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The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

A vaccine might downgrade Covid-19 severity

We may indeed get a Covid-19 vaccine in the not-too-distant future — but it won’t necessarily be the panacea many may hope for, STAT’s Helen Branswell reports. Instead, the current vaccines being developed will be more like the standard flu vaccine — decreasing the risk of contracting the virus and possibly mitigating the most severe symptoms. But it won’t eliminate the likelihood of contracting the disease, a number of experts told STAT.

A preprint posted recently showed that macaques who were vaccinated with Oxford University’s candidate were protected from pneumonia. However, they still had high levels of the virus coursing through their upper airways. So the vaccine may have decreased the severity of the illness — but so far doesn’t seem to prevent it from replicating in the body.

“If we push the disease from pneumonia to a common cold, then I think that’s a huge step forward,” one virologist told STAT. 

Read more.

When is a press release worth $5 billion?

Can biotech stocks replace sports? And how will we know if a coronavirus vaccine actually works? 

We discuss all that and more this week on “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. 

First, we break down the biggest news of the week: Moderna's early-stage results from a coronavirus vaccine and the reaction from unsatisfied experts around the globe. Then, we examine how the world's attention has turned to the biotech market, with volatile implications for every industry on the planet. Finally, we look back at the history of Moderna and the past controversies that set the stage for the company's big moment.

Listen here.

Kadmon gives us some good GVHD news

Graft-versus-host disease can arise after bone marrow transplant — when the newly acquired immune systems launch debilitating attacks on a patient’s body. Although historically there haven’t been many tools to treat this immune reaction, a late-stage study from Kadmon Holdings is quite positive.

About three-quarters of patients with a chronic form of the disease responded to KD025, the Kadmon drug. Four patients achieved a complete response — meaning the drug completely eliminated their GVHD. Kadmon plans on submitting KD025 to the FDA for expedited approval in October. 

“Across the board, we are really pleased with these results,” said Kadmon CEO Harlan Waksal.

Read more.

Because children need precision treatments too

A San Francisco startup is working on precision treatments for children with brain cancer — specifically, is developing an oral therapy targeting specific proteins mutated in these cancers. Day One Biopharmaceuticals just launched with $60 million in venture funding, and has licensed a compound from Takeda, now dubbed DAY101, to treat children with low-grade gliomas that haven’t responded to other treatments.

Although the brain tumors that arise in children are sometimes molecularly similar to those seen in adults, pediatric brain cancer therapies have lagged behind. It’s rare, to be sure — only 1,200 new cases of these gliomas appear in children each year, compared to about 5,000 in adults. 

Read more.

More reads

  • In a tale of two Mercks, the German company wins a court battle over its U.S. rival. (STAT)
  • U.S. gives up to $1.2 billion to AstraZeneca for Covid-19 vaccine. (STAT)
  • Nautilus emerges with $76M to become the 'Illumina of proteomics'. (FierceBiotech)

Thanks for reading! Until next week,

Friday, May 22, 2020


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