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The Readout Damian Garde

Aducanumab lives (for now)

Most of the world has long since written off aducanumab, Biogen’s superlatively scrutinized treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. But the company is waiting to see the full data on a pair of failed trials before deciding its fate.

That’s according to Dr. Michael Ehlers, Biogen’s head of research, speaking at a Stifel conference yesterday with what marks the company’s first public statements on aducanumab. Ehlers made clear that he considers the failed studies “definitive” but added that “there are gradations of read-through on this depending on what you’re talking about.”

It seems unlikely that Biogen would green-light yet another study of aducanumab, which it had previously planned, and the company might cut its ties to BAN2401, a treatment that works much the same way. But BIIB092, an Alzheimer’s treatment with a different target, could well survive the aducanumab reckoning.

We’ll find out as soon as Biogen combs through the data, which Ehlers said to expect “in the coming weeks.”

Read more.

Biotech has its own lab-rat advocate

The person with unequaled access to the inner workings of Cambridge biotech is not a billionaire investor, Nobel-winning scientist, or “key opinion leader.” It’s a veterinarian from Needham.

As STAT’s Kate Sheridan reports, Dr. Julie Medley’s job is to inspect the scores of drug developers in biotech’s adopted hometown, ensuring their many rats and mice are getting the care the law demands. That means arriving unannounced at billion-dollar companies and politely demanding a tour of the lab.

The very existence of Medley’s job, the only one of its kind in the country, illustrates Cambridge’s unique municipal challenges as a hub for biotech. And carrying it out, Medley said, requires walking a delicate balance between the cause of animal welfare and the need for new medicines.

“I’ve had some complaints over the years,’’ she said. “People that would like to have no animal work done. And I understand that. I’ve had some complaints from the biotech industry that’s like, ‘Get off our back.’”

Read more.

'That’s not true! That’s Impossible!'

Seven years ago, molecular biologist Pat Brown took a sabbatical from Stanford University with a goal that seemed, well, impossible. "I am going to devote myself, for a year, to trying to the maximum extent possible to eliminate animal farming on the planet Earth," he told an interviewer, then. “And you are thinking I'm out of my mind.”

From the start, Brown’s goal was to create products that could replace meat, because, he said, animal agriculture is environmentally destructive and contributes to climate change. In his words: To “come up with yummy, nutritious, affordable mass-marketable alternatives, so that people who are totally addicted to animal foods will find alternatives that are inherently attractive to eat, so much so that McDonald's will market them, too.” 

Well, not McDonald’s, but close. Yesterday Brown’s company, Impossible Foods, inked a deal to sell an Impossible Whopper at Burger King, which has 7,200 stores, according to the New York Times. Burger King joins Carl’s Jr. and White Castle in selling the faux meat, which is made to taste much like the real thing thanks to containing a plant-derived version of a compound called “heme” that gives red meat much of its flavor.

Will it be any good? STAT senior writer Matthew Herper’s two kids would prefer the Impossible Burgers at New York’s Momofuku Nishi to real meat, but at other outlets, quality varies. Burger King will test the Impossible Whopper first in St. Louis, and then plans to expand to the rest of the country, according to the Times.

Bring your biotech questions

Ever debate whether there’s a difference between Opdivo and Keytruda? Do you wonder if gene therapy will ever be a big business? Have you ever been curious about what became of some penny-stock biotech from yesteryear?

The point is, if you’ve got questions about biotech, we’ve got some people who probably have answers. A week from today, we’re going to sequester STAT’s Matthew Herper and Adam Feuerstein and force them to answer any and all queries that come. This is your chance to get them to explain some thorny issue or just hold them accountable for a bad opinion or two.

It’s starts at 11 a.m. ET on April 9, and it’s open to STAT Plus subscribers. You can register to join right here.

More reads

  • Maturing Ironwood is spinning off Cyclerion, its edgy, risk-taking kid brother. (STAT Plus)
  • Sources: Martin Shkreli in solitary confinement after claims he ran company from prison. (Forbes)
  • Alphabet and Apple take divergent paths in health. (Financial Times)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Tuesday, April 2, 2019


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