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The Readout Damian Garde

Arie Belldegrun’s party is still raging

In 2017, when Arie Belldegrun and the founders of Kite Pharma sold the company for $12 billion, they got the idea of starting a venture fund to invest their newfound largesse. But then word got out about the entrepreneur’s next act, and the phone began to ring.

“When they heard that we were coming with a fund, they wanted to be part of the party,” Belldegrun said. “So we created a type of a club — an investor club — of wealthy family offices.”

Now Vida Ventures, Belldegrun’s fund, has raised $600 million in a second financing round that comes just about a year after the first. And the plan, Belldegrun told STAT’s Kate Sheridan, is to use its financial might to take the lead on future startup financings.

Read more.

The CRISPR patent fight enters its name-calling phase

The dispute over who discovered the CRISPR genome editing technique used to hinge on which party was first. Now it’s escalated to accusations of outright lies.

As STAT’s Sharon Begley reports, a new filing from the University of California claims that scientists at the rival Broad Institute were dishonest with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office when it came to describing their work, saying that Broad scientist Feng Zhang “presented incomplete, cherry-picked data” to make it seem like he had successfully edited DNA. (The Broad dismissed the allegations as “baseless” and called UC’s tactic “unfortunate for the entire field.”)

Meanwhile, the nearly four-year-long dispute between the institutions marches on, with yet another hearing on the horizon.

Read more.

So when can we expect some Canadian drugs?

Yesterday, the Trump administration unveiled a plan that would allow Americans to import some drugs from Canada, where medicines tend to be considerably cheaper. 

That sounds simple enough, but, as STAT’s Nicholas Florko explains, the details are infinitely more complex.

For one, the plan doesn’t cover biologics, which tend to be the most expensive treatments on the market; it doesn’t allow individuals to order therapies from across the border; and it might take years before even a pilot program takes effect.

Read more.

And does pharma have anything to fear?

The drug industry lobby has long opposed drug-importation ideas like the one described above, and the specter of such a policy has loomed over pharma stock prices for months. So why did yesterday’s revelation have almost no effect on the market?

Because, in the words of EvercoreISI analyst Umer Raffat, “this proposal isn’t quite that bombshell importation proposal that Street had feared.” 

The proposal, Raffat notes, provides ample loopholes for drug companies to wriggle through. For one, it would only apply to drugs sold in Canada but manufactured in the U.S., inviting companies to simply switch up Canadian distribution to protect themselves. A second provision would allow drug companies to import their own drugs from foreign countries and sell them at a discount in the U.S., something almost no manufacturer would ever have incentive to do.

Add that to the fact that biologics are exempt from the rule, and the importation proposal looks like it would have negligible impact on the industry it’s meant to target.

More reads

  • China’s CRISPR push in animals promises better meat, novel therapies, and pig organs for people. (Science)
  • Why biotech companies are often at the whim of things they cannot control, in one chart. (STAT)
  • New owner of GE land ready to move forward. (Boston Globe)
  • DeepMind AI predicts acute loss of kidney function two days in advance, study shows. (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Thursday, August 1, 2019


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