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The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

A shot of Regeneron’s Covid treatment slashed the risk of getting sick

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals said this morning that a single shot of its monoclonal antibody cocktail reduced the risk that volunteers exposed to Covid-19 would develop the disease by 81%.

Those results mirror similar results seen in a study conducted by Eli Lilly of its monoclonal antibody in nursing homes. One key difference: While in previous studies by both Lilly and Regeneron, antibodies had to be given intravenously, in this one Regeneron used a formulation that could be given with an under-the-skin injection.

That’s “a really, really big deal,” said Kevin Myron, director of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina and one of the study’s lead investigators. He said that having to start an IV is “unequivocally” one of the barriers to using the antibodies either for treatment or prevention. The other barrier? Awareness. 

“In order for these antibodies to be used for treatment and prevention and for treatment as prevention, we need the patients or their families familiar with the opportunity,” Cohen said. “We need health providers to be familiar with these drugs and comfortable administering them.”

The latest in cancer research

If you weren’t tuned into the weekend’s American Association of Cancer Research conference, you missed some new hope for childhood brain cancer, a novel way to attack metastatic tumors, and Revolution Medicines trying to live up to its name.

STAT was keeping tabs. Here’s the pediatric glioma news, in which scientists used a modified cold-sore virus to selectively kill tumor cells and spark an immune response. Here’s more on the promising field of chromosomal instability, a chaotic key to cancer metastasis that might offer clues to new drugs. And here’s the latest data on Revolution Medicine’s lead drug, designed to stop tumor growth by throttling back mutations in a common cell-signaling pathway.

You can find all of our continuing AACR coverage here, and it’s not too late to sign up for our free popup conference newsletter.

Why can’t we move at Warp Speed all the time?

Among the lessons of the unprecedentedly rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines: With the right amount of money and political will, the U.S. can move scientific mountains in the name of fighting a disease. So why stop when the pandemic’s over?

As STAT’s Lev Facher reports, that’s roughly the idea behind a new Biden administration proposal to create a $6.5 billion medical research agency tasked with quickly developing new treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes. The new office, to be housed within the NIH, would focus not on basic science but rather the high-risk endeavor of inventing new medicines.

The Biden administration unveiled the idea in its budget proposal, a nonbinding document largely considered symbolic, and it’s unclear whether it’ll find support in Congress. That being said, funding for biomedical research is among vanishingly few bipartisan causes, with Democrats and Republicans uniting in recent years to increase the NIH budget.

Read more.

That was indeed a lot of IPOs

The first quarter of 2021 was the fastest-ever start to a year when it comes to biotech IPOs, with more companies raising more money than ever before.

EvercoreISI analyst Josh Schimmer counted 31 biotech IPOs in the first three months of the year, beating the record of 27 set in the first quarter of 2014. More striking is the disparity in dollar amounts: Last quarter’s average IPO raised more than twice as much money than its 2014 counterpart.

It’s probably worth noting that 2014’s market exuberance propelled biotech to an all-time high in 2015, which was followed by a pre-election crash from which the sector didn’t fully recover until the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

More reads

  • Ginkgo Bioworks exploring over $20 billion Sloan SPAC deal. (Bloomberg)
  • Clinical study reports hold more details about the side effects of cancer drugs. (STAT+)
  • Vaccitech, startup behind AstraZeneca-Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine, files for U.S. IPO. (Reuters)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Monday, April 12, 2021

STAT

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