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The Readout

Not every biotech IPO is going well


It has been a red-letter year for biotech IPOs, what with more than $4 billion raised and an average return of about 25 percent. But one recent debutante, despite blue-chip backing and nothing resembling bad news, has fallen out with the pack.

Neon Therapeutics is down 55 percent since its June IPO, steadily sliding each day before crashing another 10 percent yesterday. The company, at work on cancer vaccines meant to work alongside immunotherapy, hasn’t announced any major news since going public. It hasn’t been rendered irrelevant by some competitor or swept up in a wave of negative sector-wide sentiment, as the above statistics illustrate.

And Neon’s swoon comes despite an enviable pedigree. Among its founders is famed cancer researcher James Allison; its biggest VC investor is the well-regarded Third Rock Ventures; and its board includes the Broad Institute's Eric Lander.

Sometimes, even in biotech, stocks just go down.

The opioid bill isn't going to bail out Big Pharma

Since February, when Congress demanded that drug companies pay more for drugs used by Medicare patients, the pharma lobby has been itching for a way to revert things back to how they were. But the latest idea, attaching a fix to the bipartisanly popular opioid bill, is going nowhere.

As STAT's Nicholas Florko and Lev Facher report, the latest version of that bill will not contain a provision that relieves pharma of that responsibility. And it won't contain any vestiges of a separate bill meant to speed up the approval of generics, which had been floated as a bargaining chip to convince Democrats to give pharma a hand.

Read more.

What now for Amarin?

Amarin shocked biotech — and cardiology — with yesterday's revelation that its prescription-grade fish oil pill cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes by 25 percent. But the story is far from over for the industry's latest come-from-behind story.

As STAT's Adam Feuerstein points out, the short-term news is all positive for Amarin and its heart pill, Vascepa. Right now, we have only top-line data to go on. On Nov. 10, a date circled by investors and cardiologists alike, Amarin will present more detailed results, which could reveal warts in the data that confound today's exuberance. And then there's the FDA: Amarin's success won't matter if it can't convince the agency to widen Vascepa's label.

Read more.

And speaking of Amarin, the company's news means an update to our emoji-powered scorecard of major biotech invents, which is filling up as the quarter winds down. Still to come: make-or-break data from Esperion Therapeutics, TG Therapeutics, and Insmed.

When in doubt, pivot to marijuana

“Intrexon Announces Advances in Production of Medical Cannabis,” reads the press release that sent a biotech company’s stock price up 35 percent yesterday. 

The company, which has to date focused on engineering mosquitoes and fish, has come up with a process to manufacture medicinal cannabinoids, according to the release, which provided little in the way of detail and nothing resembling a timeline. That process has “potential to provide greater supply-chain security,” it goes on, and “avoids the resource-intensive isolation that often leads to quality and quantity variability in end products,” which is sure to please fans of supply-chain security and critics of resource-intensive isolation alike.

The stock move, Intrexon’s biggest single-day jump in more than three years, comes amid hyperbolic Wall Street interest in anything even arguably related to marijuana. Tilray, a Canadian producer of medicinal marijuana products, has largely returned to earth after watching its stock price double in a matter of days, but the fervor hasn’t subsided in biotech. Last week, Corbus Pharmaceuticals gained more than $100 million in market value after paying $250,000 for the rights to some endocannabinoid-related drugs that are years away from becoming actual products.

More reads

  • I was right to fight off Pfizer, says AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot. (The Times)
  • The trials that help drug makers win FDA approval have a median cost of only $19 million. (STAT Plus)
  • As China builds biotech sector, cash floods U.S. startups. (Reuters)
  • Tiny device is a 'huge advance' for treatment of severe heart failure. (New York Times)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Tuesday, September 25, 2018


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