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The Readout Damian Garde

CAR-T works, so why stop at cancer?

The advent of CAR-T cancer therapy, in which human immune cells are rewired to attack tumors, has transformed treatment for certain blood malignancies. And while there are hundreds of clinical trials trying to expand its utility to other tumor types, a growing number of scientists see a future in which CAR-T could treat diseases that have nothing to with cancer.

As STAT’s Andrew Joseph reports, researchers in academia and industry are exploring whether genetically engineered T cells can treat immunological diseases including lupus and the rare pemphigus. The idea is to program CAR-T cells not to seek out tumors but rather the aberrant antibodies that cause autoimmune disorders.

It’s all taking place in test tubes and mice at the moment, but scientists say the early results are promising.

Read more.

The Theranos saga enters the courtroom

Today, former CEO Elizabeth Holmes is due in court for a status hearing that might result in a trial date on all those fraud charges, according to Fox Business. Over the past few weeks, Holmes’s attorneys have been squabbling with government prosecutors, requesting millions of pages of documents and pushing for a trial delay.

When will this whole Theranos thing be close to wrapping up? Hard to say.

Even if a trial date gets set today, the process is likely to take months and could well stretch into next year, which is probably enough time for another book, three more documentaries, and at least two feature films.

The first test of AbbVie’s post-Humira future is upon us

AbbVie has the enviable privilege of marketing the world’s best-selling drug in the form of Humira, which brought in about $20 billion in revenue last year. But, despite the company’s herculean legal efforts, Humira is likely to face biosimilar competition come 2023. And, in the aftermath of a painful experience in oncology, Wall Street is understandably antsy about how AbbVie plans to grow in a post-Humira world.

Which brings us to this Thursday, which is when the FDA is expected to make a final decision on risankizumab, an injected treatment for psoriasis that AbbVie claims will bring in peak sales of $5 billion a year. Alongside upadacitinib, a rheumatoid arthritis drug that could win approval later this year, risankizumab is key to AbbVie’s future in autoimmune disease, a market it has long dominated thanks to Humira.

Both drugs would enter crowded markets, and analysts’ sales expectations are considerably less rosy than AbbVie’s. But the company believes it can offset Humira’s soon-to-dwindle returns and even exceed its yesteryear performance. 

First, AbbVie has to convince the FDA.

Democracy is bad for biotech stocks

With a presidential election on the horizon, televised discussions about the rising cost of medicine are only getting more frequent. And, if past campaigns are any indication, biotech indices are in for a rough cycle. 

EvercoreISI analyst Josh Schimmer took a look at stock performance during the 2012 and 2016 cycles and found an ominous trend: Biotech slumps when stump speeches abound, and the decline usually begins 18 months before election day and doesn't reverse until after the ballots are counted.

That's an annoyance for major drug makers, but, as Schimmer points out, it can be debilitating for upstart companies years away from marketing their drugs. Sector-wide downturns lead to investors pulling their money out of the sector, and that can starve small-cap biotech companies with no choice but to raise cash on an unfriendly market.

More reads

  • Second death in Novartis gene therapy trials under investigation (Reuters)
  • Can virtual reality boost positive feelings in patients with depression? (STAT)
  • United Therapeutics is accused of unfairly blocking generic rival. (Washington Post)
  • This genetic mutation makes people feel full — all the time. (New York Times)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Monday, April 22, 2019


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