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The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Sean Parker’s immunotherapy leader moves on

Jeffrey Bluestone, the UCSF scientist tapped to run billionaire Sean Parker’s immunotherapy institute back in 2016, has stepped down to run a company of his own.

As STAT’s Matthew Herper reports, Bluestone’s next act is leading Sonoma Biotherapeutics, a startup developing genetically altered immune cells to treat cancer. The company raised $40 million to get started, drawing from a syndicate that includes Arch Venture Partners and 8VC.

Bluestone’s departure means the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, launched with a $250 million commitment from its namesake, will need new leadership.

Read more.

Biogen’s (other) big risk went away

The multibillion-dollar uncertainty haunting Biogen disappeared yesterday. 

As STAT’s Adam Feuerstein reports, a federal panel ruled against Mylan in its effort to dispute a key patent to Biogen’s best-selling drug, a multiple sclerosis therapy called Tecfidera. Thanks to the ruling a drug that brings in about $4 billion a year for Biogen won’t face generic competition until 2028. Had Mylan prevailed, a generic Tecfidera could have entered the market as early as next year.

We still don’t know the fate of aducanumab, the company’s controversial treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, but the end of the Tecfidera drama added about $11 billion to Biogen's valuation.

Read more.

How Mayor Pete would regulate drug prices

Without wading into the Rube Goldberg machine that is the infinite Iowa caucus, one definite takeaway is that it was positive for Pete Buttigieg. The former mayor of South Bend, Ind., appears to have received the second most votes of any candidate, behind Sen. Bernie Sanders. And that feels like reason enough to take a closer look at his ideas on drug pricing.

As STAT’s Lev Facher reports, Buttigieg’s drug pricing platform is strikingly similar to that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It’s aggressive, but wonkily so. For instance, his plan would task the health secretary with negotiating lower prices for certain expensive drugs, and manufacturers who hold out would be punished with rapidly escalating taxes. He’s also in favor of exercising so-called march-in rights, which would allow the government to approve generics before a given drug loses patent protection.

“It’s up to the industry whether this is gonna have to be a war or not,” Buttigieg told STAT in October. “But success for patients shouldn’t have to mean defeat for drug makers.”

Read more.

And speaking of the Democratic primary, you can find more candid comments on the rising cost of medicine from the rest of the candidates here.

How trash becomes treasure in biotech

Attenua’s plans didn’t exactly work out. The company raised $35 million in 2018 to see whether some repurposed drugs could treat chronic cough. It turns out they could not, which is likely why Attenua’s website disappeared.

But CODA Biotherapeutics didn’t see that as a dead end. As STAT’s Kate Sheridan reports, the company just paid an undisclosed sum for Attenua and its pipeline of once-failed therapies. CODA has no interest in cough. Instead, the company sees Attenua’s drugs as potential off-switches for gene therapy. And through that lens, their failure in prior human trials is a feature, not a bug.

“We said, well, let’s use one or two or three or four of these drugs that have been abandoned but have been vetted through hundreds of patients,” CODA CEO Mike Narachi said. “They’re safe molecules. As a category, thousands and thousands of patients have been exposed to these drugs.”

Read more.

More reads

  • Sanofi reports positive results on multiple sclerosis drug licensed from Principia (STAT Plus)
  • Health care VCs haven't made plans for a Bernie Sanders win. (Axios)
  • Gilead loses its challenge to a pair of U.S. patents for an HIV prevention pill. (STAT Plus)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Thursday, February 6, 2020

STAT

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