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The Readout

What’s going to happen to Esperion?

Next month, the world will learn whether Esperion Therapeutics’ cholesterol-lowering drug is the blockbuster the company wants it to be or a multimillion-dollar headache poised to set investors’ money ablaze.

The drug long looked poised to shake up the market for cholesterol drugs, but some worrying signals from an early study spooked Wall Street and change the narrative around Esperion. We went ahead and assembled a need-to-know guide ahead of the September news, detailing what experts are looking for from Esperion’s in-development pill and how different scenarios might shape its future.

Read that on STAT Plus, and after you do, tell us your thoughts: Once Esperion’s data are out, the company’s stock will trade __________.


How to get the scoop on China’s burgeoning biotech scene

With billions of dollars flowing into China’s biotech sector and an ever-growing queue of drug-making upstarts trying to go public in Hong Kong, there’s never been more interest in the country’s life sciences industry. But for many in the U.S., a language barrier and a 12-odd-hour time difference can conspire to make following the news a little tricky.

With that in mind, STAT’s Rebecca Robbins put together a handy list of Twitter accounts that will keep you up to date with China’s biotech goings-on. There are journalists, doctors, investors, and policy experts, all keeping tabs on the fast-growing space 280 characters at a time.

And if you’re interested in China’s biotech future, join Rebecca on Wednesday, Aug. 29, for a live chat on the subject. She’ll cover investment trends, drug pricing and reimbursement, Hong Kong’s quest to become a destination for biotech listings, and the most important data readouts and regulatory decisions to watch for this fall. Sign up here.

Alex Azar warms up to a ‘gimmick’

The idea of the U.S. importing costly treatments from countries in which they're cheaper has long been reviled by the drug industry. And Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, himself a former pharma executive, dismissed it as a “gimmick” as recently as May.

But now it is August and an FDA working group is “outlining a plan of action” to allow for importing off-patent drugs whose U.S. prices have soared. The idea would seem to be preventing a future Turing Pharmaceuticals, which famously raised the price of a generic drug with no U.S. competition.

So why the change of heart at HHS? It’s a “difference between, sort of, full-scale importation, as opposed to the importation of single-source, unpatented products that have taken price increases that cause a dislocation and an inability for U.S. consumers to get them,” an HHS policy adviser said.

Read more.

Patrick Soon-Shiong's company is vertically integrated

NantHealth, the most visible of Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong's constellation of biotech companies, has a cash issue. It's burning roughly $15 million a quarter, and, as of June 30, it had only about $30 million. Thankfully, it knew where to go for funds.

Earlier this month, it opened up a $100 million line of credit with NantCapital, which is owned by Soon-Shiong, who is CEO of NantHealth. This way, NantHealth gets access to the cash it needs to stay afloat, and NantCapital collects a 9.75 percent interest rate, according to a filing with the SEC.

The arrangement raises some questions — as Venrock VC Bob Kocher wondered, how do you set an interest rate when negotiating with yourself? — but it's hardy a departure for the ouroboros that is Soon-Shiong's empire. The phrase "related party" appears 65 times in NantHealth's latest quarterly filing, detailing transactions with sister entities and overlapping ownership structures you can be forgiven for finding confusing.

More reads

  • I’m coping with cancer by reporting on it. (Politico)
  • AstraZeneca spinout Entasis files for $86M IPO to fund antibiotic Phase 3. (FierceBiotech)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Tuesday, August 21, 2018


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