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Friday, August 18, 2017

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. On Twitter: @damiangarde@megkesh, and @statnews.

A biotech race against the clock

Greg Mayes has the same stresses as most biotech CEOs — the unpredictability of science, the ever-present presence of deadlines, and the arduousness of constantly having to raise money. But the head of the epilepsy-focused Engage Therapeutics has another factor weighing on his mind: his son, who has the disease his company hopes to treat.

As STAT’s Rebecca Robbins reports, Mayes is scrambling to raise his company’s $21 million Series A round before a key partner has a chance to bail. That means crisscrossing the country, pitching via Skype, and trying to convince wary investors that a passion project can also be a successful business.

Read more.

How to get more women in biotech leadership

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Life sciences companies want women to lead. But there still remains a big gender gap on boards and in the C-suite. STAT chatted with Robin Toft, head of the life sciences recruitment firm The Toft Group, about how companies — and women themselves — might work to reach gender parity in bioscience.

Read more on STAT Plus.

What else is in the Alzheimer’s pipeline?

There’s no shortage of ink, digital and otherwise, devoted to the squabble between scientists who believe targeting amyloid is the most likely solution to treating Alzheimer’s disease and those who think that’s a dogmatic and even dangerous delusion that is holding the field back.

So let’s not talk about that.

Instead, what of the budding theory that tinkering with the immune system could be key to halting the disease? Or the emergence of epigenetics as a potential pathway? Or even the research into literal light shows that could improve cognition and function?

Here’s a look at some of the most interesting (non-amyloid) ideas in the early stages of development.

What are consumers doing with all this genetic health data?

Genetic testing may be a new frontier for warding away all ills, but turns out consumers aren’t really paying much mind to their results: Getting DNA data from sites like 23andMe isn’t really changing how users live. That means that by and large, they’re still smoking, drinking, overeating, and abstaining from exercise at the same rates as they were before the testing, the Associated Press points out.

And then, of course, there still are question marks around the accuracy of these tests. So we’re curious: Now that Helix, the Illumina spinout that’s offering an online marketplace for a la carte DNA testing, is off the ground, will it resonate with customers?

Yes: Consumers are clamoring for more insight into their genetic data, even if they don't do much with it.

No: It’s still too expensive, and doesn’t really offer actionable insight yet.

Maybe: It’s early days yet. These tests are getting more sophisticated, and consumers are waking up. We’ll see!

More reads

  • Lawmakers push drug makers to explain soaring prices for MS drugs. (STAT Plus)
  • The 48 frantic hours before CEOs broke with Trump. (Bloomberg)
  • Arcus grabs US rights to a WuXi-built PD-1 as second wave of checkpoints builds. (Endpoints)

Have a news tip or comment you want to send us?

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Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Damian & Meghana

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