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The Readout Damian Garde

The big Alzheimer’s blowup, broken down


Biogen’s announcement Thursday that it was stopping two late-stage clinical trials for its Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab was impossible to miss. The news was disappointing to researchers, patients, and investors. By the time the markets closed, Biogen’s stock price had fallen 28 percent — or, as one clever person put it on Twitter, the company had lost 13 unicorns of value.

But the failure has raised a question that will take more than a day to answer: What happens to Biogen now?

The company may be facing a tough choice: acquire something or be acquired. As Adam Feuerstein and Matt Herper postulated, an acquisition would probably mean layoffs at Cambridge’s fourth-largest employer, but acquiring another company to fill the gaping hole that’s been blown in Biogen’s pipeline will cost quite a bit more today than it would have a few years ago.

Read more.

Is the first postpartum drug priced too high?

Should Alzheimer’s researchers just give up on amyloid plaques? What will a new drug mean for moms with postpartum depression? And which coastal region of Long Island is superior?

Find out all that and more on the latest episode of “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. First up, STAT senior science writer Sharon Begley helps break down the very big and very disappointing news about the failure of Biogen’s closely watched experimental Alzheimer’s treatment, known as aducanumab. Next, Sage Therapeutics CEO Jeff Jonas calls in to talk about his company’s approval this week for a new drug for postpartum depression, for which Sage will charge $34,000. Finally, Jeff sticks around for a special lightning round in which we make him weigh in on Theranos villain Elizabeth Holmes and the New England Patriots, among other topics.

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.

The CRISPR-cancer roller coaster continues

A group of scientists in Italy think they’ve got a way to solve CRISPR’s cancer issue, STAT’s Sharon Begley reports.

According to a study published Thursday, researchers have found a way to make sure that the genome editing system doesn’t accidentally cut out a gene that serves as a cellular fail-safe. That gene, p53, makes sure that changes — like the kind that get introduced by CRISPR/Cas9 — get caught and corrected. With the p53 gene intact, CRISPRed edits couldn’t stick; without it, cells are far more likely to become cancerous.

The three public CRISPR companies took a hit on the stock market back in June when the issue was first raised, but this new study did very little for them. Intellia, Editas, and CRISPR Therapeutics all closed up about 2 percent on Thursday.

Read more.

Digital health companies need to deliver

In the last few years, plenty of venture capital has flowed to people working on the next hot digital health company. The field already has three unicorns — including the company behind the first “digital pill,” Proteus.

But will those billions and the buzz surrounding the field actually translate into real, useful tools? Some are skeptical. “I do think there will be a day of reckoning,” one partner at a Silicon Valley VC told Casey Ross.

Read more.

More reads

  • CVS joins cannabis wellness trend by adding CBD products (Boston Globe)
  • After the blowup of the biggest hope for Alzheimer’s, what’s next in the pipeline? (STAT)
  • Derek Lowe has a few thoughts about amyloid (Science)
  • Will Trump’s new free speech order affect research funding? (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Kate Sheridan here for the vacationing Damian Garde. See you next week.

Friday, March 22, 2019


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