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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Readout by Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Welcome to The Readout, where we keep you on top of the latest in biotech. For more in-depth coverage of biopharma, subscribe to STAT Plus. On Twitter: @damiangarde@megkesh, and @statnews.

Gilead's revenues are down, but M&A is (somewhere) on the horizon

Rinse, repeat: Gilead hep C revenues continue to trend down, thanks to drugs like Sovaldi working entirely too well in squashing the virus. It's a simple equation: Fewer patients = lower revenue. First quarter product sales were $6.5 billion — down from $7.8 billion a year ago, the company said yesterday. 

But CEO John Milligan did drop a hint that the company is no longer procrastinating on M&A to bolster its flagging pipeline. Thanks to some recent hires, he said Gilead is making “progress in partnerships and potential acquisitions” that “could play out over the coming years.” 

The company’s HIV pipeline seems to be fairly healthy, in any case, and as for the current political climate, Gilead’s unflappable:

“Uncertainty in Washington seems to be the norm in my 27 years here — so we’ve learned to filter that out,” Milligan told analysts. Tax reform and repatriation may loom, but Gilead will “try to ignore the noise globally” and forge ahead with its plans, he said.

Amgen swears it doesn’t have cold feet

Pay no attention to the Swiss pharmaceutical giant behind the curtain, says Amgen; that royalty deal with Novartis isn’t a sign that the company has lost faith in its new migraine drug.

That’s according to Dr. Sean Harper, Amgen’s head of R&D, who said the company sold some of the US rights to its headache therapy because it wanted help in the marketing department, not because the space is looking less and less lucrative.

He may have trouble convincing Wall Street, however, as a few analysts have taken Amgen’s move as a sign that its enthusiasm is waning. If migraine really is the next big thing, why give up a share of the most lucrative market in the world?

Read more on STAT Plus.

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A watchdog digs into Soon-Shiong's philanthropy

When biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong donated $12 million to the University of Utah, about $10 million went straight to one of his companies. Now, state authorities have launched an investigation to figure out just how that came to be.

As STAT's Rebecca Robbins reports, the Utah legislature's auditor is poring through documents and interviewing officials with ties to the donation, which ended up benefiting NantHealth, one of the billionaire's many ventures.

Read more.

Pfizer backs away from neuroscience drugs

Buried in the flat Q1 earnings from Pfizer: The pharma giant is axing two experimental drugs from its neuroscience division, as Fierce Biotech points out. One drug on the chopping block was a phase 2 Huntington’s disease candidate, whose study was terminated in December due to a lack of efficacy compared to placebo. Another was a small molecule that had been tested in patients with schizophrenia.

This is testament, really, to the fact that developing effective new neuropsychiatric drugs has bedeviled researchers — and industry — for decades. The ongoing, and thus far fruitless, pursuit to make some real inroads in Alzheimer’s makes it clear: The brain’s extraordinarily complicated.

Of course, the rest of us is pretty complicated, too. Pfizer also disclosed that it  cut drugs for diabetes and hyperlipidemia from its pipeline, as well. 

More reads

  • Is Pfizer really weighing a buyout of Bristol-Myers Squibb? (FiercePharma)
  • Valeant is considering a name change. (Bloomberg)
  • Amgen is in no rush to buy anything with its roughly $34 billion in cash. (CNBC)
  • A new multimillion dollar campaign against high drug prices launches with, you guessed it, another drug ad spoof. (STAT Plus)

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Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Damian & Meghana

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