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The Readout Damian Garde

Let's talk about this Biogen turnaround

Yesterday’s stunning news that Biogen is resurrecting its experimental Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab — and will seek approval with the FDA — left experts at odds over whether to be thrilled, cautious, or just downright confused. (We had experts parse the data here.)

The biotech investor community, though, had a decidedly different reaction: deep skepticism. That might surprise you, seeing as how the company’s stock closed 26% higher than where it started yesterday. But, as STAT’s Adam Feuerstein reports, many investors feel like they don’t have a choice but to buy.

“It’s a 50-50 shot at best, but probably more like 25%, one investor said. As another put it: “Do I believe what Biogen is saying about this drug working? No, not really. Can I rule it out? Not really, which means I’m probably going to own this stock now.”

Meanwhile, as STAT’s Andrew Joseph reports, Alzheimer’s patients who were in Biogen’s late-stage trials had more urgent concerns: The wanted to know how could they get access to aducanumab again, and fast.

Biogen will reveal more aducanumab data in December — in what now looks to be the must-attend biotech investor event of the year.

Will a livestock-poison-turned-drug be affordable for cancer patients?

Kaylene Sheran was exhausted of surgery. By 19, she’d had so many skin cancers removed that she was sometimes surprised she had any skin left. That was why she was at a conference in Philadelphia last June, listening to a dermatologist pleading with patients like her to volunteer for the trial of a new drug — one that might sharply reduce the number of operations she needed. Behind such an exciting possibility was a 60-year saga involving a flock of one-eyed lambs and some of the biggest pharma companies in the world. Finally, the compound was ready for late-stage testing. Before volunteering, though, Sheran wanted some guarantee that if the drug works, she’d be able to afford it.

In "The Medicine Hunters," a sweeping two-part series starting today, STAT's Eric Boodman brings to life the strange journey of one kind of chemo — and the patients intent on getting it.

Read more.

Zolgensma's flouted expectations, and insurers are on board

The science of gene therapy is promising — but the stunning price tags have called into question whether these treatments can ever be financially viable for patients and insurers alike. But so far, Zolgensma, the $2.1 million Novartis treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, appears to be delivering. 

The company announced yesterday that the treatment had brought in about $160 million last quarter alone, surpassing analyst expectations. Furthermore, 99% of the SMA patients who qualified for Zolgensma got coverage of the one-time therapy. The company has been able to strike deals with health plans to cover the treatment — saying that agreements are in place to cover 90% of the patients who are commercially insured, as well as for the 30% covered by Medicaid.

Read more.

JDRF's venture arm gets a new partner

A new managing partner at the JDRF T1D fund — the only venture firm focused on type 1 diabetes — wants to catalyze faster development of treatments for the autoimmune pancreatic disease. 

Steven St. Peter, who ran his own VC firm — Vie Ventures — and also was a managing director at MPM Capital, says one focus will be to help existing biopharma companies pivot part of their pipeline toward type 1 diabetes.  

The four-year-old fund manages about $90 million; about half of that has been committed to the company’s 16 portfolio companies. 

Read more.

More reads

  • Cramer says Biogen’s Alzheimer’s treatment could be ‘the biggest drug ever’ as shares soar nearly 30%. (CNBC
  • Johnson & Johnson CEO testified Baby Powder was safe 13 days before FDA bombshell. (Reuters)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

STAT

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