The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

A Spanish biotech bets on young blood

It's one step toward legitimizing the haute trend of young blood: Spanish biotech Grifols, which processes blood plasma en masse, has agreed to buy Alkahest — the Silicon Valley startup founded by Genentech alums that’s probing plasma to see whether it might help fight diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Grifols already owned 48% in Alkahest, and will pay an additional $146 million for the remaining shares. 

Alkahest has relied on Grifols’ blood plasma collection network in the U.S. and Europe, which comes mostly from young donors, STAT’s Rebecca Robbins writes. It’s stripped the plasma down to a cocktail of about 400 different proteins that might have an anti-aging effect — and has tested it in Phase 2 trials, measuring cognition and function in volunteers after six months. 

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An assessment of Operation Warp Speed

Operation Warp Speed — the mad rush to procure  safe and effective means to curb Covid-19 — is inarguably one of the most ambitious scientific endeavors in U.S. history. But is it working? This morning STAT takes a deep dive into the U.S. government’s effort, assessing whether the billions of federal dollars committed to it are bearing fruit.  

One lesson: The focus of OWS, as it’s called, has almost exclusively been on vaccine work, while  therapeutics and diagnostics alike have taken more of a backseat. The initiative has also placed some gambles on manufacturers of the supplies necessary to distribute approved vaccines throughout the U.S., and across the world. 

Another lesson: Transparency has been lacking, with basic questions remaining about why certain vaccine programs received major funding and about clinical trial protocols. 

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Vaccine makers pledge to play it safe with Covid-19

A group of nine top biopharma players pledged today to only seek regulatory approval for their Covid-19 vaccines when they’re proven safe and effective. It’s part of an effort to allay the public’s concerns about political influence in the Covid-19 vaccine development process. 

The companies that are the furthest along in the process — Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Pfizer/BioNTech — made a commitment to “make the safety and well-being of vaccinated individuals our top priority,” adding that they would seek FDA sanction only “after demonstrating safety and efficacy through a Phase 3 clinical study.” Other signatories include top executives at Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, and Novavax. 

Pharma is effectively drawing a line in the sand in terms of a Covid-19 timeline, as STAT’s Ed Silverman writes. Although President Trump has been pushing for a Covid-19 vaccine to ship in advance of the November election, drug makers aren’t interested in playing politics. 

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Tracking the links in the Covid-19 vaccine supply chain

It’s been difficult to pin down how the supply chain for a widely disseminated Covid-19 vaccine might materialize. That seems to be taking shape, however, STAT’s Ed Silverman writes. But the devil’s in the details: There’s been a worldwide effort, for instance, to ramp up production of temperature-controlled storage containers — which are critical to keep the inoculations in optimal condition. 

Vaccine makers are feverishly modeling transportation routes and storage conditions in many countries. Wholesalers are lining up warehouse space and trucks. And freight forwarders and airport managers are doubling down on security for what will soon be the world’s hottest commodity. 

“I’m more than 30 years in the business and thought I’d seen everything, but it’s an uncharted situation for all of us,” one supply chain expert told STAT. 

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More reads

  • Blueprint Medicines wins U.S. approval for genetically targeted lung cancer drug. (STAT)
  • China’s I-Mab gets boost from AbbVie to develop new cancer immunotherapy. (STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


Tuesday, September 8, 2020


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