Friday, April 7, 2017

The Readout by Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Welcome to The Readout, where we keep you on top of all things biotech. Follow us on Twitter: @damiangarde@megkesh, and @statnews. And for more in-depth coverage, check out our subscription site, STAT Plus.

Do you want to know if you're at risk of Alzheimer's?

Folks can now spit in a vial, mail it off to California, and learn whether they're genetically at risk to develop conditions like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and celiac disease.

The FDA had blocked 23andMe from sharing this data with consumers in 2013, but has now approved direct-to-consumer tests to assess genetic risks for 10 diseases. 

That concerns some physicians, who warn that consumers may not be well-equipped to understand the information that comes back to them without help from trained genetic counselors.

Read more.

Trump: PETA's new BFF?

All this NIH budget talk has forged some super strange bedfellows: PETA is looking past all those well-done steaks and backing the Trump administration’s views on medical research — at least when it comes to animal testing.

In a letter to HHS Secretary Tom Price, the polarizing animal rights activist group points out that about 40 percent of the current NIH budget — some $12 billion — goes toward animal studies, despite “growing concern about the lack of applicability of animal research to humans.” The group points out, too, that NIH has been slow to reform. It's hoping the proposed budget cuts will limit research on animals.

So there's common ground here, sure. But we’ll call this dalliance a one-off: PETA couldn't possibly overlook the furry bedclothes of Trump’s legal bedfellow.

Pharma's beloved mascots could be in danger

The US is one of just two developed nations where ads for pharmaceuticals can run on TV. That's not going to change, but there's a movement in Congress to make the process way more expensive.

Democrats are trying to strip pharma of its ability to write off direct-to-consumer marketing costs. And while similar efforts have failed to get bipartisan support in the past, experts say the looming debate over tax reform — and how to pay for it — could shake things up. 

Read more.

How does one #GoBoldly, exactly?

Speaking of drug ads, PhRMA’s spending millions of dollars trying to change its image, and the tip of the spear is a glitzy TV commercial in which Dylan Thomas, swelling strings, and dramatically lit researchers make the case that science is hard.

Ever wonder how the campaign came about?

“One of our internal mantras was, ‘Why can’t the pharma industry be appreciated the way the tech industry is?’” said one of the ad execs behind the spot.

Get the full story on STAT Plus.

More reads

  • Former FDA chief Margaret Hamburg says Scott Gottlieb will have a "steep learning curve." (STAT Plus)
  • Novartis finds its next mass-market ophthalmology drug candidate at a small virtual biotech. (Endpoints)
  • Spark Therapeutics' hemophilia B gene therapy clears another early test. (FierceBiotech)
In yesterday's Readout, we incorrectly stated where a herd of pampered pigs reside: They're in China, not Cambridge. We regret the error, and the bursting of our mental image of CRISPR'd swine overtaking Kendall Square.

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Thanks for reading! Until next week,

Damian & Meghana

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