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The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Regeneron’s Covid-19 treatment cleared virus, reduced medical visits in latest data

Covid-19 patients who got an investigational antibody cocktail from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals saw significant benefits over those who received placebo, according to the latest results from an ongoing trial, bolstering the company’s case for an emergency authorization.

The data, disclosed last night, showed that Regeneron’s treatment, REGN-COV2, had a statistically significant effect on lowering viral load over seven days and, perhaps most important, reduced the number of required medical visits by 57% over 29 days. The effect on the virus was even more pronounced in patients with a particularly high viral load.

The problem, as STAT's Matthew Herper notes, is that, even if the drug is authorized, there isn't enough to go around. 

Read more.

Remdesivir makes more money than Gilead’s blockbuster hep C drugs

Back in the spring, Gilead Sciences’ conference calls were full of Wall Street angst about the Covid-19 drug remdesivir, which the company had said time and again wouldn’t be a maximally profitable medicine. Cut to yesterday, which brought the company’s latest earnings release, and remdesivir accounted for nearly twice as much revenue as the hepatitis C drugs that defined Gilead’s last decade.

Remdesivir, which now goes by the brand name Veklury, brought in $873 million in the quarter that ended Sept. 30. By contrast, Gilead’s stable of curative hepatitis C treatments added up to $464 million in the same period.

However, as is always the case with Gilead, investors are anxious about the future. The company lowered the top end of its annual revenue guidance by $1.5 billion, largely due to a pullback in expected demand for remdesivir. The number of Covid-19 cases continues to surge globally, but Gilead noted that fewer patients are ending up in the hospital where remdesivir would be used. Next year may bring new challenges, when better therapies might be available and vaccines could make their way into clinics around the world. The debate over Gilead’s growth — and where it might come from — continues.

When will medical meetings be safe again?

Yesterday brought the news that the next annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, one of the biggest events on the biotech calendar, will be conducted virtually in the name of Covid-19 safety, extending the hiatus on in-person events well into 2021.

The AACR meeting, usually held in April, serves as an annual kickoff of medicine’s big-time convention season, preceding the ASCO conference in June and the glut of scientific gatherings in the fall. The fact that 2021’s incarnation will be held online, coupled with rising Covid-19 case counts across the U.S., suggests that medical meetings are a long way from returning to normalcy.

Online conferences function just fine when it comes to watching presentations and poring over posters, but none has quite figured out how to replicate the serendipity of running into a world-renowned expert in the hallway of some cavernous convention hall or gossiping with an acquaintance during a bland plenary session, which are, to varying degrees, part of the allure of attending these meetings in the first place. And, with safety as a primary concern, they remain impossible.

How a job interview blossomed into a gene therapy startup

Back in 2014, Kartik Ramamoorthi was interviewing for a job at the Gates Foundation’s venture firm when he faced an unexpected question: What would you do if you didn’t get hired? The answer: Start a gene therapy company focused on pediatric disorders. Six years and more than $200 million, his startup is on the brink of its first clinical trial.

As STAT’s Kate Sherdian reports, that interview got the ball rolling on what would become Encoded Therapeutics, co-founded by Ramamoorthi and his now wife, Stephanie Tagliatela, who serves as the company’s chief scientific officer. Its first target is Dravet syndrome, a rare, inherited disorder that often leads to severe seizures, cognitive damage, and mobility problems.

The company’s most advanced gene therapy, ETX101, aims to replace the faulty gene that causes Dravet. Encoded is running a natural history study of the disease and plans to file with the FDA to start its first clinical trial by the end of this year.

Read more.

More reads

  • Biotechs working on coronavirus vaccines and treatments have seen their stocks soar this year. Execs at these drug companies have also made out handsomely. (Business Insider)
  • U.S. reaches $375 million deal for Lilly Covid-19 antibody drug. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Is it safe to lick the ballot envelope? Public health officials take on the new challenge of making voting safe amid a pandemic. (STAT)
  • Lawmakers release trove of Purdue documents detailing Sackler family’s involvement in opioid sales. (STAT+)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Thursday, October 29, 2020

STAT

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