The Readout Damian Garde

Remembering one of biotech's most affecting voices

The world of biotech has lost one of its most affecting and admired voices. Michael Becker was a longtime industry executive who became a moving patient advocate after he was diagnosed with cancer in late 2015. He died this week at the age of 50.

As STAT’s Matthew Herper writes, Becker devoted his final years to underline the risks of the human papillomavirus, which caused his head and neck cancer, and the importance that preteens get the vaccine that prevents HPV infection.

In the process, he kept a detailed blog of his cancer journey, putting a human face on a disease often discussed as an abstraction in drug industry circles.

“Just remember that data, whether it is artificial intelligence or information that’s captured on your computer, there’s a person like me, there’s a person with a family, there’s a person with children, there’s a person who’s been touched by that disease,” Becker said last year. “Just remember data always has a face.”

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KRAS exuberance, in one chart


Mirati Therapeutics, a small company out of San Diego, has seen its share price more than double since the start of the year. That’s not because any of its drugs succeeded in a trial, and it doesn’t owe to some pending buyout or high-dollar pharmaceutical partnership.

Instead, it’s because the world is increasingly convinced so-called undruggable targets could fall prey to drugs.

Mirati has a treatment targeting KRAS, a protein implicated in a host of cancers that has largely proved impervious to medicinal chemistry. Then, in June, a KRAS-targeting treatment from Amgen showed unprecedented results in a small study, and now Mirati, which is still working through a trial of its own, is a $100 stock.

Whether Mirati’s drug, MRTX849, can measure up to Amgen’s will remain a mystery until the second half of this year, when the company will provide a first glimpse at data from a trial enrolling patients with solid tumors. In the meantime, the company has gained about $2 billion in market value on sentiment alone.

Pharma’s still learning how to share when it comes to drug data

Most of the world’s largest drug companies are doing a poor job of sharing detailed study data after medicines are approved, according to a new analysis published in BMJ.

As STAT’s Ed Silverman reports, only four of the 12 biggest companies had published clinical results on medicines approved back in 2015. Just three of them did so in what the researchers determined to be a reasonable amount of time.

The majority of companies had policies that would allow for sharing, but most of those promises came without guarantees to provide the data in a timely fashion. 

“It’s not just about preventing disasters,” said Jennifer Miller, the lead study author, who heads Bioethics International, a nonprofit, and is an assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine. “We need to be able to reanalyze a drug to see if it’s safe and effective as originally thought.”

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ImClone soars to $200 a share

ImClone Systems, star of biotech’s highest-profile insider trading scandal, has long since been absorbed by Eli Lilly, but you can claim a share of the company right this minute at the discounted price of $199.95.

The stock certificate is, in strict financial terms, worth exactly zero dollars. But to customers of, memorabilia of yesteryear’s frauds and disasters is a worthwhile investment. As company founder Bob Kerstein told Businessweek, “the flops are worth more dead than alive.”

Among his site’s offerings are mortgage-backed securities from Credit Suisse, shares of now-defunct Trump hotels, and pre-bankruptcy Blockbuster Video certificates. As for ImClone, the $199.95 price tag — down from $249.95 — is nearly three times what Lilly paid per share in 2008, and it’s almost quadruple the sale price that landed former CEO Sam Waksal in federal prison, but then how much is too much of a piece of biotech history?

More reads

  • DOJ and SEC charge former Illumina accountant and friend with insider trading. (MarketWatch)
  • Troubled startup uBiome is laying off half its staff. (Business Insider)
  • University of California loses access to new journal articles published by Elsevier after research access fight. (STAT)
  • FDA's Janet Woodcock talks about some big changes she's pushing for in drug development. (Endpoints)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Thursday, July 11, 2019


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