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Tuesday, August 8, 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.

Can Gottlieb's Thronesian approach to drug pricing work?

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'tis the season to exploit overwrought Game of thrones memes. (the internet)

Time to whip out the (figurative) tar and feathers? FDA head Scott Gottlieb in recent weeks has suggested publicly shaming brand-name drug makers that successfully impede generic competition. 

As we've learned from several great stories in recent days, drug makers and pharmacy benefit managers are using all kinds of tactics to keep consumers buying branded products. One such tactic: Refuse to provide generic drug makers with samples of the medicines they wish to duplicate. 

Gottlieb hopes to call out companies that resort to such schemes. But one patient advocate told STAT’s Ed Silverman that open humiliation might not be enough to get drug price equity. 

“I’m not as hopeful you can shame these companies, because they’re happy to be shamed all the way to the bank,” he said.

Read more.

Coming soon: Lab-forged sperm and egg

The science of in vitro fertilization may soon have a dazzling addition to its toolkit: Scientists are coming close to successfully transmogrifying skin cells into sperm and egg cells — and ultimately, perhaps, into brand-new humans.

The induced pluripotency of stem cells has far-reaching implications for medical science, sure. But as MIT Tech Review writes, perhaps no lab-created cell would command larger implications for humanity than coaxing a skin cell to morph into a sperm or egg cell. 

Like mudworms and hydras, we may be on the cusp of asexual reproduction. Just one question: What’s the fun in that? 

There's no reality TV bump for old MannKind

Despite bankrolling a reality show and winning over Dame Dash, MannKind is still having considerable trouble selling its inhalable insulin. Last quarter, the company moved just $1.5 million worth of its sole product and spent $5.1 million to do so — which, in business terms, is not the sort of cost-revenue ratio that gets investors salivating.

But Al Mann, the now-deceased entrepreneur who kept faith in MannKind through years of struggle, is still keeping the company afloat. His Mann Group loaned the biotech $19.4 million in the second quarter, elongating its runway and, perhaps, guaranteeing a season two of "Reversed."

Where do we go from here?

You might not have guessed from the reaction to recent earnings statements, but biotech is having a pretty good 2017. The Nasdaq biotech index is up about 17 percent since January, and most of the post-election sturm und drang has come to very little.

But what happens next? Does a cascade of positive data readouts carry biotech even higher into the end of the year? Or will 2017 — like the two years that preceded it — peak in the summer before dipping in the fall? Click to vote.

 Higher! Sentiment is improving, and tax reform can only help.
 Lower! Things are shaky, and one big clinical failure could send biotech reeling.

A legendary love affair.

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Le-GENE-ndary?

More reads

  • An activist investor wants Acorda to put itself up for sale, but the company's not budging. (Endpoints)
  • Repurposing a diabetes drug to crack Parkinson’s. (FierceBiotech)
  • Pfizer to invest $100 million in North Carolina for gene therapy. (AP)
  • AbbVie wages HCV drug price war on Gilead. (Bloomberg Gadfly)

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Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Damian & Meghana

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