The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

23andMe layoffs signal market downturn

The market for consumer genetic testing may be trending down. The latest evidence: 23andMe will be laying off about 100 people, or 14% of its staff, thanks to declining sales of its $99 spit kits. CEO Anne Wojcicki said she isn't sure why the market is starting to turn — but suspects that privacy concerns may play a role.  

“This has been slow and painful for us,” Wojcicki told CNBC. 

It’s not just 23andMe feeling the pressure. Illumina CEO Francis deSouza told investors last summer that there was a “weakness” in the DTC  market, and that his company was taking a "cautious view" when it comes to ancestry and health tests. 

Of course, this isn’t the first time 23andMe has needed to trim its staff: There were reductions in both 2009 and 2016. 

The layoffs could suggest a slight strategy shift for 23andMe, STAT's Erin Brodwin writes. Earlier this month, company sold the rights to a new drug that it had developed in-house, using insights gleaned from mining customer genetic data.

Read more.

Has the FDA lost its touch?

Are we dealing with a SARS redux? And what do billionaires talk to each other about?

We discuss all that and more on the latest episode of “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. First, STAT’s Helen Branswell joins us to break down what’s known, unknown, and yet to come for the viral outbreak in China. Then, we talk about this week’s World Economic Forum, which has turned out not to be a venue for substantive discussions about drug development.

Finally, our colleague Matthew Herper dials in to discuss the latest twist in the Sarepta Therapeutics saga and why it has some people alarmed about the future of the FDA.

Listen here.

More than 450 lobbyists battled drug pricing reform in Washington last year

To witness the factiousness of drug pricing politics, look no further than the lobbyists. Drug makers like Pfizer, Merck, and 32 others dropped more than $120 million in 2019 to press lawmakers in Washington to oppose prescription drug pricing reform, STAT’s Nicholas Florko writes

The trade group PhRMA, alone, spent $28.9 million last year on lobbyists — exceeding its 2018 record of $27.5 million.

It’s not just the biopharma industry attempting to sway lawmakers on drug pricing. Physicians, big box stores, and even universities all weighed in on Capitol Hill. 

Read more.

Study: Dearth of funding transparency among patient advocacy groups

Patient organizations are an increasingly powerful voice in helping shape health policy. However, a new analysis found that there’s often minimal transparency among these groups — and many have a great deal of industry backing. 

A systematic review published in BMJ showed that although up to 83% of patient advocacy groups received industry funding, only about a quarter disclosed that fact on their websites. 

Meanwhile, pharma — which is on the defensive about pricing — is relying more and more on patient groups to help with messaging directed at lawmakers, regulators, and the general public, STAT’s Ed Silverman writes.

Read more. 

More reads

  • Roche's risdiplam clears another phase 3, setting up SMA showdown with Novartis and Biogen. (FierceBiotech)
  • Former Insys executive who dressed as giant fentanyl bottle gets 26-month sentence. (Boston Globe)

Thanks for reading! More next week,


Friday, January 24, 2020


Facebook   Twitter   YouTube   Instagram

1 Exchange Pl, Suite 201, Boston, MA 02109
©2020, All Rights Reserved.
I no longer wish to receive STAT emails
Update Email Preferences | Contact Us
5cP.gif?contact_status=<<Contact Status>>