The Readout Damian Garde

Trump is serious about this China thing

Last year, when the Trump administration announced it would apply more scrutiny to foreign investments in U.S. companies, a bunch of smart people said it could be bad for health startups. Then, yesterday, came word that the federal government is forcing a company to literally sell itself because its majority owner is a Chinese firm.

The company is PatientsLikeMe, which has operated for more than a decade as a social network allowing users to find and share experiences with people who have the same diagnosis. In 2017, PatientsLikeMe took a sizable investment from the Chinese digital health company iCarbonX, which is why the government, in the name of national security, is now demanding the company find a new buyer.

PatientsLikeMe isn’t commenting (beyond its CEO tweeting about the company’s GDPR compliance, which, cool?), and neither is the Treasury. But the news sets a frightful precedent for startups and their investors. Previously, the worry was that the new federal rules would block future Chinese investments; now it’s clear the government has no qualms about dissecting past ones.

Read more.

What if pharma just charged less for drugs?

Can speaking three syllables reveal whether you're depressed? And why is Snoop Dogg selling erectile dysfunction pills on TV?

We discuss all that and more on the latest episode of “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. First, STAT's Matthew Herper joins us to discuss a complicated effort from Express Scripts to reduce how much people with diabetes pay for insulin, an idea with broad implications in industry and politics alike. Then, Matt sticks around for a conversation on the controversy surrounding companies like Hims, Roman, and Keeps, which have risen to national attention by selling off-patent drugs without requiring patients to see a doctor. Then, we talk to the CEO of a startup called Sonde Health, which is analyzing voice samples to help develop a smartphone app that could be used to aid in diagnosing depression.

You can listen to the episode here. To listen to future episodes, be sure to sign up on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Good news and bad news about the latest big IPO

Last month, we said that NGM Biopharmaceuticals’ pending IPO would offer “a springtime referendum on investor sentiment.” Using that rubric, NGM’s actual IPO results this week suggest investors are of two minds.

On the one hand, NGM priced its shares at the top of its expected range and raised more than $100 million at a valuation that exceeded $1 billion, which is positive. On the other, NGM’s IPO immediately broke the offering price on Thursday and closed more than 8 percent below where it started, which is negative.

Meanwhile, the nine biotech companies that have gone public in the shutdown-truncated 2019 window are still faring well, up 6% on average and about 12% at the median.



It's like "Shane," but with tighter pants. (@FDA_Drug_Info)

Yesterday, we asked readers what would become of Scott Gottlieb after today, his last at the helm of the FDA. Then, about an hour later, the Washington Post published a story in which Gottlieb said he’d take a part-time role at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank at which he was previously a fellow.

This arguably obviated our survey, but, whatever, here are the results. About 38% predicted Gottlieb would end up back in the world of venture capital, while 28% said he’d become a consultant and 27% figured he’d join some pharma boards. Just 12% said he’d end up at a nonprofit devoted to one of his pet causes.

But you could all still be right. The AEI position will take up just six days a month, Gottlieb told the Post, and his only other plan is taking his family to Disney World, which had better ensure its food preparation is up to code. The point is we still don’t know what Gottlieb’s full-time vocation will be.

In any case, his time at the FDA has come to a close, which the agency celebrated with a Twitter megathread excerpted above. And so farewell, Dr. G. You were tweetastic ’til the end.

More reads

  • Scientists take aim at disease-causing RNAs using small-molecule drugs. (The Scientist)
  • FDA's Pazdur encourages Chinese companies to bring low-cost PD-1 drugs to U.S. market. (BioCentury)
  • Fining one ‘predatory’ publisher won’t fix the problem of bad science in journals. (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Friday, April 5, 2019


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