// Biotech and Pharma Therapeutics

Multiple Sclerosis: New Treatment Hailed Vital for Patients’ ‘Freedom’
July 15, 2021 Neurology / Multiple Sclerosis / Pharmaceuticals A first-of-its-kind medication for multiple sclerosis has been hailed as a way to stop patients getting “chained” to regular hospital visits. Figures published on Tuesday showed 450 new patients were diagnosed with the condition in Scotland in 2020. The country has the second-highest rate of MS in the world. MS is a condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks the brain, spinal cord or nervous system – potentially leading to serious disability. Read Full Article on The Press & Journal >>
Healthy Adults Should Take Statins Even if They Don’t Have Heart Problems as the Benefits are Worth the Mild Side Effects, Study Says
July 14, 2021 Cardiovascular / Pharmaceuticals Healthy adults should take statins even if they don’t have heart problems as the benefits are worth the mild side effects, a major study has concluded. Researchers at Oxford University looked at data from 120,000 patients to establish if those who do not have existing heart disease still benefit from statins as a preventative measure. They concluded that although the drugs do have mild side effects such as muscle pain, these were significantly outweighed by a dramatic reduction in deadly heart attacks and strokes. Read Full Article on Daily Mail >>
Scientists Stopped COVID-19 From Replicating in Humans Using CRISPR Gene Editing
July 14, 2021 COVID-19 / Genomics This CRISPR breakthrough has the potential to stop future pandemics in their tracks. In what has been hailed as a breakthrough, scientists from Melbourne’s Doherty Institute and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre have used CRISPR gene-editing technology to successfully block the replication of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, in infected human cells, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications. This could potentially pave the way for new COVID-19 treatments and help transform how we deal with viruses in possible future pandemics. Read Full Article on Interesting Engineering >>

// 4th Industrial Revolution

‘The Party is Winding Down’: States and Insurers Resurrect Barriers to Telehealth, Putting Strain on Patients
July 13, 2021 Digital / Telemedicine / Reimbursement Telemedicine is here to stay. But its free-for-all era may be coming to an end. State-issued emergency declarations and insurer policies that were issued at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and that were meant to encourage the use of telemedicine are being phased out across U.S. states, one by one. And as they fade away, rules that make telemedicine more complicated — and costly — are setting back in. Read Full Article on STAT >>
CMS Proposes to Cover Mental Health Virtual Visits Through 2022
July 14, 2021 Digital / Telemedicine / Reimbursement In the 1,747-page rule, which will be finalized later this year, CMS proposes expanding access to telehealth for behavioral healthcare, including for the first time allowing Medicare to pay for mental health virtual visits when they are provided by rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers and letting providers offer audio-only telehealth visits for certain services. Read Full Article on MedCity News >>
Should We Trust Big Tech With Our Health Data?
July 14, 2021 Digital / Privacy / Artificial Intelligence Digital diagnostic tools such as this that use AI, are springing up to help tackle all kinds of health conditions. Such as pattern-recognition technology assisting the detection of cancers, or analysing the brain scans of acute stroke patients. Concerns come as four of the biggest tech firms – Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook – are taking a growing interest in the field of data medicine. Google’s Deepmind subsidiary is continuing to develop AI applications for the healthcare sector, while Apple has a growing healthcare division. Meanwhile, both Facebook and Amazon have recently launched online healthcare sites in the US. Read Full Article on BBC >>

