Wednesday, February 8, 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, visit STAT. On Twitter: @damiangarde@megkesh, and @statnews.

About that transformational Gilead deal

It just got that much more necessary.

Gilead Sciences, after making a mint in the field of hepatitis C, shocked Wall Street on Tuesday, forecasting 2017 sales that fell well below analyst estimates. This year, the company expects to book between $7 billion and $9.5 billion in hep C sales, far short of the $12 billion or so investors were expecting.

All this serves to underline the question analysts have been asking for more than a year: When, in the holy name of shareholder value, is Gilead going to buy a company?

Gilead CEO John Mulligan was elliptical as ever, saying any acquisition would “need to have right strategic fit” and echoing his Goldilocks-like rhetoric about searching for a perfect match. But he acknowledged that, without a deal of some kind, it’ll be hard for Gilead to keep growing after 2018.

And so we’re left where we were before: pondering what it will take for Gilead to reach into its $32.4 billion cash reserves and finally buy something.

Microbiome in a sentence, please

STAT’s own Carl Zimmer's definition of “microbiome” has been immortalized by Merriam-Webster: 

“Your body is home to about 100 trillion bacteria and other microbes, collectively known as your microbiome,” he wrote in 2014. That's now part of the official definition of “microbiome,” which was just added to the dictionary. 

The latest revisions also added "CRISPR" and "EpiPen" (and, oddly, "urgent care," which seems like it should have been listed earlier). We don't think the good folks at Merriam-Webster have an inside line to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, but we will note that Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier get a nod in the CRISPR definition — yet there's no mention of MIT's Feng Zhang.


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The OG antibiotic culture could be yours

Got innovator’s block? 

Find your equivalent of the artist's muse in antique mold spores that once belonged to Sir Alexander Fleming. Two samples of the scientist’s early efforts at isolating the antibiotic penicillin are up for auction. They date back to the 1930s.

It’s quite the deal, really, for a seminal bit of biotech history. One of the mold samples, packaged along with letters, photographs and a journal, is listed at about $10,000. Another culture, upon which Fleming wrote the words “the mould that first made Penicillin,” is expected to fetch about $7,500. 

That's a steal compared to the original penicillin mold culture, which sold two years ago for $46,250. London auction house Bonhams will be selling the items March 1. 

The drug industry's Trump anxiety escalates

Yesterday, 165 biotech executives signed an open letter opposing President Donald Trump’s executive order targeting immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations. The “misguided” policy threatens a vibrant and diverse industry, they wrote, and could hamstring the kind of economic growth Trump has promised to encourage.

Separately, a lobbying group representing pharmacy benefits managers is feeling anxious about Trump’s unpredictability. In an internal memo seen by BuzzFeed, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association warned that Trump’s potential to “make any decision, at any time, for any reason, on any issue is rattling industries in the healthcare sector and beyond.”

More reads

  • Employees of Merrimack Pharmaceuticals and Akebia Therapeutics are accused of passing nonpublic information to one another and profiting from insider trades. (Reuters)
  • FDA will no longer hold back info about advisory committee members. (STAT Plus)
  • Representatives Upton and DeGette say hiring freeze at FDA puts priorities at risk. (RAPS)

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Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Damian & Meghana

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