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The Readout

We're halfway there

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(Rubius Therapeutics)

One thing about the increasing number of preclinical biotechs going public — there have been five so far this year after just one in 2017 — is that companies are getting creative with their pipeline charts. If you stuck to the standard measures of “preclinical” through “Phase 3,” you’d have a bunch of monochromatic stubs all stacked on the starting line.

Compare that the graphic above from Rubius Therapeutics, whose creative diction you may recall. The company is angling to become the next preclinical firm to pull of an IPO this year, but it has something the others don’t: a self-diagnosed $1.8 billion valuation.

That makes it something of a bellwether. Biotech has had quite a year so far on Wall Street, but are investors ready to back such a big dollar amount for a company that won’t file to start its first clinical trial until next year?

Read more.

There's more turnover at Grail

Grail, the richly funded liquid biopsy developer spun out of Illumina, has a new No. 2 executive. The company announced yesterday that it's hired Celgene veteran George Golumbeski as its new president.

Golumbeski, you may recall, had led dealmaking at Celgene, with mixed reviews from investors, until departing the drug maker this past spring in a management overhaul. At Grail, Golumbeski will replace Ken Drazan, who the company says is leaving to work with early-stage startups.

Turnover is hardly unusual in biotech and Silicon Valley. But it's worth noting that this time last summer, Grail had a CEO, president, chief scientific officer, business development head, and data science head — who have all since left those roles. In another move announced yesterday, the company said it's brought in Genentech veteran Onaiza Cadoret-Manier as its new chief commercial officer.
 

Where were you for the Trump trade?

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(@realdonaldtrump)

Just after 1 p.m. ET yesterday, President Trump tweeted the above, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Pfizer and the major drug industry indices dropped.

For a few minutes, anyway. Pfizer, which fell just shy of 1 percent the minute Trump hit send, was back in the green by 2 p.m. So too was the IBB, a widely tracked biopharma index that dipped momentarily on the tweet.

That’s probably because each of Trump’s prior pricing provocations — including the prediction that companies would lower costs on their own — has come to nothing at all. In this case, Trump is responding to Pfizer’s move of raising a bevy of drug prices at mid-year, a time-honored industry practice. And, as in cases past, the market is betting his administration will do nothing in response.

But Alex Azar, the former drug executive Trump picked to run the Department of Health and Human Services, thinks the latest round of price increases “may well be remembered for creating a tipping point in U.S. drug pricing policy. 

“As you may have recently seen on Twitter, the president has noticed I have noticed and more importantly the American people have noticed,” Azar said at a conference in Washington. “Change is coming to prescription drug pricing, whether it's painful or not for pharmaceutical companies.”

Drug stocks remained flat into the close.

Yet more money for cutting-edge science
 

Life sciences startups are historically awash in funding sources, raising $15 billion so far this year with no sign of sluggishness ahead.

But what about the scientific ideas deemed too risky by the venture capital powers that be? The Wellcome Trust, among the world's largest biomedical research charities, has just those ideas in mind with its new $330 million fund.

As STAT's Helen Branswell reports, the U.K. group is launching what it calls its Leap Fund, seeking out science that might be a bit too speculative for the likes of the NIH or its British equivalent, the Medical Research Council.

Read more.

More reads

  • A new messaging tactic on the left: Drug prices rise, as pharma prospers from tax law. (STAT)
  • Bankers quit Goldman, Citigroup for biotech riches in Hong Kong. (Bloomberg)
  • CMS quit test of Novartis's pricey cancer treatment amid concerns over industry role. (Politico)
  • Hope for creaky old humans: Removing aged cells from mice can restore their youth, study finds. (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Megan

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

STAT

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