Friday, November 3, 2017

The Readout by Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Welcome to The Readout, where we keep you on top of the latest in biotech. For more in-depth coverage of biopharma, subscribe to STAT Plus. On Twitter: @damiangarde@megkesh, and @statnews.

Bob Langer has never heard of Slack

That's among the many facts you learned if you were at last night's STAT Plus event at LabCentral, where the aggressively patented MIT professor joined a pair of startup founders to discuss the agonies and ecstasies of biotech entrepreneurialism.

Andrew Warren, whose Glympse Bio is at work on a NASH diagnostic that might one day supplant painful liver biopsies, explained that while crafting a pitch deck can be frustrating and laborious, it's also "a good moment of reflection to step back from what you're doing and really get into the heads of whoever you're communicating with."

Monika Weber, who leads Fluid-Screen in its efforts to craft a rapid and handheld bacteria diagnostic, explained how critical it is for startups to pick employees who are not only qualified but share the "walk through walls" passion necessary to make a wild idea work.

And Langer, beyond sharing his opinions on workplace communications software, explained why, despite his entrepreneurial profligacy, he has never quit his professorial day job to work to do biotech full time.

"If you have a company, you have to focus," he said. "And I don't necessarily know that that's what I want our lab to do."

Tweaking the microbiome to help fight cancer?

It's a question that's baffled oncologists for decades: Why do some patients respond to cancer therapy, while others do not? 

One factor that's gaining import is the patient's microbiome: The specific cocktail of gut-dwelling beasties could help or harm a patient's treatment outcome. 

Two intriguing studies published yesterday in Science examine the relationship between microbial diversity and immunotherapy response. The upshot? Antibiotic use was linked to poorer outcomes, and certain "good" bacteria helped rev up the innate immune response.

Read more.

Biopharma responds to the Allergan IPR kerfuffle

BIO, the trade group, is stolidly backing Allergan’s recent patent dealings with the Mohawk tribe — echoing the company's argument that it had to find a creative solution to the patent challenges known as inter partes review. 

But the CEOs who belong to BIO don't march in lockstep. The Financial Times rounds up some noteworthy comments from the C-suite: 

Vertex CEO Jeffrey Leiden

“You have to make sure that you’re rewarding for innovation, not rewarding for other things — not rewarding for taking a 40-year-old drug price up 5,000 percent. And not rewarding for prolonging a patent by selling it to an Indian tribe. That stuff shouldn’t be allowed.”

Alnylam CEO John Maraganore

“I am sympathetic to what Brent did at Allergan, although it obviously backfired and I’m sure he’s not happy with how it worked out. All he was trying to do is…highlight the faults of the IPR system...[Where] the system is misused is when generic manufacturers are attacking in both court and IPR and getting multiple bites at the apple.”



(Jeniffer Keefe/STAT)

Axovant Sciences, the recently humbled Alzheimer's startup, had planned to tell the world this year whether its disappointing drug might have a future in another type of dementia.

But now that's not happening. Instead, Axovant is "reevaluating endpoints" in its trial, which includes a "plan to have a discussion with FDA to help us determine the most feasible and expeditious overall pathway to potential registration." And that means the data won't be ready until January.

Regardless of what tea leaves that may present for reading, it requires us to update our scorecard, as Axovant was once a member of biotech's fourth-quarter make-or-break club.

More reads

  • 7 ways biopharma could win (and lose) under the Republican tax bill. (STAT Plus)
  • Novartis and Amgen launch another BACE inhibitor study in Alzheimer's. (Endpoints)
  • Endo set to profit from an opioid it said was unsafe. (CNN)
  • A new partnership aims to use RNAi gene silencing to target NASH (Fierce Biotech)

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

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Thanks for reading! Until Monday,

Damian & Meghana

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