The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Introducing out newest STAT report: The 20 Executives — and Companies — to Know in Chinese Biotech. Learn more here.

Data from eight patients give Moderna a $7B bump

Moderna released the first peek at human data from its in-development coronavirus vaccine, in which a handful of patients developed neutralizing antibodies to the virus at levels similar to people who had recovered from infection. The results, from just eight volunteers, added about $7 billion to the company’s market value.

As STAT’s Helen Branswell reports, Moderna’s vaccine was generally well tolerated, according to the company, with redness at the injection site as the most common side effect. Some experts wanted more detail before commenting on the data, but others said the early results, while limited, were generally encouraging. Moderna has already received the FDA’s blessing for a Phase 2 trial and plans to start a pivotal study this summer.

Meanwhile, the disclosure sent Moderna’s share price up about 25%, valuing the company at more than $30 billion. Moderna has now more than quadrupled in value in 2020, a year in which its only pipeline progress is tied to the coronavirus vaccine. Hours after releasing the data, Moderna put out a plan to raise more than $1.2 billion in a stock sale.

Read more.

Remdesivir will be a business after all

Gilead Sciences, facing pressure from Wall Street over recouping the costs of making remdesivir, has a message for skittish investors: There’s money to be made in treating Covid-19.

In a fireside chat with SVB Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges, the company’s chief financial officer said there’s a “very real possibility that Gilead could have some revenues from remdesivir to offset the ongoing expenses,” starting in the second half of this year. Gilead previously said it would spend up to $1 billion on the drug in 2020, setting off alarm bells among investors worried the company would wreck its balance sheet in the process.

What Gilead hasn’t disclosed is how much it will charge for remdesivir, which has demonstrated moderate but meaningful benefits for patients with Covid-19. The company is exploring alternative approaches to pricing and payment, according to CFO Andrew Dickinson, and it’s in the process of determining how much money remdesivir could save hospitals to prepare its case.

Read more.

We’re going to see real competition in gene therapy

Over the next year or so, the nascent field of gene therapy is going to see something unprecedented: actual competition.

One-time hemophilia A treatments from BioMarin, Roche, and Sangamo Therapeutics are working their way toward the market, promising to change the lives of patients with the inherited bleeding disorder. But which one will doctors favor? Is there enough data to declare a winner? And how much money will the system be willing to pay when the lifetime benefits remain a mystery?

We’re going to discuss all of that on Wednesday at the next STAT Expert Advantage event. Join us for an interview with Guy Young, director of the Hemostasis and Thrombosis Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. You can sign up here.

Biotech is riding high and cashing in

Despite escalating fears of an economic collapse, biotech stocks are doing great at the moment, with the closely watched XBI index hitting its high for the year. And for cash-burning companies facing an uncertain market future, that means now’s the time to raise funds.

No fewer than eight biotech companies mounted stock offerings yesterday, led by Moderna and its pitch to raise more than $1.2 billion. Bluebird Bio, Krystal Biotech, Gossamer Bio, Gamida Cell, Bellerophon Therapeutics, Turning Point Therapeutics, and Clovis Oncology completed the list. Combined, they’re seeking to raise more than $2 billion.

The timing might end up looking wise. Biotech crashed, along with the rest of the market, back in March when the novel coronavirus looked poised to halt the global economy. The sector is up about 60% since March 16 thanks largely to positive headlines from Gilead Sciences, Moderna, and other companies working on medicines for Covid-19. But with sentiment that fickle, any setbacks in the search for new treatments could put biotech back where it started — and make raising money a much more complicated matter.

More reads

  • Biotech companies prepare for COVID-19 downturn. (Nature Biotechnology)
  • Jesus Christ was also misunderstood, Masayoshi Son tells investors. (Financial Times)
  • The rogue experimenters. (New Yorker)
  • Alexion becomes latest company to face pressure to sell from activist investor. (Boston Globe)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


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