Monday, June 19, 2017

The Readout by Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Welcome to The Readout, brought to you this morning from the BIO conference in San Diego. Catch our dispatches from the convention floor in our one-week-only afternoon newsletter here. And follow us on Twitter: @damiangarde, @megkesh, @adamfeuerstein, and @statnews.

Adam Feuerstein is in the house

Hello. I’m here.

Today, I begin a new job as STAT’s national biotech columnist. I’m still setting up my desk and figuring out the location of the bathroom, but in short order you can expect me to write about the intersection of biotech and Wall Street, as I did for many years at TheStreet. Readers will get a window into how institutional investors analyze the clinical trial results, FDA approval decisions, and strategic business moves that make biotech stocks among the most interesting and volatile investments on Wall Street.

All delivered, of course, in my no-BS style.

To set the table, here are four trend lines I'll be watching this year:

1. Investors want clarity and real direction on health care policy, tax reform, and drug pricing amid the noise of Trump tweets and congressional grandstanding. Washington D.C. politicking is the 2017 earworm that refuses to go away.

2. Biotech and pharma M&A: Highly expected. Desperately wanted. Achingly absent. Will that change?

3. Generalist investors took $7 billion out of biotech funds 2016, but are starting to reinvest, slowly, in 2017. That helps explain why biotech stocks are outperforming the broader market this year, despite all the D.C. turmoil. Will the trend continue?

4. Arguably, the best way for the biopharma industry to shush its many vocal critics is to develop new, life-saving medicines. It’s a great way to woo back investors, too. Looming results from important clinical trials in Alzheimer’s, cancer immunotherapy, gene therapy, and rare diseases will tell us if a new age of blockbuster drugs is about to begin.

I’m excited to get started.

Have you considered an expansion to Estonia?

BIO is here once more, drawing thousands of industry types to San Diego, where booth after booth of foreign scouts will compete for their attention — and potential business — through cunning use of the freebie. A stuffed koala at the Australian pavilion, a glass of Bordeaux from the French delegation, a slice of manchego as you hear about biomanufacturing in Spain. 
But as STAT’s Rebecca Robbins reports, this year, there’s some immediacy. Baffled by the future of America’s tax policy and fearful of dwindling research funding, U.S. biotech executives might be that much more amenable to the idea of a foreign excursion. 
“We’ve got a tax system that Donald Trump and the Republicans would dream of,” said Steve Bates, head of the U.K.’s BioIndustry Association. 

Read more.

Camille Samuels, unfiltered

Camille Samuels, a venture partner at Venrock, is a fan of osmosis. First, because she’s a self-professed “math and science geek” and second, because through osmotic eavesdropping in biopharma hubs like Boston and San Francisco, one can quickly amass an entrepreneurial education.

Samuels chatted with STAT about the daily grind of being a VC, gender politics, why she’s into longevity, and how she’s contradicted herself on immuno-oncology. 

Read more on STAT Plus.

Your choice for a new Harvard president

Last week, we risked dismemberment by reaching into the rumor mill and picking four life sciences-affiliated candidates who might — perhaps, just maybe — end up running Harvard next year. Then we asked readers which one should get the job.

The winner, with 44 percent of the vote, was Gates Foundation CEO Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann, followed by Broad Institute President Eric Lander with 28 percent.

Desmond-Hellmann, who previously ran the University of California, San Francisco and developed cancer drugs at Genentech, would be Harvard's second-ever female president.

A bio report, in time for BIO

Invariably a flood of industry-scrutinizing reports comes out during BIO. Here’s the first: A look at biopharma performance from EY. 

The outlook is not particularly rosy. Threats to science funding and health reform, coupled with things like Brexit and the public’s outrage at drug pricing have the capital markets spooked.

But venture funding’s still strong, and investors from China in particular are stepping in. Also, long drug development timelines can be a blessing in disguise: For many companies, a slow and steady plod could help them weather the current storm of uncertainty.

Read more on STAT Plus.

More reads

  • The Parker Institute is teaming up with Singapore-based Tessa on 'next gen' immunotherapy. (Endpoints)
  • Pending executive order on drug prices could be a gift to pharma. (Kaiser Health News)
  • At pharma’s Academy Awards, the top prize went to … no one. (STAT Plus)
  • Arthur Laffer: Trump should negotiate voluntary pricing restraints with pharma. (Bloomberg)

Have a news tip or comment you want to send us?

Send us an email

Thanks for reading!  We'll be back tomorrow.

Damian & Meghana

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