Tuesday, October 17, 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.

‘Murder’ isn’t what it used to be


Here's a story about two dots.

Dot 1, on the left side of the above chart, represents the roughly 4 percent drop in the Nasdaq biotech index triggered by President Trump's Jan. 11 statement that drug companies are "getting away with murder."

Dot 2 notes the complete lack of a market response on Oct. 16, when Trump said "the drug companies quite frankly are getting away with murder."

All of which is a long way of saying biopharma investors aren't particularly frightened of the president anymore. As the squiggly but upwardly mobile line above suggests, Trump's first threat didn't exactly constrain the drug business. And yesterday's market reaction suggests investors see little to fear in the latest one.

You think Gilead’s going to low-ball CAR-T

Yesterday we asked readers how they think Gilead Sciences will price its soon-to-be-approved CAR-T treatment for cancer. And most said the company is not going to aim all that high.

The largest group, 39 percent, said the price will come in somewhere between $300,000 and $400,000 for a single dose of the therapy. Another 31 percent believe Gilead will pick a price between $400,000 and $500,000.

Which is to say 70 percent of readers are basically betting Gilead will undercut Novartis, which priced its CAR-T at $475,000. In the short term, the two therapies will be used in different cancers, making their comparative price points somewhat irrelevant. But each company is hoping to eventually expand the label of its CAR-T, meaning Gilead and Novartis could be competing head to head in 2019.

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Reminder that biotech hasn't quite solved gene therapy

Spark Therapeutics looks all but certain to win FDA approval for what would be the U.S.'s first* gene therapy. But that doesn't mean decades of difficulty have been relegated to the rear view.

As STAT's Adam Feuerstein points out, Spark's success has benefited the share prices of other gene therapy developers, as investors hail the dawn of a new treatment modality. But anyone with a rosy take on the still-evolving technology would be wise to recall Avalanche Biotechnologies, Celladon, and the one-time pioneer that is UniQure. 

Once upon a time, each looked poised to upend biotech dogma. In the end, each offered a painful reminder that gene therapy is still a challenging endeavor.

Read more on STAT Plus.

*There's a debate around this descriptor, and we're not even remotely interested in having it.

The Biotech Devil's Dictionary

There’s a lot of jargon, coded language, and outright nonsense in biotech, and we want to clear up — and celebrate — as much of it as we can through this glossary. Have a phrase to contribute? Email it over. And, for your convenience, we've gone ahead and gathered all the past entries into a one-stop shop.

clearing event (n.): A term analysts use to describe bad news for a company when they want to make it seem like, 1) they saw the whole thing coming, and, 2) the bad thing only clears the way for good things to come. For example, while some might see losing one's job as bad, others might call it a clearing event for employment opportunities to come.

"The clearing event has occurred, been factored, and growth is on the other side." — Cowen analyst Ken Cacciatore on a court decision that threatens Allergan's blockbuster eye drug

More reads

  • Q&A: Will we see more drug makers file antitrust lawsuits against rivals? (STAT Plus)
  • Pharma and medtech industries prepare for hard Brexit. (Reuters)
  • Martin Shkreli says he's on verge of medical "breakthrough" in prison. (CBS News)
  • Ionis begins human trials of Alzheimer's drug. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

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

Send us an email

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Damian & Meghana

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