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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Readout @ JPM

Greetings from #JPM18! This is your afternoon check-in, live from San Francisco, recapping everything interesting from biotech's annual convocation. Follow STAT's reporters on the ground: @adamfeuerstein@rebeccadrobbins@damiangarde, and @pharmalot. Join them at 4 p.m. PT for Readout Live in the STAT Plus workspace (check on room capacity here).

'How's your meeting going?'

Through the crowded hallways, sweaty open bars, and bafflingly well-attended "fun" runs of #JPM18 echoes a single, maddening phrase: "How's your meeting going?"

The answer is always some predictable combination of the words "busy," "crazy," and, depending on the audience, "innovation," rendering the question entirely pointless and mostly just wasting everyone's time.

Anyway, how's your meeting going?

Seriously: It's Wednesday. On Sunday, you had some idea of what to expect, and now you know stuff you didn’t know then. 

So complete the following sentence: "Compared to Sunday, I now feel ________ about the future of biotech in 2018."

worse
exactly the same
better
innovation

This MiMedx breakout turns epic

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photo credit: adam feuerstein

The months-long feud between wound-care products maker MiMedx and short seller Marc Cohodes escalated into a face-to-face confrontation as Cohodes and MiMedx CEO Pete Petit traded insults and accusations during the company’s JPM breakout session.

Cohodes and other short sellers have used Twitter and published detailed research reports to accuse MiMedx of channel stuffing, accounting fraud, bribery, and other corporate misdeeds, much of it based on whistleblower allegations made by former employees. MiMedx denies all the charges, with Petit issuing press releases and holding conference calls to accuse Cohodes and others of being part of a nefarious “wolf pack” of naked short sellers.

On Wednesday, Cohodes and Petit met for the first time, and boy, did the sparks fly. JPM breakout sessions are usually staid affairs. Even in the rare instances when these Q&A sessions get contentious, you rarely witness investors accusing company management of selling product to dead people and other criminal acts. And after that, things got really nasty.

Microwave some popcorn and watch the video. I managed to Periscope the entire Cohodes-Petit kerfuffle. It was epic. Here's a Periscope of it all.

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Joe Biden thinks your business model is antiquated

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Josh Edelson/StartUp Health

Former Vice President Joe Biden drew a big crowd in a small space yesterday for his keynote speech at the StartUp Health Festival.

He struck a sometimes harsh tone, taking on health care's business models ("antiquated"), paywalled scientific journals (detrimental to the sharing of ideas), and prices for patients ("How can we in America say this drug will save your life if you can't afford it?"). At one point, though, he spoke admiringly about what IBM Watson can do for cancer patients — while not mentioning the supercomputing technology's substantial limitations. Biden also spoke poignantly about patients seeking a few more weeks or months of life to see a grandchild or walk their daughter down the aisle. 

How, you might be wondering, did a small conference for startup entrepreneurs manage to score such a coveted keynote speaker? It might have something to do with the man who introduced him: his son-in-law Dr. Howard Krein, StartUp Health's chief medical officer.

Patrick Soon-Shiong enters the blood-testing business 

Patrick Soon-Shiong used his JPM presentation slot yesterday to unveil his next big thing: "Liquid GPS" blood tests that analyze DNA and RNA. The tests join his GPS Cancer test, which is struggling to find a market for testing of solid tumors. (When we asked Soon-Shiong's spokeswoman Jen Hodson for details about the new blood tests, she said a press release was pending. We haven't seen any sign of it yet.)

During his presentation, Soon-Shiong also talked enthusiastically about NantAI and NantMesh, companies that appear to be so new that they're not yet listed on the website of NantWorks, the umbrella organization for his web of companies. In typical Soon-Shiong fashion, he talked up individual patient interim results from small ongoing clinical trials that are nowhere near having their data formally analyzed or peer reviewed. 

And, for the record, Soon-Shiong made no mention of his escalating legal feud with Cher.

#boldforlife

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More reads

  • 'I recognize the responsibility I have': At JPM, Emma Walmsley on diversity. (STAT Plus)
  • A robot that tugs on pig organs could save human babies. (Wired)
  • Faced with public pressure, research institutions step up reporting of clinical trial results. (STAT)
  • Cheap drugs, not economic woes, drive opioid overdose deaths, paper argues. (Wall Street Journal)

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