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The Readout Damian Garde

Why are biotech stocks in the dumps?

Is the latest in cancer care overhyped? And what does "folie à deux" mean?

We discuss all that and more on the latest episode of “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. First, we dig into what was an abysmal month for biotech on Wall Street and pick apart whether better days might be ahead. Then, Kaiser Health News senior correspondent Liz Szabo joins us to talk about the financial toxicity that cancer patients face for pricey tests and targeted treatments. And STAT deputy multimedia director Alissa Ambrose talks about her experience with postpartum depression, an under-discussed condition that affects about 15 percent of mothers who have recently given birth.

You can listen to the episode here. And you can expect another episode next Thursday evening — and every Thursday evening — so be sure to sign up on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Things did not go well for Alkermes



A bunch of scientists and doctors spent all day yesterday talking about whether Alkermes' new depression drug deserves FDA approval, but they probably could have just stopped at the slide above. As you can see, Alkermes says two of its clinical trials were positive, and the FDA simply does not agree.

So, as STAT's Adam Feuerstein reports, a panel of FDA advisers voted against approving the drug. And that's bad for Alkermes, which has spent years fighting the uphill battle of convincing investors that its therapy, meant for treatment-resistant depression, had a shot at becoming a product one day.

The panel's vote doesn't guarantee an FDA rejection, but it makes one overwhelmingly likely.

Read more.

With one FDA approval in the bag, RNAi companies dare to dream

It took two decades and a few billion dollars to turn the discovery of RNA into an actual product. Now, two months after Alnylam Pharmaceuticals' pioneering FDA approval, scientists in the field say they're just getting started.

As STAT's Kate Sheridan reports, major drug makers have taken a renewed interest on the gene-silencing technologies, signing three big-money deals in the last month alone. And that has energized the handful of small companies that have toiled in RNAi for decades. 

“You know that a field has matured when you stop talking about [technology] and you start talking about the drugs. We’re getting there,” said Chris Anzalone, CEO of Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals. “I think we are just entering the golden age of RNAi.”

Read more.

California biotech needs a few (hundred) good women

A new California law is set to require publicly traded companies to get some gender diversity on their boards of directors. And in the life sciences industry, that's going to mean finding women to fill hundreds of board seats in the coming years, according to a new analysis.

As STAT's Rebecca Robbins reports, the law is likely to spur a battle for female talent among biotech firms and force companies to reach outside their personal networks to find women board members — which was exactly the point of the law in question.

According to Liftstream, an executive search firm, the California life sciences industry will need to appoint 126 women to its boards by the end of 2019 and as many as 456 by the end of 2021.

Read more.

More reads

  • DNA sequencing giant Illumina will buy Pacific Biosciences for $1.2 billion. (Forbes)
  • Dan Best, the government’s top drug pricing adviser, has died. (STAT)
  • Magenta’s stem cell expansion therapy reveals hope and concern in first data look. (STAT Plus)
  • Merck cuts back on vaccine commitment to West Africa as China shipments ramp up. (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until next week,


Friday, November 2, 2018


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