Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Readout by Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Welcome to The Readout, where we keep you on top of the latest in biotech. For more in-depth coverage of biopharma, subscribe to STAT Plus. And, hey, if you do, you’re invited to our inaugural New York subscriber event at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 4. Register here. If you’d like to subscribe so you can attend the event, go here.

Wanna see Moderna’s investor pitch deck?

moderna Ceo Stéphane Bancel (ARAM BOGHOSIAN FOR STAT)
We have it, and it’s fairly interesting.

Many of the slides are pretty much indistinguishable from what the biotech unicorn presented at J.P. Morgan, but one in particular gives clues as to how Moderna defends that much-discussed $7.5 billion valuation. According to Moderna, its pipeline is worth as much as $37 billion in peak annual sales, including $15 billion for its vaccines alone.  Those figures were vexing to some investors.

"They are VERY generous on the market-size assumptions for their programs,” wrote an investor who sat through Moderna’s pitches.

Read more.

A $1 billion biotech company, apparently 

That’s the market cap of Geron, and it happened basically over the past week, making the company the top-performing biotech stock this year.  

How? Geron CEO John Scarlett sweet-talked some investors with a suggestive pitch about its experimental myelofibrosis drug helping patients live longer.

Adam Feuerstein took a closer look at Scarlett’s survival claim and found it — like Geron’s market cap — overinflated.

Read more.

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Will California's transparency law work? Meh

California has unearthed some rather hefty price hikes through the new drug transparency law: Valeant (surprise, surprise) is planning to increase the price of a generic glaucoma med by 63 percent, and Teva Pharmaceuticals has a 49 percent price hike for an asthma drug, Politico reports.

Whether this information will actually help lower drug prices is an entirely different matter.

The idea behind the law, of course, is to force companies to reveal larger price hikes — with the hopes that the resultant public outcry might shame companies into bringing them back down. But hypothetical reproach is not a powerful enough motivator to make waves in pharma, some say.

“We’ve seen massive, massive price increases, and shame has not trumped profit,” Adams Dudley, a pulmonologist and director of the University of California, San Francisco’s Center for Healthcare Value, told Politico. “After a while, people get numb to it.”

Biohaven wins — and loses

An experimental migraine pill from Biohaven Pharmaceuticals hit its primary endpoints of beating placebo in pain relief and prevention of symptoms including light sensitivity and nausea in two Phase 3 clinical trials. Success!

But the Biohaven migraine pill didn’t beat placebo by much, which could spell trouble if (or when) it reaches the market. Biohaven’s stock price fell 7 percent Monday. Oops.

Our updated biotech Q1 scorecard is here.

More reads 

  • AnaptysBio peanut allergy shot improves tolerance, aided by generous reading of data (STAT Plus)
  • Private clinics in Germany sell cancer patients hope — and mixed results (Longreads)
  • Why thousands of Americans are skipping health insurance (Bloomberg)
  • A profile of new Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan (Forbes)

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Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

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