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The Readout

Wanted: Someone who actually knows how to make sci-fi biotech drugs

Biotech is entering a golden age of cell and gene therapies, as the once far-fetched medical advances are rapidly becoming actual products. The trouble is, “you can count manufacturing experts in cellular and gene therapy on one or two hands,” as one VC put it.

The scarcity of talent has created a bottleneck for startups in the field and a seller’s market for the few people who actually know their way around the complicated process of producing such newfangled products, STAT’s Rebecca Robbins reports.

One cell therapy expert was invited to name his own salary and equity stake before getting offered a $10,000 watch. Another gets message from headhunters once a week.

Read more.

Will we ever get a universal flu vaccine?

It would be nice. But if you're thinking of a vaccine that could protect against any flu vaccine anywhere on the planet, then the answer is no — at least not anytime soon.

The good news is that we might just get a vaccine that would work better against the three strains that cause the vast majority of disease, according to Gary Nabel, the chief scientific officer at Sanofi.

Nabel dropped by STAT yesterday to talk about all kinds of vaccine-related issues, including the company's plans for Protein Sciences, the small company it acquired last year, and prospects for improved vaccines generally.

Read more.

Get ready to rush to conclusions about Hong Kong biotech

Hong Kong Stock Exchange’s nascent embrace of biotech has brought about fairly equal amounts of exuberance and fretting. This week, we’ll finally get a test case at which to gawk, prod, and overreact.

Ascletis, the first revenue-free biotech company to file IPO paperwork in Hong Kong, raised $400 million in its offering, making founder and majority owner Jinzi Wu a paper billionaire, according to Bloomberg.

The fun part starts Wednesday, when Ascletis will begin trading on the open market. If retail investors bid up its shares, the takeaway will be that Hong Kong is ready to embrace biotech’s inherent risk. If Ascletis falters on its first day, you can expect a series of hand-wringing headlines about how institutional backers misjudged the market for money-losing drug developers.

We’ll see.

Welcome to Flagship, Sean

Last week, Amgen disclosed that Dr. Sean Harper, its long-time head of R&D, would soon be departing to "pursue opportunities in the early-stage biotechnology community." We made the assumption that he would follow the well-trodden path that takes big-company executives to startups funded by well-heeled VCs. So we asked readers: Who will pay his salary?

About 38 percent figure Harper will end up at a Flagship Pioneering company. Another 22 percent believe he'll take a job at an Atlas Venture firm, while 21 percent align him with Arch Venture Partners, and 19 percent pencil him in at Third Rock Ventures.

One reader pointed out a glaring omission in the poll: We did not account for possibility that he joins one of the seemingly infinite Vants. We regret the error.

More reads

  • Biogen sales rep alleges she was fired for complaining about an off-label prescribing episode. (STAT Plus)
  • Sienna slumps as acne asset flunks Phase 3 trials. (FierceBiotech)
  • Gilead Sciences' board is looking for a new CEO. Here's a list of contenders. (STAT)
  • Big Pharma analyst Tim Anderson drops off the radar at Bernstein, headed to a new research home. (Endpoints)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Tuesday, July 31, 2018


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