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The Readout Damian Garde

Pelosi's pricing plan is out, and we've got questions

Nancy Pelosi finally unveiled her much-anticipated plan to lower drug prices, and it’s certainly thorough. If passed, the bill would allow the government to negotiate drug prices, create a price cap for drugs based on their cost in foreign countries, and force pharma to pay back price hikes above inflation.

But a lot’s still unclear, STAT’s Nicholas Florko and Lev Facher write — including whether legislators on either side of the aisle will go for the new pricing deal. Major questions about the finer points of the plan also linger, such as how many drugs would be on the negotiating table — and which. 

Read more.

Who puts horns on unicorns?

How do graying drug companies find green ideas? And what would mice tweet?

We discuss all that and more on the latest episode of “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. First, we talk about Ginkgo Bioworks, its multibillion-dollar valuation, and how the age of unicorns is reshaping biotech. Then, Amgen top scientist David Reese stops in to talk about how the storied company is working to ferret out new science to replace its older drugs. Later, the scientist behind @JustSaysInMice comes by to explain the inspiration behind his mini-viral Twitter account and how it has (arguably) changed scientific discourse online.

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.

Microbiome scientists peer into the genital tract

Feces is old hat, so to speak, in the burgeoning microbiome economy. But there’s a new frontier in harvesting the microbes we secrete: Scientists are testing whether vaginal microbiota transplants may help treat diseases like bacterial vaginosis, an inflammatory condition caused when the balance of bacteria goes topsy-turvy. 

Other conditions — including preterm birth — could also be linked to an upset vaginal microbiome, STAT’s Kate Sheridan writes. That’s why both researchers and for-profit companies now see potential in developing new therapeutics that target the microbial flora of the genital tract. 

Read more.

Scandal aside, Novartis stands firm behind Zolgensma

Novartis, which is still recovering from that ugly little data scandal, is doubling down on the potential of its spinal muscular atrophy drug, Zolgensma. 

The drug maker unveiled some new data at the European Pediatric Neurology Society annual meeting in Athens — showing that infants who had a severe form of the disease but weren’t yet symptomatic took the drug and were able to sit and stand. Normally, as BiopharmaDive writes, children with severe SMA are never able to sit, and most die by the time they’re 2.

Novartis also said that while an infant participating in the trial did die, the cause of death was not from taking Zolgensma — but from brain damage stemming from a respiratory tract infection. 

More reads

  • Amid privacy concerns, startup becomes first consumer DNA company to offer anonymous sequencing (STAT)
  • McConnell warns Pelosi's pricing plan is 'DOA'. (Politico)
  • MedTech FDA proposes new market pathway for devices touting safety innovations. (FierceBiotech)

Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend,


Friday, September 20, 2019


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