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The Readout Damian Garde

'I feel proud': The scientist behind #CRISPRbabies speaks 

Three days after shocking the world with the revelation than he used genome editing to forever alter a pair of newborn girls, scientist He Jiankui got a chance to explain himself.

"In this particular case, I feel proud," He told a crowd of scientists at International Human Genome Editing Summit (and thousands more watching online).

But as STAT's Sharon Begley reports from Hong Kong, He's defense for flouting scientific norms — and perhaps the law — wasn't convincing to experts in attendance, who described his work as "misguided" and "appalling."

Read more.

One more thing: Sharon will be holding a live chat with STAT Plus subscribers about the whole He saga. It's on Friday at noon ET, and you can register and submit questions here.

What's Vir doing with that $500 million

Vir Biotechnology began its life with a big-name CEO, a bunch of money, and a plan to take on a problem that has scared off many a drug company: the scourge of infectious disease.

Now, as STAT’s Kate Sheridan reports, the company is starting its first clinical trial. Dubbed VIR-2218, the therapy is an RNAi-based approach to hepatitis B, one that CEO and Biogen veteran George Scangos hopes can render the virus undetectable.

It’s the first step in what Vir says is a long road toward building a pipeline of treatments for infectious, one that will draw on the company’s more than $500 million in investment dollars amassed so far.

Read more.

Generic EpiPen costs the same as regular EpiPen

Three months ago, when the FDA approved a generic version of the life-saving EpiPen, it promised the new product would offer a “lower-cost option.” As it turns out, that’s not the case.

As STAT’s Ed Silverman points out, the new autoinjector, made by Teva Pharmaceuticals, will carry a list price of $300, which is identical to the cost of the so-called authorized generic marketed by Mylan.

It’s important to note that those are just list prices, and the costs most people pay reflect discounts and rebates that vary by insurer. But the matching prices illustrate an important point in the modern pharmaceutical market: The FDA has no control over how much products cost, and there’s no guarantee that competition will save money for patients.

Read more.

Should science be nicer to business?

A bunch of academics chewed through the text of 29 undergraduate biology books and came up with a curious conclusion: Science takes a dim view of business.

The analysis, from the Center for Integration of Science and Industry at Bentley University, found that references to the business world were significantly more likely to be negative than positive, including anecdotes about dangerous drugs, unethical executives, and environmental degradation.

It might seem odd to expect a biology textbook to extol the virtues of, say, working at GlaxoSmithKline. But the authors say their point is “not that malfeasance, fraud, and unsustainable practices do not exist in industry, but that the number of references to such behaviors has the potential to undermine the objectives of STEM learning.”

If business-minded students conclude that there’s no place for them in science, the paper argues, they might dump the field altogether.

More reads

  • Vertex cystic fibrosis drug combination shows strong results in pivotal clinical trials. (STAT)
  • U.S. goal to be ‘first’ on medical devices worries former regulators. (AP)
  • Novartis CEO says four factors can help with pricing and payment of lifesaving cell and gene therapies. (CNBC)
  • ‘I shouldn’t have to go beg’: A protest over insulin prices is seen as a fight for life. (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Wednesday, November 28, 2018


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