Friday, April 20, 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.

Weak sales, high hopes for Novartis and CAR-T

Last year, when Novartis won approval for its pioneering CAR-T cancer treatment, analysts called it the dawn of a multibillion-dollar new class of medicines.

Months later, we now know how much Novartis has made off that dawn: $12 million.

But no one's forecasting doom just yet. For one, the whole CAR-T process is complex and time-consuming. For two, Novartis's first approved indication is a fairly rare cancer, and the bigger patient groups — and thus bigger revenues — are still on the horizon.

Read more.

On the podcast: Drug pricing and 'vamprie squid'

(Jennifer Keefe/STAT)

Is Bristol-Myers Squibb into self-sabotage? Is Congress coming for Gut Guy? And why does Goldman Sachs love money so much?

We discuss all that and more on the latest episode of “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. Tune in for a discussion of the battle for dominance in lung cancer, the curious case of a confusing drug price, and multiple utterances of the phrase “vampire squid.”

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.

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A milestone, albeit an uneventful one

Yesterday a bunch of neuroscience experts said the FDA should approve GW Pharmaceuticals' experimental treatment for a seizure disorder, which is exactly what Readout readers said would happen.

It was pretty uncontroversial ("This is clearly a breakthrough drug for an awful disease,” said one expert), and it's exactly what Wall Street expected to happen. Which is why GW's shares were almost entirely flat after the vote, giving a bunch of random people on Twitter a reminder of the concept of "priced in."

But beyond all the stock stuff, this was an actual milestone: If it's approved, and that looks very likely, GW's drug would be the country’s first medication made from marijuana.

Tinkering with the master switches of genetics

Everyone knows about genes, those (mostly) decoded little acronyms that determine height, hair color, and apparently whether you like cilantro. But scientists have recently become enamored with the molecular latticework one step removed.

It's called epigenetics, and, as its name implies, it's the idea that you can modify problematic genes by targeting the mechanisms that turn them on and off. As STAT's Elizabeth Cooney reports, there are more than 20 epigenetic drugs in clinical trials, targeting a host of diseases.

"The idea here is that while we focus to a large extent on genetics and the DNA sequence, every bit or potentially more important is how the DNA is organized,” said Dr. Torsten Nielsen, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of British Columbia.

Read more.

More reads

  • Allergan in talks to acquire Shire, competing against Takeda. (Reuters)
  • A new microscope spies the raucous beauty within living cells. (STAT)
  • FDA’s insider review raises serious safety issues as Eli Lilly’s quick comeback shot for baricitinib heads for expert showdown. (Endpoints)
  • U.S. spending on prescription drugs rose less than 1 percent last year. (STAT)

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