The Readout Damian Garde

Novo Nordisk shakes up the diabetes market

It’s arguably one of most significant drug approvals of the year: The FDA has given the green light to Novo Nordisk's Rybelsus, an oral semaglutide drug, to treat Type 2 diabetes. This type of drug, called a glucagon-like peptide-one receptor agonist, has historically been dubbed the “holy grail” of diabetes treatment, and excitement has been palpable among the endocrinology set. 

A couple of GLP-1-targeting drugs have been approved previously — Eli Lilly’s Trulicity and Novo Nordisk’s Victoza. But both are injectable, while Rybelsus is taken orally. A recent Lancet study found that Rybelsus is more effective than Trulicity and Victoza, which suggests that Novo Nordisk may be gearing up for a blockbuster. 

As of late yesterday, Novo Nordisk hadn't yet released pricing information. But an ICER report said Rybelsus should cost $6,520 per year — more than 20% costlier than the injectable semaglutides on the market.

A new biotech incubator emerges

RA Capital has launched a small incubator, called Carnot (for the thermodynamic cycle), meant to help fledgling biotech companies mature and make money. It’s a marked shift in the venture firm’s direction, which used to focus more on larger public companies. In the past years, however, it’s been shifting toward more novel investments in early-stage biotechs. 

So far, two companies have been birthed by RA: Imbria Pharmaceuticals, which has thus far raised $40 million for its experimental heart drug, and Eliem Pharmaceuticals, which remain in stealth mode.

Read more. 

Slow science can be good science

Hold your horses, science. Check that hubris at the door. Can we talk about this whole CRISPR thing for a minute? 

Or so says Canadian bioethicist Francoise Baylis (albeit more eloquently) in an opinion piece for STAT. She implores scientists to slow down and reflect on the implications their research could have on humanity. 

“Science needs time to think and digest,” she writes. “Time is also needed to promote ethics literacy and to facilitate broad societal consensus — where the goal is unity, not unanimity.”

Read more.

A Sage competitor on postpartum depression

Christian Angermayer, the financier seeking to develop a new wave of psychedelic medicines, is entering the postpartum depression space. His company, ATAI Life Sciences, has become a majority shareholder in a startup called GABA Therapeutics, whose lead compound — GRX-917 — is aimed at treating anxiety and depression, particularly in new mothers. 

The company plans to compete with SAGE Therapeutics, whose drug Zulresso was approved to treat postpartum depression. Both GABA and SAGE’s drugs act on a naturally produced steroid called allopregnanolone. 

More reads

  • To speed drug development, Mass. General to begin ALS trials that test several compounds at once. (Boston Globe)
  • FDA approves Roche's first cobas test for whole blood donor screening. (FierceBiotech)

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


Monday, September 23, 2019


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