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The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Aducanumab goes to Davos

Today, beneath the snow and snipers in Switzerland, attendees of the World Economic Forum are going to hear Biogen’s controversial case for an Alzheimer’s disease treatment.

CEO Michel Vounatsos will be the sole drug-industry voice on a Davos panel called “Assessing the options for Alzheimer’s,” joined by the head of the NIH, the CEO of AARP, and the leader of “Asia’s leading STEM-focused media company.” The conversation will almost surely turn to aducanumab, Biogen’s debatably effective treatment for Alzheimer’s that will soon come under the scrutiny of regulators the world over.

Davos is aimed at people with private jets who pay for poverty cosplay, and thus its panel discussions don’t tend toward controversy. But it sure would be interesting to hear what AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins thinks about seniors potentially paying thousands of dollars a year for a drug that might not work, or what NIH Director Francis Collins thinks about Biogen’s scientific case for aducanumab. You never know.

The session starts at 8:45 ET, and you can find it on the conference website.

Verily is ‘not a tech company’

Rather, it’s “a life sciences health care company that’s using technology to advance its goals,” according to Dr. Vivian Lee, Verily’s head of health platforms. That may seem like a semantic distinction, but the brains behind Google’s foray see it as a differentiating factor. They’re not inventing solutions in search of problems; they’re bringing years of experience treating patients into Verily’s development process.

Lee and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jessica Mega sat down with STAT’s Erin Brodwin and Matthew Herper to talk about how Verily’s quest to, as Mega put it, create more than “just another vendor” in health care.

“We are not a hammer in search of a nail,” Lee said. “We’re actually trying to solve problems that many of us have lived, whether in trying to do a clinical trial quickly or managing large health systems or navigating the value-based world without bankrupting the organization.”

Read more.

Whatever happened to that therapeutic video game?

Back in 2018, Akili Interactive Labs was poised for an audacious first, making its case that the FDA should approve a video game as a treatment for ADHD. Then 18 months went by, all without a word on the FDA process.

As STAT’s Rebecca Robbins reports, that could be an ominous sign for Akili’s ambitions. The company wouldn’t say whether regulators had problems with its application or wanted to see another clinical trial. CEO Eddie Martucci said the company stands by the game’s demonstrated benefits but conceded that the process is taking “longer than some of us had hoped.”

Akili’s game, Project Evo, is a tablet-based app that rewards players for focusing on specific tasks. The idea, according to the company, is to activate certain neural networks in the brain and thereby treat ADHD.

Read more.

Pharma’s fight against superbugs is still underfunded

Over the last two years, the drug industry has only narrowly increased its work in anti-infective science, according to a new report, an effort easily dwarfed by the need for new medicines.

As STAT’s Ed Silverman reports, the Access to Medicine Foundation saw “signs of progress” in its latest look at the industry’s work in antibiotics, but nothing that would change the tide in the mounting problem of drug-resistant infections.

Perhaps most alarming is who’s funding the new ideas. According to the report, of the 138 treatments in the industry’s pipeline, only nine are considered innovative. The majority of those are being developed by small biotech companies, which have in the past struggled to find sustainable business models that might bring those drugs to fruition.

Read more.

More reads

  • CDC details first U.S. case of novel virus spreading in China. (STAT)
  • The man who founded a biotech that got sold to Eli Lilly for $8 billion reveals why he's staying on at the pharma giant. (Business Insider)
  • This CEO wants to make telehealth more than ‘an exercise in convenience.’ (STAT Plus)
  • Horizon drug wins FDA approval as first for rare eye disease. (Bloomberg)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Wednesday, January 22, 2020


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