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The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Here’s one explanation for Moderna’s $32 billion valuation

Wall Street analysts have been scraping the mathematical barrel to justify how Moderna, a company with no approved products, could be worth $32 billion based on Phase 1 vaccine data, trotting out models, maps, and imaginative spreadsheets. 

STAT’s Adam Feuerstein has a more direct explanation: Moderna’s valuation reflects the U.S.’s failure to deal with the novel coronavirus.

As countries in Asia and Europe move back toward normalcy amid dwindling case counts, the U.S. has put itself in a position where only a vaccine might reverse the devastating health and economic effects of the virus. Wearing masks and staying home have proved too onerous for much of the country, shifting unprecedented attention onto Moderna and, by extension, its stock.

Read more.

How AbbVie stitched its latest patent thicket

AbbVie, famous for the bramble of intellectual property that has kept Humira lucrative after nearly 20 years, appears to be replicating the process for a top-selling cancer drug.

As STAT’s Ed Silverman reports, AbbVie has filed dozens of patents related to Imbruvica, a drug first approved in 2013. The drug’s key patent is set to expire in 2026, but AbbVie’s latest claims would keep generic competition off the market until 10 years later, according to the analysis by the nonprofit Initiative for Medicines, Access, and Knowledge, maintaining the company’s monopoly on a drug that costs $174,000 a year.

“This is AbbVie’s playbook,” said Tahir Amin, the executive director of the nonprofit. “It’s in line with their behavior with Humira, where most of the patents were filed after the first approval. Once the drug is approved, they try to extend patent life as much as possible.”

Read more.

Get ready for a vaccine data debate

The discussion over just which in-development Covid-19 vaccine is most promising will quickly move from theoretical to numerical, as we’re about to get the third major data release of the month.

On Monday, the Lancet will publish results from a Phase 1 study of a vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, the journal told Reuters. That follows early-stage data from Pfizer and BioNTech, uploaded to a preprint server earlier this month, and Phase 1 results from Moderna, published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week.

It also invites armchair immunologists the world over to make scientifically dubious cross-trial comparisons. The key metric for each study is the volume of neutralizing antibodies after vaccination. To the extent there’s a consensus, the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines appear roughly comparable, which means Oxford and AstraZeneca could shift the narrative by outperforming or falling short of the competition.

Biotech had a historically rich quarter

There has never been a better time to raise money in biotech than the second quarter of 2020, as IPO dollars and private financings set records despite a global pandemic.

Biotech companies raised a record-breaking $6.4 billion during the quarter, and IPOs brought in more than $13 billion, which is also a record high, according to numbers compiled by Atlas Venture partner Bruce Booth. If you add the proceeds from follow-on public offerings, which set a five-year record, the biotech industry raised $24 billion over the course of three months.

That’s obviously good for the sector at large, but, if past biotech boomlets are an indication, it could be a net negative for the cause of actually developing good medicines. When money is tight, only the most promising ideas get funding. When cash is easy to come by, as it was back in 2015, it tends to flow into mediocre companies whose later failures fuel a downturn.

More reads

  • House Democrats are using the budget process to slam the Trump administration’s Covid-19 response. (STAT Plus)
  • Boston protesters call for more inclusion in tech and biotech. (Boston Globe)
  • Relay Therapeutics upsizes and raises proposed price range for IPO. (MarketWatch)
  • 'Longevity as a service': Insilico spins off AI biotech that trains deep learning on anti-aging treatments. (Endpoints)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Thursday, July 16, 2020


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