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Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Readout by Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Welcome to The Readout, where we keep you on top of the latest in biotech. For more in-depth coverage of biopharma, subscribe to STAT Plus. On Twitter: @damiangarde@megkesh, and @statnews.

Joe Jimenez started picking up his phone

Joe Jimenez, seen here in happier times. (FABRICE COFFRINI/GETTY IMAGES)

Former Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez is sorry for that whole paying-$1.2 million-to-President-Trump's-fixer thing. He explained as much on a mea-culpa press tour that broke a week of silence, one on which Jimenez explained that Novartis, like most of the world, was in the dark about just what a Trump administration would look like and signed a deal with the president's personal lawyer in a good-faith effort to learn a thing or two.

Novartis, meantime, has embarked on a cleanup operation. STAT's Ed Silverman reports that the company is trying to move quickly to contain the damage. Among its plans: promoting people to various positions overseeing ethics, compliance, and internal auditing; a new global policy for professional practices; an independent ethics board; and what was called a “new integrated risk function.”
 

Read more.

Making sense of the ASCO abstract dump

Biotech investors were control-F’ing their way through roughly 5,000 PDFs last night, parsing sparse ASCO abstracts in hopes of figuring who will be up and who will slide down once the big cancer conference actually starts next month.

But instead of clogging up your hard drive with all that hard-to-interpret academic argot, let STAT’s Adam Feuerstein do the work for you. He got an early look at the abstract dump and has the key takeaways for Nektar Therapeutics (disappointing), Jounce Therapeutics (ugly), Dynavax Technologies (meh), and more. You can read more here.

Bio-Twitter was also awash in ASCO abstract hot takes. The winner was Loxo Oncology. Investors were pleased with the strong response rate delivered by its genetically targeted cancer drug, particularly when compared with a competing drug from Blueprint Medicines.

If you're into all this, you can look forward to a special pop-up newsletter from ASCO once it gets underway. Sign up here.

Sponsor content by Takeda Oncology

A partnership with patients

At Takeda Oncology, patients are not only clinical trial participants and recipients of our therapies, they are also involved in the drug discovery and development of new drugs. To learn more, click here.

Pharma would like to keep its B's and D's separate, thank you

President Trump's long-awaited speech on drug prices may have spurred an industrywide shrug, but his health secretary is talking up a plot that has pharma more than a little unsettled.

Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services, wants to execute an alphabetical shuffle that could drive down pharma profits. The idea is to merge two Medicare programs, Part D and Part B, into one. Part D, which covers drugs for seniors, has the power to negotiate over prices up front, while Part B just picks up the tab after the fact.

Moving Part B drugs into Part D would help the government save money, Azar said, and it would come at pharma's expense. Perhaps most important, the secretary believes he can take certain actions without an act of Congress.
 

Read more.

We didn't forget about BIO. Did you?

It shouldn't just be the kids at ASCO getting to have all the fun.
 

BIO kicks off June 4 in Boston, so we're going to launch, yes, another email newsletter.
 

Sign up for the daily rundown of everything important that shakes out of the industry's annual convocation.
 

Register here.

More reads

  • In a first, FDA approves drug meant to mitigate symptoms of opioid withdrawal. (STAT)
  • Antibiotics biotech Iterum Therapeutics sets terms for $80 million IPO. (Renaissance Capital)
  • Malaria vs. bedbugs: the cutthroat competition to attract disease detectives. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Novartis chief lawyer departing over company’s payments made to Cohen. (STAT)

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Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Damian

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