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Friday, May 11, 2018

The Readout by Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Welcome to The Readout, where we keep you on top of the latest in biotech. For more in-depth coverage of biopharma, subscribe to STAT Plus. On Twitter: @damiangarde@megkesh, and @statnews.

How was your day on Wednesday?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan, right, shakes the hand of his predecessor, Joe Jimenez, in happier times. (RUBEN SPRICH/GETTY)

It was probably better than Vas Narasimhan’s, at least according to an email he sent to Novartis employees after the world found out that his company funneled $1.2 million to President Trump’s personal attorney last year.

“Yesterday was not a good day for Novartis,” Narasimhan wrote, according to an email obtained by STAT’s Ed Silverman. “... many of you will feel disappointed and frustrated” by Novartis’s association with the same shell corporation that paid an adult film star for her silence, he wrote, adding that “personally, for my family it was also a difficult day as unfounded stories spread through the U.S. news.” 

How do Novartis employees feel? “People are angry and confused, because it makes all of us look bad,” one of them told STAT.

Tomorrow’s another day.

Story time with Adam Feuerstein

(Jennifer Keefe/STAT)

On this week’s episode of “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast, Adam regales us with tales from early days of ASCO, when the internet was in its infancy and market-moving data traveled by word of mouth.

Plus we chat about the no good, very bad day Novartis had when the world got wind of its ties to President Trump's personal attorney and one health system's plan to bring genomics to the masses. Also STAT's Eric Boodman joins us to talk about how a pricey new gene therapy has created a fascinating situation in Amish country.

You can listen to it here. And you can expect another episode next Thursday evening — and every Thursday evening — so be sure to sign up on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Get ready to hear Trump talk drug prices

Later today, President Trump will deliver those long-awaited and oft-delayed remarks on the price of drugs, which he has previously characterized as murderously high. We asked readers what his speech might do to biopharma stocks, which used to swoon over mere presidential tweets, and the results were fairly split.

About 44 percent expect the sector to trade down after Trump’s speech, while roughly 40 percent predict it will stay flat. The remaining 16 percent say biopharma will actually benefit from the event, presumably because it will bring to an end the fretting over a potential disaster situation.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for insight into what the president might say, STAT’s Erin Mershon points you toward the remarks of Trump’s health secretary. Alex Azar, who runs Health and Human Services, name-checked the administration’s policy priorities and promised that “all players will be impacted.”

Who?

Stealth BioTherapeutics is angling to become the first U.S.-based biotech company to go public in Hong Kong under new rules meant to attract early-stage drug makers, according to Bloomberg.

If you've never heard of Stealth BioTherapeutics, you’re not alone. The company has been, ahem, under-the-radar with its efforts to develop treatments for rare diseases. It doesn’t have any relationships with pharma, and it doesn’t count any big-name venture capital firms among its investors.

And that kind of underlines a commonly stated concern about Hong Kong’s plan to lure biotech companies: Why would blue-chip U.S. startups choose to list their shares in China when they’re already entrenched among the bankers and backers at home? Such skepticism is unlikely to go away until a known name in biotech opts for Hong Kong over New York.

More reads

  • Former biotech darlings Tesaro, Clovis pin hopes on 2018 rebound. (Bloomberg)
  • Eli Lilly acquires small biotech for $1.6 billion to strengthen cancer immunotherapy pipeline. (STAT Plus)
  • Roche-Exelixis study fails as mixed year continues for cancer drug combos. (Xconomy)

Have a news tip or comment you want to send us?

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Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Damian

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