotech get in China? 

We discuss all that and more on this, the latest episode of “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. First, we discuss the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the White House’s response, and what drug companies are doing to potentially help. 

Then, STAT’s Erin Brodwin joins us to discuss how Big Tech’s appetite for patient data has problematic implications for privacy. Finally, STATs China health care writer Jonathan Chan calls in from Hong Kong to discuss China’s fast-growing biotech industry and the challenges it faces ahead. 

Listen here.

Progressives push for affordable coronavirus vaccine

Drug makers have laid out a fairly rapid timeline for a coronavirus vaccine: one to two years. But a cadre of progressive Democrats fear that some companies may try and justify the breakneck speed with a higher price tag. They're now pressuring the Trump administration to levy cost controls on potential vaccines for the rapid-moving pathogen. 

Progressives held a press conference yesterday, STAT’s Nicholas Florko writes, and in doing so highlighted a bill that would create an independent committee to set prices for all drugs created using federal research. 

Read more.

Biosimilars need well-rounded health care support

Today’s the five-year anniversary for the first biosimilar in the U.S. On March 6, 2015, Sandoz’s Zarxio, a bone marrow stimulant, was approved as a viable alternative to Amgen’s Neupogen. But it’s taken all this time for Zarxio to gain more than half of the market share — even though it’s less costly than the branded version. 

That’s because “ambiguity around the term ‘biosimilarity’ and disinformation campaigns by some innovator companies have sown doubt among providers and played,” according to one biosimilar purveyor, who opines for STAT about the sector’s slow start. It’ll take a concerted effort from all players in the therapeutics landscape — from legislators to payers to manufacturers — to bring these less-costly medications to patients who need them. 

Read more.

More reads

  • The search for new drugs for coronavirus faces long odds. (Bloomberg)
  • Bristol Myers Squibb unveils new branding, will phase out Celgene brand. (MM&M)
  • The right medicine for the world economy. (The Economist)

Thanks for reading! Until next week,

Friday, March 6, 2020


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