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The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

The biotech stock outperforming Bitcoin

Fluctuations on the order of 1,800% are typically reserved for ironic cryptocurrencies, New Jersey diners, and scams. But Curis, a biotech company that has been trying and failing to invent drugs since 2000, has posted a one-year return that outpaces GameStop and Bitcoin.

The company, which traded for 88 cents a share 12 months ago, rose to about $16 yesterday on the news that its investigational treatment for blood cancer posted promising results in a small, open-label study. Curis’s drug, CA-4948, reduced the bone marrow cells that drive blood cancer for eight of nine evaluable patients, and there were four objective responses that included two complete remissions.

The results, presented at the European Hematology Association’s annual meeting, are still early. Six patients in the study are yet to be evaluated, and it’ll be key to track how many patients relapse over time. But as biotech turnarounds go, Curis’s one-year trip from being a penny stock to commanding a $1.4 billion valuation stands alone in 2021.

Fibrogen’s data scandal isn’t going away

On April 6, Fibrogen acknowledged it had a problem. The company has been touting false heart-safety data for its experimental anemia pill for at least two years.
 
Six weeks later, we don’t know much more about how or why that data manipulation happened. And that, STAT’s Adam Feuerstein argues, is a problem. 
 
On a conference call this week, Fibrogen CEO Enrique Conterno reiterated his “confidence” in the drug maker’s experimental anemia treatment, a pill called roxadustat. But other parties that felt the ripple effects of the data manipulation — investors, physicians, regulators – are looking for an explanation. Said one author working with Fibrogen: “I am disappointed to say the least.”

Read more.

How the smart money stays ahead in health tech

There's a gold rush in health tech, with private equity firms and hedge funds elbowing into the early-stage deals that used to be fodder for venture capital alone. That’s good for individual companies, but when valuations begin to depart from reality, it takes discerning investors to pick winners in the space.

Speaking at the STAT Health Tech Summit yesterday, Lux Capital partner Deena Shakir said that while there’s plenty of opportunity to go around, what differentiates good investments from vaporware is a clear case for how a given app, device, or service can make a difference for patients, physicians, and providers. 

“For someone who's just dipping their toes in health care, it's a lesson they have to maybe learn the hard way,” Shakir said. “It's not always just about the idea or some patented IP or a molecule. The business model matters. The engagement with these different stakeholders matter. Understanding, ultimately, who's paying and how they're going to pay matters.”

Watch the conversation.
 

The Covid vaccine race is coming to a bookstore near you

Successfully developing vaccines for Covid-19 is going to put more than $50 billion into drug makers’ pockets this year. And the story of how they did it is poised to make a presumably smaller sum for the publishing industry.

At least three books about the vaccine race are on the publishing schedule in the next few months. One, from science writer Brendan Borrell, already has a name (“The First Shots: The Epic Rivalries and Heroic Science Behind the Race to the Coronavirus Vaccine”) and a release date (Oct. 26). Another, from Wall Street Journal reporter and four-time author Gregory Zuckerman, is coming some time before the end of the year.

The third is by none other than Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, titled “Moonshot: Inside Pfizer’s Nine-Month Race to Make the Impossible Possible” and slated for publication Nov. 9.  In a statement, Bourla said he wanted to relate Pfizer’s story “in hopes that it might inspire and inform your own moonshot, whatever that may be.”

More reads

  • Watch: Former Google CEO Schmidt opens up on health data privacy and the future of tech in medicine. (STAT+)
  • Fortunes diverge for solo drug launchers. (Evaluate Vantage)
  • Sanofi is accused of ‘widespread destruction’ of company e-mails tied to Zantac recall. (STAT+)
  • Ginkgo plans a $17.5 billion merger with SPAC that took DraftKings public. (Boston Globe)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Thursday, May 13, 2021

STAT

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