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The Readout Damian Garde

Meet Kite’s new boss

Christi Shaw, who until yesterday was the leader of Eli Lilly’s pharma business, will be next to lead the CAR-T pioneer (and Gilead Sciences subsidiary) Kite Pharma.

Shaw previously spent years at Novartis, running the company’s U.S. operation in the early days of the CAR-T business. And it was her experience with CAR-T, which has led to some dramatic results in deadly cancers, that brought her to Kite.

“I really felt like it touched my heart,” Shaw said in her first interview about the move. “And I’d like to get back to something that is transformational, an innovation that can cure cancer.”

While CAR-T has proved to be a wildly promising approach to treating cancer, it has yet to live up to some high financial expectations. Gilead bought Kite in 2017 for $11.9 billion. Yescarta, the company’s first CAR-T therapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, generated sales of $96 million in the first quarter of 2019, compared to $40 million in the first quarter of 2018.

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Would you recognize Tom Hanks at a party?

Is drug pricing too complex for the Trump administration? And what does it mean when famous executives quit?

We discuss all that and more on the latest episode of “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. First, STAT Washington correspondent Lev Facher joins us to break down a baffling week for drug pricing in D.C., with a mysterious executive order, a pair of Trump administration setbacks, and a weighty closed-door meeting. Then, we discuss billionaire Sean Parker, his ever-growing work in immuno-oncology, and what it’s like on the business end of celebrity journalism. Later, STAT’s Matthew Herper joins us to remember Michael Becker, a biotech stalwart who became an arresting patient advocate after his cancer diagnosis.

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.

Pharma's rebate victory might prove pyrrhic

The Trump administration's decision to nix a pharma-supported idea is weighing on pharma stocks, as investors move on from a familiar devil and consider one altogether unknown.

The sudden demise of the rebate rule, which would have spared drug companies from making certain payments to the pharmacy benefit managers who negotiate on behalf of Medicare, increases the odds that Washington will move forward with ideas far more damaging to pharma, according to analysts.

The White House is working out a plan that would tie what Medicare pays for certain drugs to their prices overseas. At the same time, there’s growing bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled Senate for legislation that would cap annual price increases for certain Medicare-covered drugs.

And with drug pricing shaping up as a galvanizing issue in the 2020 election, Washington is all the more likely to get behind ideas that come at the expense of pharma, analysts said.

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Consumer genetics might have peaked

If you look closely at yesterday’s bad news from Illumina, the multibillion-dollar standard-bearer of the genomics industry, you might see a worrisome sign for the consumer genetics industry.

Illumina missed its quarterly revenue expectations and slashed its full-year sales guidance by more than 50%, a shocking turn that sent its stock price down about 20%. And the details are interesting: Illumina still expects its core sequencing business to grow about 10% in 2019, but its array services — driven by direct-to-consumer demand — are now expected to fall by 14% on weak demand.

That suggests consumer genetics companies, most of which are privately held, are ordering fewer genotyping arrays, which in turn suggests that actual human beings are buying fewer DNA tests, which could be yet another ominous sign for an industry in flux.

More reads

  • 'There's a lot of screaming into the void': Toddler's parents battle for $2.1 million gene therapy. (Washington Post)
  • Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker’s plan to curb drug prices strains his relationship with biotechs. (STAT Plus)
  • Germany belatedly finds that most new drugs did not offer meaningful benefits. (STAT Plus)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Friday, July 12, 2019


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