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Monday, October 2, 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.

Nobel goes to scientists who study circadian rhythm

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Alex hogan/stat

Sorry, PD-1 enthusiasts. Not your year, BRCA. Too soon, CRISPR. 

This year's Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology went to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young for discoveries of molecular mechanisms that control the circadian rhythm. They isolated a gene in fruit flies that controls this biological clock and identified the proteins that help organisms anticipate and adapt to the daily rhythms of our 24-hour day.

Misfirings in the internal clock have been tied to a slew of human diseases, including cancer, metabolic disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases. And there's now a growing field of research, called chronotherapy, looking at how pharmaceuticals interact with the ebb and flow of our circadian clocks, and whether it's more effective to take certain drugs at certain times of day.

Read more.

The Price is not right. So who is?

Who will step into Tom Price’s scarcely worn shoes? The Health and Human Services secretary stepped down Friday just seven-ish months after being sworn in, thanks to that rumpus around his use of private jets. 

And now, let the speculation begin: Politico offers a dozen possible candidates to run HHS, including former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, CMS Administrator Seema Verma, and — of course — the much-lauded-of-late Scott Gottlieb of the FDA.

Sure, his many industry conflicts of interest still stand, but Gottlieb has earned stellar marks as FDA commissioner and is widely seen as one of the most competent (and low drama) appointees in the Trump administration. He’s been a well-known critic of Obamacare. And, bonus: He flies commercial.

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A profitable biotech September

We had a lot of fun tracking September readouts and selecting the perfect emojis to mark the wins and losses on our scorecard, but we haven't (yet) answered a key question: Could an investor have made money off those stocks? 

Yes. A portfolio containing all the stocks in the scorecard delivered a 14 percent return for the month, STAT's Adam Feuerstein has calculated. That compares to no change in the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index. Four of the nine stocks were up for the month, with Insmed and Zogenix more than doubling in price. Those gains were enough to offset the five losers. Versartis shares fell the most, by 87 percent. 

“What this shows is how hard it is to pick individual biotech stocks — and the value of diversification,” said health care investor Brad Loncar, who also manages an exchange-traded fund of cancer immunotherapy stocks. 

Tomorrow, STAT will unveil our next Biotech Scorecard tracking 10 companies with major binary events during the fourth quarter. We’ll choose the new emojis and leave the investing decisions to you. 

Cher takes on Soon-Shiong

If she could turn back time… Cher wouldn’t have sold her shares in Florida-based biopharma company Altor Bioscience  to billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong at what she now contends was a cut rate. 

The storied performer netted $450,000 in 2016 after selling her shares to Soon-Shiong’s NantCell, which paid out $15 million overall to acquire all outstanding shares, the Los Angeles Times reports. 

Cher claims that when she agreed to sell back her shares, at a paltry $1.50 a pop, she hadn’t been told that Altor’s drugs were showing clinical promise in treating both cancer and HIV/AIDS.  She now pegs Altor's worth at more than $1 billion.

“The lawsuit has no merit,” Soon-Shiong’s people said in a statement. “We intend to vigorously defend against it.”

More reads

  • A costly “rebranding” of an old drug comes with a 700% price increase. (The Cancer Letter)
  • Cancer-fighting power couple fights mysteries of the immune system. (Washington Post)
  • An Intel executive because a personalized medicine evangelist after a cancer diagnosis. (STAT Plus)

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Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Damian & Meghana

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