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The Readout Damian Garde

Today’s the day for Bristol-Myers-Celgene

After three months of debate, dissent, and seemingly infinite PowerPoint slides, the end of the Bristol-Myers-Celgene saga is upon us.

This morning, at 10 a.m. ET, Bristol shareholders will vote on whether to approve the company’s $74 billion merger with Celgene. Fans of shareholder meetings can livestream the proceedings here. But be warned: A pair of endorsements from influential advisory firms put an end to most of the swashbuckling, and the deal is expected to pass with ease. 

But that doesn’t mean the story is over. Stay tuned to STAT after the final vote for some analysis of what’s next for the combined company.

How do you sell lefty ideas to righty politicians?

What’s going on at Gilead Sciences? And why are biotech investors freaking out?

We discuss all that and more on the latest episode of “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. First, STAT D.C. correspondent Lev Facher joins us to talk about Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s efforts to convince conservatives that tying Medicare payments to overseas drug prices is a good idea. Then, we delve into how the federal government’s sudden scrutiny over investments from China is rattling biotech. That’s followed by quick explorations of a debate over the ethics of animal research, the scientific history of a new Amgen drug, and why Gilead’s latest move is inspiring more fret than relief.

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

Are health care's buzziest unicorns overvalued?

Screen capture from the "2019 Healthcare Prognosis" report (Venrock)

Some people in the industry think so, according to a new report from Venrock. The Silicon Valley venture firm surveyed people working in health tech and other areas of health care; more than 250 of them responded. Those who filled out the survey were told of PitchBook's recent valuation estimates of several of health care's buzziest private companies worth over $1 billion. Asked whether those estimates line up with their actual "market potential," many respondents answered with skepticism.

Genetic testing company 23andMe fared the best of the batch, with nearly half of respondents saying the company's estimated valuation was in line with reality. Butterfly Network, a startup working on a portable ultrasound, didn't fare as well, with only 6% of respondents deeming it to be worth its estimated $1.25 billion valuation. And who knows how to assess perceptions of the ambitious Google spinout Verily, which has yet to be attached to a valuation estimate. (And for folks keeping score at home, Verily isn't technically a unicorn because its parent company, Alphabet, is publicly traded.)

A curious case of corporate science

The journal "Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases" is not widely known for its high drama. So it might come as a surprise that in 2018, it published a letter-to-the-editor that would end up drawing curse words from urologists and making biomedical executives nervous.

As STAT's Eric Boodman reports, the matter at hand was some data that employees of Beckman Coulter had left out of a recent paper about a diagnostic test. The company has refused to release the requested numbers — and in doing so raised some serious scientific and ethical questions.

And many see this as just one example of a wider phenomenon in which science is spun for the benefit of companies marketing clinical tests.

Read more.

More reads

  • AskBio’s $235 million financing provides clues to the direction of gene therapy investment. (STAT Plus)
  • Intercept tries to outrun pharma in race for the next blockbuster. (Bloomberg)
  • Evofem Biosciences raises $80m for new hormone-free contraceptive. (Financial Times)
  • Scientists still don’t know what gives ketamine its antidepressant effect. Stressed mice might offer a clue. (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until next week,


Friday, April 12, 2019


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