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The Readout Damian Garde

Antitrust regulator clears path for Roche to finally buy Spark Therapeutics

Nearly a year after Roche announced a planned takeover of gene therapy pioneer Spark Therapeutics, the $4.3 deal finally looks poised to soon go through. The deal sparked antitrust investigations on both sides of the Atlantic, but yesterday morning, a British regulator cleared the transaction, and yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission did too.

Critics of the proposed deal had been concerned that Roche, which sells a drug for hemophilia, would slow down or end the development of Spark's experimental gene therapy for the condition. But the FTC said its investigation found no evidence that Roche would have incentive to do that.

One biotech venture fund is literally giving money away

MPM Capital, a Boston-based biotech fund, is investing in cancer research with no expectation of monetary return.

As STAT’s Kate Sheridan reports, MPM has set up a first-of-its kind program that will divert a chunk of the fund’s client fees to pay for scientific grants. Alongside the American Association for Cancer Research, MPM will dole out research funding for potentially transformative ideas. And the money, drawn from MPM’s fees for managing the UBS Oncology Impact Fund, has no strings attached.

“Our investors want to make money and do good at the same time,” said Dr. Christiana Bardon, a member of MPM’s investment team and the managing director of the Oncology Impact Fund. “That is the ultimate goal of what we do — not just to make money, but to create drugs that transform patients’ lives.”

Read more.

A 99%-off sale at uBiome

UBiome, the microbiome-testing startup once valued at $600 million, is in the process of selling its last remaining assets for just $7 million.

As STAT’s Erin Brodwin reports, a DNA testing company called Psomagen has signed a preliminary deal to buy uBiome’s patent portfolio and related intellectual property. The transaction is awaiting the approval of a bankruptcy judge.

Way back in early 2019, uBiome was a buzzy Silicon Valley company promising unprecedented insights into human health by analyzing stool. Then, in April, the FBI raided its offices and the co-CEOs resigned. UBiome filed for bankruptcy in October.

Read more.

And, now, the worst CEOs

Yesterday, STAT’s Adam Feuerstein invited you to vote on the best biopharma CEOs of the year. Today brings the inverse.

This year’s nominees for worst CEO represent companies big and small, storied and newfangled. There’s an executive who has presided over two major restructurings while somehow keeping his job. There’s one who promised a big-money buyout that has never come through. And there’s the leader of a unicorn that has managed to miss all of its promised deadlines since going public at a $2 billion valuation.

As always, this survey not based on data science, machine learning, or really anything measurable. It’s supposed to be fun. Vote here.

A new idea in Huntington's

Clinical trials in Huntington's disease are testing treatments that aim to reduce the production of a mutant form of the protein huntingtin, which kills neurons and drives the array of symptoms that mark the disease. A new company launching Tuesday is taking a different approach — one that, if successful, could be used to treat other diseases that, like Huntington's, are caused by segments of a gene repeating over and over.

Triplet Therapeutics believes it can treat these "repeat expansion disorders" by restricting the expansion of those repeats of DNA in the first place. The company envisions designing antisense oligonucleotides and small interfering RNA to halt some of the errant activity of the so-called DNA damage response pathway, which could in turn prevent the onset and progression of the inherited diseases.

Triplet was started by Atlas Venture and partner Nessan Bermingham, who's taken on the CEO role. It is launching with a $49 million Series A round led by MPM Capital and Pfizer Ventures. Other repeat expansion disorders include myotonic dystrophy and spinocerebellar ataxias. 

More reads

  • Axsome’s depression drug succeeds in late-stage trial. (STAT Plus)
  • Lawmakers say a Lilly program to offer half-price insulin is a bust. (STAT Plus)
  • Wave Life Sciences crashes on negative outcome of Duchenne muscular dystrophy study. (STAT)
  • A controversial dwarfism drug, after clearing pivotal study, heads to the FDA. (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Tuesday, December 17, 2019


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