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The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Good morning! Quick reminder: Thursday is the deadline to enter our 2021 STAT Madness competition to choose the most exciting biomedical discovery or innovation of the past year. Details here.

Biotech’s hottest club is an app-based party line

Clubhouse, an invite-only chat app, is gradually gaining steam among biotech investors looking for a place to talk shop that’s neither as risky as in-person meetings nor as chaotic as Twitter.

As STAT’s Kate Sheridan reports, Clubhouse has hosted a handful of biotech-focused discussions in recent weeks, attracting a few hundred participants. The iPhone app functions like an old-fashioned party line, inviting users to listen in on a given conversation and drop out whenever they’d like. 

That leads to the kind of frank, illuminating conversations that seem to happen less and less often on other social media platforms, users said. “It’s a totally different interaction,” said Henry Peck, who hosts a med-tech conversation on Clubhouse. “These are some of the most powerful, important, well-recognized, well-known people in the space asking each other questions and having a thoughtful dialogue.” 

Read more.

How do you top a world-changing vaccine?

In less than a year, Moderna developed a Covid-19 vaccine that has made its way around the world, delivering a vital weapon in the effort to end the SARS-CoV-2 crisis. But on Wall Street, that’s old news, and investors seem to be souring on Moderna’s pandemic-inflated stock price.

As the Boston Globe reports, among the 17 analysts covering the company, six have given a “hold” rating and two list it as a “sell.” Moderna’s share price has fallen by almost a quarter since December as the exuberance over its scientific marvel gave way to anxiety about execution.

Moderna’s task ahead is to manufacture and distribute up to 1 billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, difficult for any company, let alone one that has never before sold a product. Then there’s the demand for a follow-up act. Moderna’s valuation depends on the continued success of its pipeline, which, despite the company’s making history in Covid-19, is hardly guaranteed.

Read more.

Biden’s biggest Covid-19 challenges

Later today, when President-elect Biden drops that second word from his title, he’ll inherit a complicated crisis, a fractured Congress, and the monumental task of running an unprecedented vaccination drive.

Between vaccine-hesitancy, mask-resistance, and a creaking supply chain, Biden’s goal of suppressing the spread of Covid-19 while setting up a massive vaccination campaign will be beset by challenges. A team of STAT reporters pulled together the major hurdles ahead and what it will take to overcome them.

Read more.

It’s a good time to be raising money in biotech

With closely watched XBI biotech index hitting yet another all-time high, 2021 is proving to be lucrative for companies seeking to turn their soaring stock prices into actual cash.

Seven biotech firms launched stock offerings yesterday alone, joining the nine companies that have filed to do the same since the start of the year. Ten biotechs have successfully priced public offerings in January alone, raising a combined $843 million, according to Nasdaq.

The spurt of secondary offerings is the latest evidence that 2020’s bull market for biotech can endure into 2021. The year’s first IPOs have traded up, and a handful of a high-dollar deals have helped keep the sector’s momentum moving upward.

More reads

  • How Trump’s Covid chaos drowned the FDA in junk science. (Vanity Fair)
  • Eli Lilly to pay Merus as much as $1.6 billion in cancer team-up. (Bloomberg)
  • What to watch in a Biden White House and a new Congress. (STAT+)
  • 'Bluest of blue-chip investors' pump $94 million into Verve Therapeutics. (Endpoints)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

STAT

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