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The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Are we sure personal genomics is a good business?

One year ago, Nebula Genomics was “pleased to offer free whole genome sequencing” to anyone willing to complete some surveys. Yesterday, it was pleased to pivot, now offering whole genome sequencing for $299 plus a subscription fee.

As OneZero reports, Nebula’s new business model still amounts to the cheapest way to get your genome sequenced, but it remains unclear whether that’s a product consumers particularly want. Veritas Genetics slashed the price of its sequencing service from $999 to $599, and then it shut down U.S. operations within six months.

Meanwhile, 23andMe and Ancestry, companies that sell much less exhaustive genetic tests, have laid off employees amid a dip in demand for at-home tests. Illumina, the biggest maker of testing machines, has forecast declining sales for the products it sells consumer genetics companies.

Nebula is betting that offering more genetic information and emphasizing privacy will make its offering successful. But the lesson from the company’s rivals might be that personal genomics is a shrinking market.

While Amarin celebrated, investors dumped shares

December brought vindication for Amarin, as the FDA agreed to expand the indication for Vascepa, the company’s treatment for cardiovascular disease. But while the stock price rose, institutional investors were selling, a sign of market skepticism for the one-product company.

As STAT’s Adam Feuerstein reports, the number of Amarin shares owned by institutional investment funds dropped 15% in the fourth quarter, according to filings with the SEC. Looking at hedge funds only, Amarin ownership fell 24% in the same period.

It could simply be a matter of taking profits on a hot stock — Amarin rose 41% during the fourth quarter. But it could also be a vote of no confidence, implying Amarin won’t be able to turn that FDA decision into blockbuster sales or, perhaps more relevant, a high-dollar sale to a larger company.

Read more.

Sanofi’s developing a coronavirus vaccine after all

In the early days of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the list of drug companies stepping up to help was noticeably light on multinational firms that have done this before. Yesterday, the storied vaccine developer Sanofi got into the game.

As STAT’s Helen Branswell reports, Sanofi will work with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, putting to use the technology it used in outbreaks past. It is the second major drug maker, after Johnson & Johnson, to commit to developing a vaccine for the novel virus.

It won’t be a quick process. Sanofi expects to have a vaccine candidate to test in the lab within six months and could be ready to test a vaccine in people within a year to 18 months.

Read more.

Your drug pricing questions for Sen. Grassley, answered

Sen. Chuck Grassley has long argued that the out-of-pocket costs for many drugs have ballooned out of control, and he insists both parties can come together to do something about it. So how’s he going to make that happen?

We invited STAT Plus subscribers to ask questions of the Senate Finance Committee chairman, and he came through with answers on Medicare for All, reining in middlemen, and preventing patent abuse. 

And the Iowa Republican stayed on brand, noting that “the jig is up” with intellectual property, pointing out that pharma’s profits “won’t amount to a hill of beans” if no one can afford its products, and insisting “you can bet your boots” that the rising cost of medicine will be on the minds of voters in November.

Read more.

More reads

  • In fighting outbreaks, Big Pharma struggles to get out front. (Bloomberg)
  • Consumer groups and unions try again to block AbbVie-Allergan merger. (STAT Plus)
  • The top 100 biopharma venture investors at the megabillions deal table. (Endpoints)
  • FDA calls states’ bluffs on drug importation. (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Wednesday, February 19, 2020


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