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The Readout Damian Garde

Liquid biopsy just got more crowded


That stealthy liquid biopsy company you read about in STAT last month is ready to talk about itself.

Thrive Earlier Detection, a Third Rock Ventures-backed company based in Cambridge, disclosed its $110 million series A round this morning. Led by ex-Foundation Medicine president Steve Kafka, Thrive will develop a liquid biopsy test based on technology described in a Science paper from last January.

As STAT’s Kate Sheridan and Matthew Herper report, the test is currently being evaluated in a 10,000-person clinical trial at Geisinger Health Systems. Results from that study could be published as early as 2020.

“Everybody would love it if it works, and in order to know if it works, somebody has to do the right, carefully designed studies,” said David Ledbetter, Geisinger’s chief scientific officer.

Fun fact: Thrive’s series A round is just $10 million more than what Grail got from Illumina when it launched more than three years ago; that company is now worth valued at $3.1 billion, according to Pitchbook data.

Read more.

Merck is expecting a big weekend


ASCO is upon us again, and it may be a big one for Merck.

As STAT’s Matthew Herper reports, the drug maker is set to release new data on five-year survival with Keytruda, its best-selling cancer treatment. Beyond that, we’ll also get a glimpse of data for Keytruda in gastroesophageal junction tumors, a type of stomach cancer, kidney cancer, and bladder cancer. And there will be new data about Lynparza, which Merck sells with AstraZeneca.

Keytruda has had its share of disappointments as a combination therapy, including the Incyte blowup in April. But Merck’s R&D chief, Roger Perlmutter, says it’s impossible to deny that the drug is helping some patients live longer.

“It sort of takes your breath away,” he said.

Read more.

Speaking of ASCO


The so-called Super Bowl of cancer research starts Friday, and if you want to keep tabs on all the practice-changing, market-moving, and investor-disappointing news, we have a tidy means of doing so.

ASCO in 30 Seconds is our pop-up email newsletter, written from Chicago by STAT's Adam Feuerstein and Matthew Herper. Every day, from May 31 to June 3, it'll arrive in your inbox with the latest on key presentations, interviews from the scene, and musings on what all the new data mean for patients, practitioners, and the companies trying to change the standard of care.

Sign up for it here.

If you absolutely cannot wait for the Theranos movie


There’s a new Netflix series involving biotech, venture capital, and Faustian bargaining. It's called “What/If” and it’s about the founder of Emigen Molecular Sequencing who, despite her scientific acumen and noble goal of saving cancer patients, cannot seem to convince Silicon Valley’s ocean of vest-clad VCs to invest in her genomics company. (“I’m afraid Big Pharma would drown us in litigation,” says one, inexplicably.)

That’s when she meets the all-powerful investor Anne Montgomery, played by Renée Zellweger, who seems to be splitting the difference between “Basic Instinct” and “Devil’s Advocate.” Montgomery offers her the money she needs to keep Emigen afloat, but the deal has dark implications for her earnest and unfortunately sideburned husband, who is a pro baseball player-turned-EMT with a night job as a bartender.

Anyway, by the end of the pilot, there’s an embattled startup, a fractured marriage, and an unsolved assault. Your correspondent did not make it to episode two.

More reads

  • Fertility clinics around the world asked ‘CRISPR babies’ scientist for how-to help. (STAT)
  • For these biotech workers, love (of music) is the drug. (Boston Globe)
  • Amarin shares soar after FDA agrees to fast-track review of its prescription strength fish oil pill for heart patients. (CNBC)
  • Tech giants partner with universities like Stanford. They’re also hiring away star medical researchers. (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Megan

Thursday, May 30, 2019

STAT

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