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The Readout

Spit tests, confused lobbyists, and old-fashioned regulatory capture

Is the FDA too business-friendly? Can spit reunite families? And should you feel bad for pharma lobbyists?

We discuss all that and more in the latest episode of “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. Tune in for a conversation with ProPublica's Caroline Chen covering her deep dive into how the FDA is conceding more and more to the drug industry it regulates. Then we dig into the alluring idea of using 23andMe tests to help families torn apart at the border — and the legal and ethical issues that make it impractical.

You'll also hear from STAT's Erin Mershon about how the thorny issue of biosimilars has made life awkward for biopharma in Washington, and we'll explain why making money in China might be harder than the drug industry thinks.

You can listen to it 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.

Celgene needed a break

And it got one in the form of positive late-stage data from one of its many partners.

As STAT's Adam Feuerstein explains, Celgene and partner Acceleron Pharma announced a Phase 3 success for luspatercept, a drug for the blood disease myelodysplastic syndrome. In the trial, the treatment significantly reduced the need for blood transfusions compared with placebo. The companies are keeping detailed data under wraps for now, but it goes down as a win in the minds of investors.

And it's a win Celgene could use. The company has been a painful run of form over the past year-plus, as clinical and commercial setbacks have scuttled its ambitious growth plans and brought its share price down more than 30 percent since the start of 2017.

Read more.

Big Biotech is so last year

The industry is having a great 2018 on Wall Street, but it's no thanks to biotech's household names. Take a look at the chart above, which tracks two major biotech index funds over the course of the year. The XBI, which weights big companies and small companies the same, is up more than 7 percent. The IBB, which apportions weight based on market cap, is down 2 percent.

Why the big difference? Biotech's strong 2018 is due almost entirely to the success of small and mid-size companies, and when you judge them equally with the lagging likes of Biogen and Celgene, the industry looks great. But when you take an IBB approach, biotech's upper classes drag the whole thing into the red.

Read more.

You haven't heard the last of that topless biotech party

Remember way back at the beginning of this month, when there were topless dancers at a biotech party, and the powers that be all wrung their hands in shock and promised never again?

Well Sen. Patty Murray isn't ready to move on. The Washington state Democrat sent letters to the trade associations BIO and PhRMA, demanding they take further action. To Murray, BIO's verbal condemnation and PhRMA's silence didn't do enough to address the underlying issues brought to light by the event.

“The bottom line is that objectifying women and exploiting cultural traditions for the purposes of entertaining fellow industry members is a deeply troubling indication of the way the industry leaders still devalue diversity and inclusion," Murray wrote.

Read more.

More reads

  • Chat recap: Your questions on GW Pharma and marijuana-based medicine. (STAT)
  • Anemia specialist Akebia merges with Keryx on the eve of a blockbuster fight with FibroGen. (Endpoints)
  • Amazon’s acquisition of PillPack is a first step, but not a fatal blow for the pharmacy industry. (STAT Plus)
  • IPO wave rolls on as five life science firms haul in $651 million. (Xconomy)

Thanks for reading! Until next week,


Friday, June 29, 2018


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