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The Readout Damian Garde

The cancer news you missed at ESMO

While you were doing your weekend, cancer researchers were in Barcelona for this year’s meeting of the European Society of Medical Oncology. They were also making some news.

New data released by Amgen showed that its experimental KRAS-blocking drug had minimal tumor-shrinking effects in patients with advanced colorectal cancer. The disappointing results will likely raise new questions over whether the drug can be broadly effective against different types of solid tumors. 

Other data released at the conference showed two competing PARP inhibitors, one from Astrazeneca and Merck, the other from GlaxoSmithKline, reduced the risk of ovarian cancer from returning following surgery.

Beam Therapeutics plans to go public

It was just last year that Beam Therapeutics came out of stealth. Now the Cambridge, Mass.-based startup has filed for a $100 million IPO. 

Beam, which is working on base editing and helmed by the world’s leading CRISPR’ers — including Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute — has raised about $222 million to date, buoyed by a $135 million Series B round this past March. 

The company likens its base editing technology to a pencil, as it can erase and rewrite a single letter in the gene. The standard analogy for CRISPR, of course, is that it works like a pair of scissors — excising a small segment of genetic data.

The company will use the new funding for continued R&D, as well as for IMD-enabling studies and clinical trials, it said in its prospectus. Beam’s most advanced programs are in sickle cell and beta thalassemia — as well as in CAR-T applications for leukemia. 

FTC taking its time on Abbvie and Allergan

There’s been tons of pressure on the Federal Trade Commission — from consumer groups, unions, and even politicians — to block AbbVie from successfully acquiring Allergan. The worry is that the $63 billion merger would create the fourth largest pharmaceutical company in the world — decreasing market competition in a time when drug prices are under intense scrutiny. 

Maybe the FTC is paying attention?

AbbVie and Allergan said late Friday they had received a second request for information from the antitrust regulator. The drug makers say that the inquiry was fully expected and that they still believe the deal will close early next year.

Genetics are complicated

After CRISPR maverick He Jiankui was widely condemned for his work producing the world's first genetically edited babies, a scientific paper released in June seemed to add insult to injury. That paper, published in Nature, concluded that the rare genetic variants that He tried to engineer into the embryos came with an increased death rate. 

Now, the paper’s senior author, Rasmus Nielsen, said the study was likely wrong, STAT’s Rebecca Robbins writes.

"The one thing that all scientists fear the most is to find out that a major result they have published was based on erroneous data," Nielsen wrote on Twitter. "This is an event that will affect you for the rest of your scientific career."

Read more. 

More reads

  • White House weighs limits on U.S. portfolio flows into China. (Bloomberg)
  • Mylan pays $30 million to settle charges of misleading investors over probe into EpiPen Medicaid rebates. (STAT)
  • Gene-test fraud billed $2.1 billion to U.S. Medicare program. (Bloomberg)

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


Monday, September 30, 2019


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