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The Readout Damian Garde

Your guide to biotech’s next big news

Is Mirati Therapeutics overrated? Can Sage Therapeutics keep up its momentum? And how will the Amarin saga conclude?

We’re going to learn all that and more in the coming months, and, to keep from getting blindsided by major biotech news, STAT’s Adam Feuerstein put together a scorecard of the biggest expected happenings in the fourth quarter.

If everything goes as expected, there’ll be sizable news in the fields of depression, oncology, genome editing, and rare disease.

Read more.

Rep. Chris Collins is pleading guilty after all

You may recall Rep. Chris Collins, a New York Republican known for his early support of President Trump and his voluble promotion of a penny-stock biotech called Innate Immunotherapeutics. In 2017, Innate’s only drug came up a dud, which left Collins and some of his House colleagues with sizable paper losses. Then came federal allegations that the congressman illegally tipped off his family before the failure was public, charges Collins denied on his way to a 2018 re-election.

That brings us to yesterday, when Collins tendered his resignation while reportedly preparing to change his plea to guilty. His trial was slated to begin in February.

It ends a fairly bizarre saga for Collins, who briefly suspended his re-election campaign before declaring the charges “fake news” and pressing on. He won his deeply red district by less than half a percentage point and vowed to beat the charges. What changed between November and now is unclear.

23andMe’s former No. 2 dives into AI in medicine

Andy Page spent five years at the right hand of 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki. His next act, after a stint at the health tech company Livongo, is leading a startup that promises to democratize ultrasounds with the aid of artificial intelligence.

As STAT’s Matthew Herper reports, the company is called Caption Health, and it has developed a device meant to allow practitioners with relatively limited training to take high-quality ultrasounds of the heart. 

AI’s potential in medicine is little secret, but the specific allure of Caption was the startup’s focus on a tractable problem, Page said. 

“Knowing it was a trend that was coming, my thought was that to really impact health care, the AI implementation would have to be straightforward, understandable, practical, trusted,” he said. “And that’s exactly what the company was doing.”

Read more.

Vertex makes another bet on the future

Fair or otherwise, a lot of the conversation about Vertex Pharmaceuticals focuses not on the company’s $4 billion-a-year cystic fibrosis business but rather on just what the company will look like when those patents inevitably expire. Yesterday, we learned that the future Vertex will be digging into neurological disease.

The Boston company signed a deal with a firm called Ribometrix to partner on drugs that target RNA, and the first target is Huntington’s disease, a rare and devastating neurodegenerative disease.

The RNA-focused deal comes about a month after Vertex agreed to pay nearly $1 billion for Semma Therapeutics, an early-stage startup trying to turn stem cells into a curative treatment for type 1 diabetes. And both agreements fit alongside the company’s recent pipeline-expanding moves, focused on unproven technologies that could have dramatic effects on serious disease. So far this year, Vertex has invested in CRISPR genome editing and synthetic messenger RNA.

More reads

  • Biotech IPOs are risky business. Here’s how to do a deal right. (Barron's)
  • Bankrupt poop-testing startup uBiome just lost the government approval that's required to run key tests. (Business Insider)
  • Pelosi’s drug pricing plan could wipe out some key funding for low-income hospitals. (STAT Plus)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Tuesday, October 1, 2019


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