The Readout Damian Garde

What to watch for in the new biotech quarter

New year, new quarter. So STAT’s Adam Feuerstein has again compiled a rundown of biotech developments expected to move stocks in the first quarter.

Top of mind, of course, is Biogen. The company told investors that it will file a submission to the FDA for its Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab in early 2020, which sure sounds like the first quarter. There's plenty of action to be on the lookout for beyond that, though: A February inter partes review for Mylan, Phase 3 NASH drug results from France’s Genfit, an FDA decision on Aimmune’s peanut allergy drug Palforzia, and lots more. 

Read more.

Sometimes, biotech investors just don’t understand

When Intrexon went public in 2013, the shares popped 55% to $25 on the first day of trading. This wasn't just because the company aimed to use its gene-editing technology in everything from crops to health care, but also because its founder and CEO, the billionaire Randal Kirk, had sold his previous companies for big premiums.

Yesterday, with shares trading at a third of the IPO price, the company said it will change its name to Precigen and that Kirk would retire as CEO, becoming executive chairman. Under new CEO Helen Sabzevari, the company will focus on developing drugs.

Kirk told STAT’s Matthew Herper that Intrexon’s board felt that the presence of other assets was keeping health-care-focused investors away.

“Technically and scientifically, I’m still excited,” Kirk said. But he said that at the time of Intrexon’s IPO, he didn’t realize the degree to which health care investors just wouldn’t want to own a company that is also gene-editing mosquitoes. “I would have done those as private companies to begin with if I knew then what I know now,” he said.

Wave data underwhelms, and its stock tanks

Share of Wave Life Sciences were decimated yesterday, down 50%. The cause: Data from an early stage Huntington’s disease trial for its experimental antisense drug paled in comparison to the efficacy of a similar antisense drug from Roche and Ionis, as FierceBiotech points out.

Indeed, Jefferies analysts noted that Wave’s performance had an “encouraging efficacy signal,” but that it was “underwhelming; lower vs. competitor.” 

The disappointing outcome follows Wave's decision to ax its experimental Duchenne muscular dystrophy program just last month.

Illumina's $1.2 billion takeover torpedoed

Sequencing giant Illumina’s $1.2 billion takeover of its rival has been officially abandoned. Illumina said yesterday it will pay Menlo Park-based Pacific Biosciences a termination fee of $98 million.

Illumina faced substantial blowback from regulators ever since the merger was announced back in November 2018. The Federal Trade Commission moved to block the deal last month.

“When a monopolist buys a potential rival, it can harm competition,” the FTC said in a Dec. 17 statement. “These deals help monopolists maintain power. That’s why we’re challenging this acquisition.”

More reads

  • CRISPR babies scientist He Jiankui should not be villainized — or headed to prison. (STAT)
  • Carcinogen in heartburn drug may build during storage, lab finds. (Bloomberg)
  • An uncommon form of dementia hits at a younger age. Drug makers are searching for a treatment. (Boston Globe)

Thanks for reading! More next week,


Friday, January 3, 2020


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