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Monday, December 19, 2016

The Readout by Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Welcome to The Readout, where we keep you on top of all the biotech news. Follow us on Twitter: @damiangarde@megkesh, and @statnews.

Rewiring mouse brains with an eye on Parkinson’s

Researchers at the University of Colorado are at work on a project involving mice, bananas, and optogenetics that could provide clues on the future of treating problems in the brain.

The group has devised a miniature microscope that can reach deep into a mouse’s brain and tinker with its function. The plan is to test whether the microscope can remove a mouse’s ability to smell — and then give it back by stimulating the right neurons.

If it works, it could one day lead to a larger-scale technology that could repair neural issues behind blindness, Parkinson’s disease, or stroke. "If you can rewire it, that means you can really repair the neurocircuit in really fine detail," said Weijian Yang, a Columbia neuroscientist not involved in the research.

Read more on STAT Plus.

A nimble biomanufacturing plan?

The feds are channeling some serious cash into scaling and optimizing biologic drug manufacturing, with aims to keep this high tech industry stateside.

A new trade group called NIIMBL (the elegant acronym for the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals) will be getting $70 million from the Department of Commerce.

On top of that, it’ll get another $129 million from a consortium of 150 companies, academic institutions, nonprofits, and states.

Read more on STAT Plus.

New biotech year, new index look

The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index is getting a year-end makeover today. It’s adding 21 new biotechs to its roster, including CRISPR hotshot Editas Medicine, peanut allergy desensitization player Aimmune, and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong’s own NantHealth.

However, 37 companies have fallen from biotech index grace. Two anti-obesity companies, Orexigen Therapeutics and Zafgen, were cut — as well as uniQure, whose hemophilia gene therapy failed to excite at ASH this year. OvaScience and Regulus Therapeutics are two other notable biotechs that got the axe.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, but the numbers looked different last year — when 60 companies made the list, and 12 were excised. And in 2014, there were 44 additions to the index, and only eight companies got the boot. So, in case you needed a reminder:

Bubble? Burst.

The Biotech Devil's Dictionary

There’s a lot of jargon, coded language, and outright nonsense in biotech, and we want to clear up — and celebrate — as much of it as we can through this glossary. Have a phrase to contribute? Email it over.

-able (adj.): An increasingly popular suffix one can append to just about any technology to give it a sheen of the cutting edge — even (or especially) if it has existed for years, like “wearables.”

“Patients could soon be issued ‘insideables,’ which are chips planted just under the skin, and ‘ingestibles,’ which will be tiny sensor pills that we swallow.”
Dr. Nicole Sirotin, chief of internal medicine at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

More reads

  • What to watch for in biopharma this week. (STAT Plus)
  • Japan to start reviewing drug prices annually in a bid to hold down costs. (Reuters)
  • Gilead's loss in a patent battle exacerbates the company's need for a deal. (Bloomberg)
  • Sanofi is closing in on a deal for Actelion. (Reuters)
  • Celgene, Versant back biotech merger that builds antibody pipeline. (Endpoints)

Have a news tip or comment you want to send us?

Send us an email

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Damian & Meghana

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