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The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

The acrimonious saga behind one coronavirus vaccine

Sinovac is very much in the race for the first coronavirus vaccine. The company, headquartered in Beijing, published positive preclinical data in Science and has already begun a Phase 1 trial and set out plans for a larger study.

But unlike peers Moderna and Inovio Pharmaceuticals, which have added billions in market value since January, Sinovac hasn’t seen its share price increase by even a penny. That’s because trading of Sinovac stock has been halted since early 2019, the result of an acrimonious fight between shareholders and management.

The full story involves a secret coup attempt, an alleged office raid, and the activation of a rarely seen corporate defense mechanism that has the two parties fighting it out in courthouses around the world.

Read more.

The latest biotech IPO has an air of suspense

A biotech startup is seeking $100 million in an IPO, and failure could put the company out of business.

Applied Molecular Transport has burned nearly $30 million a year for the past two years, and it had just $16 million in cash as of March 31. The company’s IPO prospectus, filed with the SEC this week, carries the auditor-mandated warning that there is “substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern” in one year’s time.

Timing might be on the company’s side. The S&P biotech index has been hitting all-time highs this month, as drug development has emerged as an investor darling in an otherwise volatile market. Applied Molecular Transport’s pipeline — which includes treatments for inflammatory bowel disease and autoimmune disorders — has nothing to do with Covid-19, but the pandemic-inspired rosy sentiment around biotech might help the company stay afloat.

A deep look at Covid-19’s mechanics might signal how to treat it

The novel coronavirus attacks cells in a manner virologists have never seen, according to recent studies, but a close examination of its infectious behavior might light the way to new treatments.

As STAT’s Sharon Begley reports, most viruses proliferate by blocking two of the body’s genetic defenses: the one that mobilizes a reaction and the one that calls for back up from the immune system. But the novel coronavirus only attacks the first one, scientists said. That disables the body’s first-line of defense, allowing the virus to replicate, but still drums up an inflammatory response from immune cells.

That could explain why patients with Covid-19 often develop severe and life-threatening immune reactions in the lungs. And it could point to an effective therapy, one that replicates the defenses coronavirus interrupts.

Read more.

Health plans aren’t doing biosimilars any favors

The adoption of biosimilars in the United States has fallen short of expectations since they became available a few years ago. One reason: They get the cold shoulder from health plans when it comes to preferred coverage.

A new analysis, STAT’s Ed Silverman reports, found that 17 of the largest commercial health plans last year rarely preferred these versions of brand-name biologics when crafting coverage decisions. The data showed health plans required patients first try a biosimilar before gaining access to a brand-name biologic only 14% of the time.

“Candidly, I found the results quite shocking,” said James Chambers, an associate professor in health economics at Tufts Medical Center and a co-author of the analysis, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “If health plans don’t prioritize coverage for biosimilars, then utilization will never grow.”

Read more.

More reads

  • Moderna would never release coronavirus vaccine data different from ‘reality,’ chairman says. (CNBC)
  • AstraZeneca, Merck race past Clovis as PARPs break into prostate cancer. (BioPharma Dive)
  • Life with lupus: Trump’s hydroxychloroquine hype puts my treatment — and himself — at risk. (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Thursday, May 21, 2020

STAT

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