The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

A remote AACR begins. It's still interesting

It will be 75 degrees and partly sunny today in San Diego. Were it not for the coronavirus, cancer researchers, biopharma executives, and certain STAT reporters would be lapping up the gorgeous SoCal weather while attending the annual meeting of American Association of Cancer Research. 

With the pandemic ongoing, the bad news is that STAT’s Adam Feuerstein will be watching this year's online meeting from his Cambridge, Mass., apartment. The good news is there's still plenty going on.  

New this morning: A bespoke cell therapy in lung cancer shrunk tumors in one-quarter of patients with advance disease, according to freshly released data that also have implications for Iovance Biotherapeutics. Meantime, a new type of checkpoint inhibitor offers early promise against tumors

A new way to track Covid-19 drugs and vaccines

This morning STAT is launching something neat: a Covid-19 Drugs and Vaccines Tracker.

Remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine have been getting a lot of early headlines, but a slew of investigational drugs and vaccine candidates are being studied for efficacy against the novel coronavirus. 

So, what’s new with Inovio Pharmaceuticals’ DNA vaccine? How about Grifol’s plasma-based therapy? STAT’s Damian Garde gives you the updates here.

This is biotech's time to shine

There have been boasts for years that we’re in the “Biotech Century” — but that aphorism may actually prove meaningful in the pandemic era. 

Since 1995, the U.S. private and public sectors have spent nearly $2 trillion on health-related R&D, writes Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist for the Progressive Policy Institute. Yet these investments, to date, haven’t resulted in faster, cheaper medications, in his view.

Covid-19, however, will require the health care industry to put its tools to use even more efficiently — and “profit motives and regulatory barriers are falling by the wayside,” he writes. Instead, there’s a concerted unilateral effort in the industry to stem virulent destruction, which could ultimately result “the true dawn of the Biotech Century.” 

Read more.

Chinese biotech to launch Alzheimer's trial in U.S.

A Chinese biotech just got an FDA green light to start U.S. clinical trials for a new — and somewhat controversial — Alzheimer’s drug. Shanghai Green Valley Pharmaceutical will launch a global study among patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. It expects to enroll more than 2,000 patients across North America, Europe, and Asia. 

The drug, called oligomannate, targets the gut microbiome — which, in theory, should lead to a reduction in neuronal inflammation in the brain. It’s derived from seaweed, and takes a distinct approach from the amyloid-based therapeutics that have been tested (and largely failed) in trial. 

A new ‘ome’ on the block

We’ve got the genome. The proteome. The microbiome. Now… the repeatome? 

A new biotech startup aims to study “junk DNA” — that is, the vast expanse of human genetic data that contains repeating sequences of nucleic acids that previously were dismissed as useless. Turns out, these repeats play a huge role in human health, such as helping regulate the innate immune system — or allowing cancer cells to adapt. 

The company, ROME Therapeutics, calls this massive stretch of DNA the “repeatome. It just launched with a $50 million Series A, developing drugs targeted at these repeats for cancer and autoimmune disease.

More reads

  • ORIC pulls off upsized $120 million Wall Street debut to bankroll cancer resistance pipeline. (FierceBiotech)
  • America needs to win the coronavirus vaccine race. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Trial of Gilead's potential coronavirus treatment running ahead of schedule. (Reuters)

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


Monday, April 27, 2020


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