The Readout Damian Garde

Who is He Jiankui, and from whence did he come?

Every superhero, and antagonist, has his own origin story. He Jiankui, the scientist who stunned the world with a claim that he had already gene-edited two baby girls, has one too. 

STAT’s unraveled some of the controversial scientist’s background through a series of interviews, piecing together the story of how he emerged from obscurity and irrevocably changed scientific history.

“His demeanor was an odd combination of hubris and naivete,” CRISPR co-discoverer Jennifer Doudna told STAT. “He was very confident in his work, and not totally understanding what an explosion he had caused.”

Read more.

Can an experimental cardio drug beat the odds?

For nearly a decade, drug companies have pursued a tantalizing hypothesis: improving good cholesterol, called HDL, can actually help prevent strokes and heart attacks. Unfortunately, nearly a decade of clinical trials have proven them wrong. 

And, yet, here comes DalCor Pharmaceuticals, a Canadian startup that believes its drug improving HDL can help protect at-risk cardiac patients, at least those with a certain genetic variant. DalCor is announcing today that it is enrolling 6,000 patients in a study of the drug, known as a CETP inhibitor. Experts say the company will have to overcome significant scientific evidence and win over a deeply skeptical establishment.

Read more.

Pharma sales growth is being crimped

Here's a remarkable fact: More than 20 percent of the $320 billion in biopharma revenue notched in the first three quarters of this year can be attributed to the cumulative effect of price increases over the last five years.

There's good reason to think the good times may not last, though. A new analysis suggests the trend will slow considerably as drug makers face political pressure over pricing practices.

Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges, who analyzed data for 17 large drug makers, has a warning for investors: “the negative effect of ... slowing price increases will have a powerful effect going forward.”

Read more.

There's no great alternative to fetal tissue

Fetal tissue research has always been contentious — and even more so in this political environment. However, scientists warn, there simply isn’t a good replacement for these controversial cells. 

That didn't stop the NIH from recently ringing up University of Wisconsin transplantation professor Will Burlingham, asking if he’d be interested in a little extra cash in exchange for creating humanized laboratory mice. His animals are outfitted with a human-like immune system — and the NIH hopes they may be able to supplant fetal tissue that comes from abortions.

But there are reasons why it's not that simple.

“The consensus is that there are certain things about fetal tissue that make [it] unique,” Paul Knoepfler, a professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine, told STAT. “Certain experiments can really only be done on actual fetal tissue.”

Read more.

More reads

  • Chris Collins overcomes Innate Therapeutics indictment, wins fourth house term. (New York Times)
  • Novartis weighs reinsurance tie-up to fund ultra-expensive drugs. (Financial Times)

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


Monday, December 17, 2018


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