Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Readout by Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan
Welcome to The Readout, where we keep you on top of all the biotech news. For more, visit STAT. On Twitter: @damiangarde@megkesh, and @statnews.

CRISPR sizzles, Wall Street shrugs

Patent attorneys got pretty excited about CRISPR yesterday. Biotech investors, not so much. (DANA VERKOUTEREN FOR STAT)

As the warring factions in the CRISPR patent dispute jostled to prove that they had invented the game-changing technology, biotech investors seemed hardly to care.

Oral arguments in the patent dispute between the Broad Institute and University of California, Berkeley, went down on Tuesday, with outside observers generally shading the contest toward the Broad — with the caveat that prognostication is often a fool’s errand.

And yet on Wall Street, the shares of Editas Medicine, Intellia Therapeutics, and CRISPR Therapeutics hardly reacted. Editas, which is aligned with the Broad, rose just 1.4 percent, while Intellia, firmly on team UC, dropped by fractions of a percentage. CRISPR Therapeutics, also on UC's side, rose about 6 percent but traded at a substantially lower volume.

Why aren't investors fretting? Perhaps because patent disputes tend not to get in the way of business in biotech. Whichever academic institution comes out on the losing side will forgo millions or more in licensing fees. But for the companies on the other side of those deals, it could just be a matter of writing a different name on the check.

Things are looking up for CAR-T

The ASH conference in San Diego was a whirlwind of all things hematological — but Meghana found herself laser-focused on CAR-T immunotherapy. 

She spent five days talking with biotech and pharma execs, touring a CAR-T factory, — and parsing lots and lots of data.

Here's her takeaway.

Using a cancer immunotherapy to treat blood poisoning

mrsa getting gobbled up by a white blood cell. (niaid)

The therapeutic range for wunderdrug Opdivo may stretch well beyond cancer. 

Bristol-Myers Squibb is testing the checkpoint inhibitor as a sepsis treatment — activating T cells to find and kill pathogens. 

And it's just one of several companies exploring creative ways to target sepsis, a hard-to-treat and often fatal infection of the blood. Another class of medicines that may have promise: lipid-lowering PCSK9 inhibitors.

Read more.

Where are all the twentysomething biotech CEOs?

Over in Silicon Valley, where the tech industry seems to mint billionaires out of high school seniors, millennial startup CEOs are more the rule than the exception.

Not so in biotech, where nascent companies are generally led by those wading into the middle of their time on Earth. And that’s not likely to change, according to Bruce Booth, whose Atlas Venture is responsible for spinning up new biotech companies and picking who runs them.

“The drug business is hard to learn from textbooks,” Booth said in an interview with McKinsey’s Navjot Singh. “Almost all the successful chief scientific officers or CEOs of our young companies have deep experience in the drug business and R&D.”

And that experience comes from years of developing drugs — which, barring the existence of a biotech Doogie Howser, is generally hard to come by among people in their 20s.

More reads

  • In the age of Trump, pharma’s pricing pledges are good politics. (STAT)
  • A deep dive into the evolving relationship between Sanofi and Warp Drive Bio. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Don't blame the FDA for the slow progress of new medicines. (Pacific Standard)

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Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Damian & Meghana

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