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The Readout Damian Garde

How's biotech doing in China?

How should you talk to friends about rejection? And can Facebook actually improve the lives of children? 

We discuss all that and more on the latest episode of “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. First, we talk about the FDA's surprise decision to reject a drug from Sarepta Therapeutics — and the company's curious way of explaining it. Then, STAT's Shraddha Chakradhar joins us to talk about the growing online community devoted to helping toddlers get access to Zolgensma, Novartis's $2.1 million rare disease treatment. Finally, biotech investor Brad Loncar dials in to explain how the Chinese biotech sector has evolved and where it's headed.

You can listen to the episode here. To listen to future episodes, be sure to sign up on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Amgen isn’t abandoning amyloid when it comes to Alzheimer’s

Amgen, alongside partner Novartis, is the latest drug company to watch a once-promising treatment for Alzheimer’s disease fail before reaching the finish line. That drug, like so many before it, was meant to stop the accumulation of a brain plaque called beta-amyloid, long thought to play a role in Alzheimer’s.

But that doesn’t mean Amgen is walking away from the so-called amyloid hypothesis, said Dr. David Reese, the company’s executive vice president of R&D. There’s indisputable evidence that amyloid plays a role in Alzheimer’s, Reese said. The problem with all those failed drugs might be that they arrived too late to interrupt the plaque’s effects on the brain.

“When I hear people say amyloid has nothing to do with the disease, I don’t necessarily buy that,” Reese said. “It may be that you need to intervene very, very early to prevent that cascade. And I think those are the sorts of questions that we in the field need to sort out.”

Read more.

Trump 2016 railed against pharma. Trump 2020, not so much

There was a time when President Trump vilified the drug industry, what with its “gouging” and “getting away with murder.” That time, it would seem, has passed.

At a recent rally in New Hampshire, Trump spent just 30 seconds of a 90-minute speech talking about drug prices, reports STAT’s Nicholas Florko. At a 2016 event in the same state, he devoted quadruple that time to the issue.

And if the attendees of the latest rally are any indication, the president’s pivot hasn’t alienated his base. In dozens of conversations with STAT, not one Trump supporter cited health care, let alone drug prices, as a top reason for supporting Trump in 2020. 

Read more.

Amgen, Alexion, y lunes de fusión

Speaking of Amgen, dedicated readers of the Spanish news site will know that the company is, according to sources, poised to offer $200 a share for Alexion Pharmaceuticals.

Those of you whose news diet does not include the publication that produces “El Gato al Agua” might wonder: How reliable is It turns out the publication’s according-to-sources buyout reports have tended not to come true over the years (with a couple notable exceptions), which is to say the cat might not reach the water on this one.

But that didn’t stop Alexion from trading up about 8% yesterday. “We can debate the validity of the source, sure,” Mizuho analyst Salim Syed wrote in a note investors, “but the concept of this happening doesn’t sound too crazy to me.” Syed notes that Amgen has been particularly cagey about M&A questions of late, and “merger Monday is only a few days away.”

Buen fin de semana.

More reads

  • The next trick for CRISPR is gene-editing pain away. (MIT Tech Review)
  • Report: The Sacklers controlled Purdue like the Godfather controlled the Mafia. (STAT Plus)
  • Time to throw in the towel on biosimilars. (Wall Street Journal)

Thanks for reading! Until next week,


Friday, August 23, 2019


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