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The Readout

Biotech's Hong Kong heat-check

Is a biotech bubble inflating in China? Do the feds coddle CEOs? And why don’t clinical trials look like America?

We discuss all that and more on this week’s episode of “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. Tune in for an interview with Michael Chan, the man tasked with convincing biotech companies to go public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Then we dig into the saga surrounding Clovis Oncology, which went from a Wall Street darling to a cautionary tale before paying an arguably minuscule price for its alleged misdeeds. And then ProPublica reporter Caroline Chen joins us to discuss why African-Americans are vastly under-represented in cancer clinical trials.

You can listen to it here. And you can expect another episode next Thursday evening — and every Thursday evening — so be sure to sign up on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Look twice at the latest cancer combo data

Galectin Therapeutics had some good news yesterday: Adding its drug to the blockbuster Merck cancer therapy Keytruda led to 50 percent response rate in a small trial enrolling patients with skin cancer.

But STAT's Adam Feuerstein, after looking closely at the data, sees little to be excited about it. What Galectin failed to mention was that the results got worse as the company added more patients, and that the highest dose of the drug actually underperformed the low and middle doses, which is not generally a good sign.

Read more.

And speaking of looking closely at data, Adam and STAT's Sharon Begley are hosting a webinar on Sept. 25 to explain the tools of the trade they've picked up over years of parsing complex and sometimes deliberately confusing study results. Sign up here.

Why the opioid bill could be a win for pharma

Since February, when Congress mandated that drug companies pay more for drugs used by Medicare patients, the pharma lobby has been pushing to return things to the status quo. Now, Republicans on Capitol Hill have come up with a quick fix: attaching the idea to the ultra-popular opioids bill moving through Congress.

As STAT's Lev Facher and Nicholas Florko report, Republicans are negotiating to include a rollback of those February provisions into a final version of the opioid legislation that has passed the House and Senate in different forms. And Democrats might go for the idea if it guarantees passage of the CREATES Act, legislation that would ease the entry of lower-priced generic and biosimilar drugs to the market.

Read more.

NASH is the new blockchain

When is $250,000 worth more than $100 million? Whenever the liver disease NASH is involved.

Yesterday, Corbus Pharmaceuticals paid just $250,000 for the rights to more than 600 preclinical compounds, with one the company says has a future in treating NASH. And that sent Corbus’s stock price up by more than 50 percent, giving it a market value of nearly $400 million.

That’s despite the fact that the most advanced drug Corbus acquired won’t be tested in humans until next year, and the fact that Jenrin Discovery, the company from which it licensed the treatments, is an unheard-of outfit with a Web 1.0 website.

Corbus is now the latest company to watch its stock price balloon thanks to a perceived future in NASH, a surprisingly prevalent liver condition with no approved treatments. But the company’s predecessors had to show clinical data, however debatable, to get a pop on Wall Street. Corbus managed to do it with a six-figure check.

More reads

  • PBM lobbying group names a new president with deep Capitol Hill ties. (STAT Plus)
  • Sloan Kettering’s cozy deal with start-up ignites a new uproar. (New York Times)
  • Acadia stock spikes after FDA finds drug has no additional safety problems. (MarketWatch)
  • Top Trump health official calls on Congress to do more on drug pricing. (STAT Plus)

Thanks for reading! Until next week,


Friday, September 21, 2018


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