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The Readout Damian Garde

A $63 billion marriage of convenience


That’s how analysts described AbbVie’s Tuesday announcement that it will acquire Allergan, a move that unites two companies with undeniable flaws and uncertain futures.

AbbVie is printing money thanks to Humira, but that drug's days of exclusivity are numbered, and no one’s terribly convinced about what comes next. Allergan is hemorrhaging value and dealing with shareholder unrest. Combined, they can stave off some existential questions, but, as PiperJaffray analyst Christopher Raymond wrote, “two turkeys don’t make an eagle.”

The problem for AbbVie is that it needed to buy something both big and good to move on from Humira. “Allergan satisfies the ‘big enough’ problem ... but whether it is ‘good’ is in the eye of the beholder,” wrote Tim Anderson of Wolfe Research.

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Beware of the stem cell mirage


Athersys, a small drug maker in Cleveland, Ohio, has an ambitious media campaign to promote an experimental stem cell treatment for stroke. The centerpiece of that campaign is an Oregon woman who made a remarkable recovery after being treated with the therapy.

But as STAT's Adam Feuerstein reports, the story is a bit more complicated than that.

Although Athersys is conducting clinical trials necessary to secure FDA approval for the treatment, it already failed one — the therapy was no better than placebo in helping patients recover. That doesn't necessarily spell doom for future trials, and it doesn't make the Ohio patient's story any less heartwarming. But it does mean investors may be being led astray.

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Can Pfizer shake up a gene therapy race?


Novel technologies like gene therapy have historically been a matter left to small biotech companies, with pharma happy to sit on the sidelines until new ideas come good in the clinic. An exception is Pfizer, which bought into the field in 2016, and we’re about to find out whether the company can compete with its biotech compatriots.

On Friday, Pfizer will present a first glimpse of data from the catchily named PF-06939926, a gene therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Pfizer hasn’t said exactly what it will present, but analysts hope to get an early look at how well the therapy increases dystrophin, the protein missing in DMD patients. 

And that has major implications for Sarepta Therapeutics and Solid Biosciences, two biotech companies with gene therapies of their own. If Pfizer’s treatment looks particularly promising, it’ll likely be a drag on Sarepta’s share price. But good news for Pfizer could be a positive for Solid, according to the analysts at J.P. Morgan. The company’s gene therapy has run into problems in the clinic, and a victory for Pfizer’s similar treatment could signal that there’s hope yet for Solid.

Just when you thought the CRISPR patent fight had quieted down


The U.S. patent office just reopened the years-long squabble between the Broad Institute and the University of California over just who discovered CRISPR genome editing.

As STAT’s Sharon Begley explains, regulators declared an "interference" between CRISPR patents awarded to the Broad, which means they consider the ideas to be similar enough to UC’s patents to warrant a closer look.

The dispute, which began in 2014, seemed to be in its waning days after a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the Broad last year. The patent office’s decision to wade back into the issue throws any conclusions into doubt.

“Here we are again,” said attorney Kevin Noonan of the Chicago law firm McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP. “I can only imagine that this will go on, and on, and on.”

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More reads

  • Consumer genetic testing companies team up to lobby on privacy policy. (STAT)
  • AMAG's plan to bypass female libido drug pitfalls? Social media. (Boston Business Journal)
  • Frontier Medicines launches with $67 million in funding. (Chemical & Engineering News)
  • It’s time to find new targets for brain diseases instead of just pursuing old ones. (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Megan

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

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