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The Readout

Is it time to worry about biotech IPOs?

Entasis Therapeutics had a tidy story. The world is demonstrably in need of new antibacterials, and the company, spun off from AstraZeneca, has a pipeline of therapies that fit that very definition. And yet within hours of going public yesterday, Entasis’s shares fell nearly 30 percent.

This year has been the best in recent memory for biotech IPOs, with 45 companies going public. But, accounting for Entasis, 40 percent of those companies are now trading below their IPO prices. And a handful of them — including Constellation Pharmaceuticals, Neon Therapeutics, and Unity Biotechnology — are down despite reporting no negative news since going public.

The median return on 2018’s IPO class is still positive, but it’s on the decline. As of yesterday, the median company was up about 7 percent; back in June, that number was 19 percent.

It could be a case-by-case story of investor discern. Or it could be a sign that the market is beginning to sour on once-lofty biotech valuations. We’ll have to wait and see.

The sunshine law could get brighter

Congress is considering a significant expansion of the sunshine laws that govern drug companies' behavior, requiring them to disclose payments and gifts not just to doctors but also nurses and physician assistants.

As STAT's Lev Facher reports, the provision is tucked into the more than 600-page opioid bill now moving through Congress, and it could get passed in the coming weeks.

The idea comes just a week after the pharma giant AbbVie was accused of using using registered nurses it had hired to ensure that prescriptions for its blockbuster drug Humira were regularly refilled.

Read more.

Genetic testing is booming in China

In 2015, when 23Mofang first started selling genetic tests, it shipped 1,500 kits. This year, it has moved more than 156,000.

As Yi-Ling Liu reports, simple spit tests have exploded in popularity in China, driven by demand from tech-savvy and college-educated young professionals interested both in what genetic screening can tell them about their health and their identities.

Customers “are particularly interested in how their genes might inform their day-to-day lifestyle choices, like their exercise routines, skin care regimes or diet habits,” said Zhou Kun, 23Mofang’s CEO. It’s part of a wide embrace of genomics in China, where rising living standards have created a growing demand for sequencing.

Read more.

Is Congress getting enough from its grand pharma bargain?

Back in 1997, in an effort to incentivize pharma to develop drugs for children, Congress offered the industry an extra six months of market exclusivity in exchange for running pediatric trials. But has the program found the societal benefit it sought?

As STAT's Ed Silverman reports, a new study takes up that very question. The good news is that the program led to hundreds of trials that, in some cases, resulted in approvals for children who might otherwise have gone without treatment. But on the other end, the added six months of monopoly delayed the debut of generics, which cost the system about $176 million per drug at the median.

Read more.

More reads

  • Gilead suffers another setback in a confusing battle over a hepatitis C patent. (STAT Plus)
  • U.S., Cuban research institutes create first joint biotech venture. (NBC News)
  • Merck CEO to remain in job after turning 65. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Lessons Learned: Here’s how you job hunt while postdoc-ing overseas. (STAT Plus)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Thursday, September 27, 2018


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