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The Readout Damian Garde

Bristol rolls out its post-Celgene plans


(Mel Evans/AP)

With the acquisition of Celgene on track to close later this year, Bristol-Myers Squibb is announcing big leadership and organizational changes this morning — and offering a picture of how the company plans to restructure the commercial and research operations of the combined company.

Among the many changes: Chief Scientific Officer Tom Lynch, the pioneering oncologist who joined just two years ago, will be departing. Rupert Vessey, Celgene’s president for research and early drug development, will assume that role at Bristol, reporting directly to CEO Giovanni Caforio.

The goal of the restructuring is to allow the integration of the two drug giants to proceed apace. Doing so is likely to be a massive endeavor. As of 2017, the combined companies employed 31,000 people.

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The sound of ASCO

If you want to read about what happened at the world’s largest cancer conference, you can get the scoop from STAT’s Adam Feuerstein and Matt Herper here. And if you want to hear experts in their own words, we’ve got a special edition of STAT’s weekly podcast, live (on tape) from the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago.

First, Dr. Parth Shah, a behavioral scientist and pharmacist, explains why HPV vaccination rates in the U.S. are so low. Then, Dr. Alice Shaw, a leading expert on targeted therapies for cancer, discusses her work homing in on the genetic footprints of tumors. And, finally, Dr. Mark A. Lewis, talks about what it’s like to be both an oncologist and a cancer patient.

Listen to the episode here, and stay tomorrow for your regular weekly episode of “The Readout LOUD.”

Introducing the STAT’s answer to Woodstock

Like you, we’ve been to panel discussions, town halls, and fireside chats, and we’ve come away with plenty of positive vibes but more than a few notes on how things could have been better. So, instead of griping and sniping in private, we decided to just create a science-and-business retreat of our own.

We’re calling it STAT Summit, and we’re putting it on Nov. 20 and 21 in Cambridge, Mass. The idea is to bring together top executives and researchers, policymakers, and patient advocates to scout the future of medicine and talk about ways to push the limits of what’s possible in human health.

We’re still assembling the list of featured guests, but we can promise this much: Our event will convene the top minds in health care and to set the agenda for the future of medicine, and it won’t be boring.

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We've upset the (acting) FDA commissioner

FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless had some sharp words for media outlets (like STAT) that chose to highlight the $2.1 million price tag for Novartis's Zolgensma, a recently approved gene therapy to treat spinal muscular atrophy.

“This is a completely novel, almost magical medical miracle that ends a devastating disease for lots of little kids, and the thing you care most about is the price? Really?” Sharpless said Tuesday during a fireside chat at BIO’s annual convention in Philadelphia.

Sharpless added a biblical slant to his analysis when the parent of a child with SMA asked him a question about the messaging around the treatment.

“You know, at this wedding Jesus was at where he turned water into wine, there was probably somebody who said, ‘Hey, I wanted Chardonnay! This is red wine,’" he said. "I feel like it’s always that reaction. I’ve been working my whole career to see these kinds of medical miracles take place. To have it sort of discounted — that bothered me.”

Put it on the blockchain

Turning sundry chemical compounds into actual drugs is famously expensive, time-consuming, and maddeningly failure-prone. Which is why 10 pharmaceuticals just agreed to embrace a pair of buzzwords in the name of bending the curve.

According to the Financial Times, a cadre of companies including Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca are handing over their compound libraries to “a secure, blockchain-based system” that will allow a “machine-learning algorithm” to trawl the combined data for clues on which molecules might grow up to treat a disease.

This might sound familiar. For roughly the past decade, pharma companies have been sharing their libraries with one another in the name of accelerating the discovery process. The likes of Roche, AstraZeneca, Bayer, and GlaxoSmithKline, have all opened up their vaults with the exact same goals as the agreement described above.

The novel part is putting it on the blockchain, a massively hyped technology that basically boils down to a fancy ledger. Whether doing so really is “invigorating discovery efforts through efficiency gains,” as the project’s leader claims to FT, remains to be seen.

More reads

  • FDA should disclose new drug agreements and response letters. (STAT)
  • The future of Alzheimer’s treatment may be enlisting the immune system. (Medium)
  • Macrogenics builds a case for margetuximab. (EP Vantage)
  • Is China leapfrogging the world in applying AI to medicine? Here are five companies leading the charge. (STAT Plus)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Wednesday, June 5, 2019


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