The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Regeneron's co-founders in the spotlight again

Last Friday, President Trump received an infusion of antibody cocktail developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals to treat his case of Covid-19. At the time, it had only been provided on a “compassionate use” basis to fewer than 10 patients.

“Obviously your heart races a little bit faster when you’re dealing with a leader of the free world and you realize you might be in a position to really change the course of his health outcome,” Leonard Schleifer, Regeneron’s co-founder and CEO, told STAT's Matthew Herper. “So, it’s certainly… I’m trying to find the right adjective. It’s intense, for sure.”

Schleifer and his co-founder, head scientist George Yancopoulos, are no strangers to intense situations, or controversy. But this time that has meant questions about whether Trump got undue access to the treatment, whether the treatment was too risky for a head of state, and whether Regeneron made the right decision to give it out. Regeneron, needless to say, is steadfast in its beliefs in its science, and sees suggestions that Trump got the treatment because of personal connections to Schleifer as "silliness."

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Lilly’s Covid-19 treatment looks promising in latest peak at data

Speaking of Covid-19 antibody therapies, both Eli Lilly and Regeneron have seen promising returns from early studies. A combination Covid-19 treatment from Eli Lilly appeared to reduce levels of the virus and keep patients out of the hospital or emergency room, according to a small study disclosed yesterday.

As STAT’s Matthew Herper reports, the latest data affirm the promise of using synthetic antibodies to treat patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, echoing similarly positive data released by Regeneron last week. In the Lilly study, patients who received a combination of two antibodies had a significantly lower viral load after 11 days, and were less likely to need emergency care than those who got placebo.

Lilly, like Regeneron, is in discussions with the FDA about a potential emergency use authorization for its antibody treatment.

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The Nobel Prize is worth $1 billion

At least if you ask Wall Street. Yesterday’s news that CRISPR genome editing had won the Nobel Prize in chemistry added more than $1 billion to the combined market values of the three publicly traded companies using the technology to make medicines.

It’s not exactly clear why investors believe the opinion of 50 scientists in Stockholm would affect the future profitability of three separate drug companies, and there doesn’t seem to be any mind paid to the legal drama that has marked the field. 

For example, CRISPR Therapeutics, co-founded by newly minted Nobel laureate Emmanuelle Charpentier, rose by about 11%, and Intellia Therapeutics, co-founded by fellow awardee Jennifer Doudna, closed about 13% higher. And yet Editas Medicine, a CRISPR company founded by courtroom foes of Charpentier and Doudna, went up by about 8% in its own right.

If you’re in search for something more sensical than the wisdom of markets, here’s STAT’s Andrew Joseph on just how quickly CRISPR has risen from a groundbreaking finding to world-changing technology; here are celebrity scientist George Church’s thoughts on the matter; and here’s Doudna in her own words on CRISPR’s role in medical research.

Biotech enters a silly season of its own


Is this image worth $300 million?  (Mizuho)

Twice a year, hopeful soccer fans are treated to the transfer window, a period in which teams can buy players from one another. It’s known widely as the sport’s “silly season” because it invites fans to dream of impossible signings and circulate flimsy rumors that Star Brazilian Striker X was spotted at the airport on his way to Woeful English City Y. Most of the time, no such thing happens.

Yesterday, former Celgene shareholders experienced the biotech version of that magical thinking when investors on the Internet passed around blurry photos of what may or may not be FDA inspectors walking into what may or may not be a Celgene manufacturing plant. This is important because Celgene shareholders are entitled to a payday from Bristol Myers Squibb if two of the former company’s drugs win FDA approval on a certain timeframe. And in order to meet those deadlines, the agency needs to complete an inspection of a certain Washington facility. If that happened yesterday, it would be good for the odds of success.

The images, which have a resolution normally reserved for Scottish lake photography, improved Celgene’s chances by more than 30%, at least according to Wall Street traders. It is of course possible that the photos depict exactly what investors hope, and that this is all a prelude to profit for Celgene shareholders. But it’s worth keeping in mind that dreams don’t always come true, and Ronaldinho never suited up for Blackburn Rovers.

More reads

  • AstraZeneca expects U.S. trial update within two weeks, analyst says. (Bloomberg)
  • FDA formally blasts a mask decontamination device maker once touted by Trump. (STAT Plus)
  • Cambridge biotech looking to fight kidney disease launches with $51 million. (Boston Globe)
  • He’s a recruiter for a Covid-19 vaccine trial. Can he overcome communities’ distrust — and his own mother’s? (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Thursday, October 8, 2020


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