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The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Is Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine safer than Moderna’s?

Yesterday’s big data reveal for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine offered little in the way of surprises, but the detailed results suggest Pfizer and BioNTech’s rival vaccine might present fewer worrisome side effects.

In documents released ahead of a Thursday panel discussion, FDA reviewers concluded that Moderna’s vaccine was “highly effective” at preventing cases of Covid-19, endorsing its previously reported 94% efficacy. But on the safety side, Moderna’s vaccine tended to cause more vaccine reactions in clinical trials, such as fevers, aches, and chills, than the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. And it led to a higher number of severe reactions, which would lead patients to be briefly impaired, but not hospitalized.

Overall, the severe side effects from Moderna's vaccine were rare, and none of this is likely to stand in the way of its eventual emergency use authorization and widespread use. But it’s sure to be a topic of inquiry among outside experts at Thursday’s meeting, and it could end up influencing which of the two vaccines is recommended for certain populations.

Read more.

Your chance to bestow some biotech ignominy

Once you’ve taken the time to vote for 2020’s best biotech CEO, you may want to indulge in the other side of that coin: the contest to name the year’s most hapless executive.

As STAT’s Adam Feuerstein notes, the process this year is bifurcated due to Covid-19. That means there’s one list of the worst Covid-related CEOs — including a pair of particularly promotional leaders and one pharmaceutical magnate who struggles with transparency — and a separate grouping of executives whose problems were external to the pandemic.

Starting today, you can vote for the worst among that latter group, choosing between a high-profile leader on the outs, a CEO on the wrong side of a legal saga, and an executive keeping investors in the dark.

Vote here.

Sage got a new CEO

And it’s former longtime Alnylam Pharmaceuticals executive Barry Greene.

As STAT’s Adam Feuerstein reports, Greene has taken over for Jeff Jonas, who will retain his board seat and take on the new role of chief innovation officer. This all comes as Sage heads toward a decisive 2021, which will bring three key data readouts for its Biogen-partnered treatment for depression.

Greene, who left Alnylam at the end of September after a 17-year stint, had planned to spend the better part of a year traveling around the world. “But it’s Covid, so what am I going to do?” he said. “I found myself after a couple rounds of golf and sitting on the beach ready to go back to work.”

Read more.

Biotech is still fond of lottery tickets

Bristol Myers Squibb’s acquisition of Celgene has long since become part of biopharmaceutical history, but, thanks to a deal sweetener that promises Celgene shareholders extra cash if certain goals are met, it’s been a reliable provider of regulatory intrigue, Twitter freakouts, and armchair detective drama. Now, thanks to Eli Lilly, there will soon be another all-or-nothing lottery ticket to watch.

Yesterday, Lilly signed a deal to acquire Prevail Therapeutics for about $880 million in cash. It also affixed a conditional value right, or CVR, that would add another $160 million if one of Prevail’s gene therapies wins approval before the end of 2024. That CVR will be worth $4 per share, and its value will decline by 8.3 cents with each subsequent month that passes without an approval. At the end of 2028, it will expire.

The downside, in dramatic terms, is that the Prevail CVR cannot be traded on public markets, meaning all the angst and exuberance that has accompanied the Celgene one is unlikely to manifest. But its very existence suggests that biotech dealmakers haven’t soured on the CVR, despite its mixed track record of actually paying off for shareholders of the selling company.

More reads

  • What does success look like for the Covid-19 vaccine effort? (STAT)
  • Europe set to approve COVID-19 vaccine in Christmas week. (Reuters)
  • Covid shined light on biotech, and bulls see even brighter 2021. (Bloomberg)
  • STAT+ Conversations: Talking through the vaccine rollout. (STAT+)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Wednesday, December 16, 2020


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