// Business & Markets

Big Pharma Companies Acquire Two SoCal Biotech Startups
July 14, 2021 Private Equity & Venture Capital / Acquisitions / New Frontiers Two Southern California biotech startups got swallowed up this week as big pharma benefitted from the record-breaking year of investment in the industry. Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly plucked up a Pasadena startup Protomer Technologies for $1 billion. The company is working on “smart insulin” to treat diabetes. Another SoCal startup, El Segundo-based Integrity Bio, was acquired by New York drug development company Curia, formerly known as AMRI. Terms of both deals weren’t disclosed. Read Full Article on dot.LA >>
Eli Lilly’s $1B Buyout Bet for Protomer Brings the ‘Next frontier’ in Smart Insulin Tech Under the Big Pharma’s Wing
July 14, 2021 Private Equity & Venture Capital / Acquisitions / New Frontiers Eli Lilly is looking to shore up its future diabetes franchise by putting $1 billion on the table to buy out next-gen biotech Protomer. Six-year-old Protomer is engineering protein therapeutics that can sense molecular activators in the body. In a nutshell, this allows the creation of therapeutic peptides and proteins with tunable activity that can be controlled using small molecules. Protomer has so far tapped this platform to create glucose-responsive insulins that can sense sugar levels in the blood and automatically activate as needed throughout the day. Though still early-stage, a breakthrough here could drastically reduce the burden of diabetes by better managing sugar levels and reducing the risk of hypo- and hyperglycemia. Read Full Article on Fierce Biotech >>
Kriya Grabs $100M to Launch Gene Therapies into the Mainstream, Starting with Diabetes
July 14, 2021 Private Equity & Venture Capital / Gene Therapies / New Frontiers Kriya Therapeutics is looking beyond the bread and butter of gene therapy—rare diseases—to instead focus on programs for more complex and common diseases like diabetes. And now, the Redwood City, California-based company has banked another $100 million to support the work. The new funds will boost Kriya’s technology and expand its pipeline, as well as propel assets in oncology, eye diseases and metabolic diseases forward. The financing follows a $80.5 million series A round in May 2020, tagged to advance three adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapies licensed from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the National Institutes of Health. Read Full Article on Fierce Biotech >>
Castor Raises $45M Series B to Modernize the Clinical Trial Process and Maximize the Impact of Research Data on Patient Lives
July 14, 2021 Private Equity & Venture Capital / Clinical Trials / Technology Castor, a leading provider of clinical trial software, announced today the closing of a $45 million Series B financing round, bringing the company’s total funding to $65 million. The round, led by Eight Roads Ventures and F-Prime Capital with participation from existing investors Two Sigma Ventures and Inkef Capital, will fuel continued product development with a particular focus on scaling direct-to-patient trials globally. Read Full Article on Venture Beat >>
Startup Genexa Raises $60 Million From VC-Led Group, Including Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle
July 14, 2021 Private Equity & Venture Capital / OTC / Health & Wellness Over-the-counter medicine company Genexa Inc. raised $60 million of funding from venture-capital firms and celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle. The round values the company at roughly $200 million. The company is the latest to capitalize on the so-called clean-health and wellness trend, in this case reducing synthetic ingredients in pain and fever, cold and flu, and allergy medicines for children and adults. Read Full Article on Wall Street Journal >>
Peter Thiel-backed Psychedelic Start-up’s Shares Pop in Wall Street Debut
June 18, 2021 Private Equity & Venture Capital / IPO / New Frontiers Shares of the Peter Thiel-backed psychedelic start-up Atai Life Sciences jumped Friday on their first day of trading on Wall Street. The newly listed Nasdaq stock opened up 40% before pulling back some. The shares closed up nearly 30% to $19.45 each. The German biotech’s initial public offering was priced Thursday night at $15 per share, the high end of the expected range. The company, which aims to make psychedelic drugs to treat mental health disorders, raised $225 million at a valuation of $2.3 billion. Read Full Article on CNBC >>

// Legal & Regulatory

Court Overturns F.D.A. Ban on School’s Electric Shock Devices
July 15, 2021 FDA / Behavior A Massachusetts school can continue to use electric shock devices to modify behavior by students with intellectual disabilities, a federal court said this month, overturning an attempt by the government to end the controversial practice, which has been described as “torture” by critics but defended by family members. In a 2-to-1 decision, the judges ruled that a federal ban interfered with the ability of doctors working with the school, the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, to practice medicine, which is regulated by the state. The Food and Drug Administration sought to prohibit the devices in March 2020, saying that delivering shocks to students presents “an unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury.” Read Full Article on New York Times >>
Listen: The FDA’s Future, Biden’s Tight Ship, & the Latest Aduhelm Twist
July 15, 2021 FDA / Podcast Who’s going to run the FDA? Why isn’t the Biden administration leakier? And what if Aduhelm isn’t a blockbuster after all? We cover all that and more this week on “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. First, we’ll talk about the future of the FDA, whose acting commissioner will have to step down in November unless she’s given the permanent job. Next, Washington Post reporter Dan Diamond joins us to discuss the politics of the vaccine rollout and how covering this administration differs from writing about the last one. Plus we break down the latest news on Covid-19 and the continued Aduhelm fallout. Read Full Article on STAT >>

// Research & Development

“Game-changer”? Tarantula Venom May Yield Powerful Pain Medication to Help Curb Opioid Epidemic
July 14, 2021 Opioids / Research Researchers at the University of California-Davis are trying to use the venom from tarantulas to develop a pain medication to help curb the opioid epidemic, reports CBS Sacramento. “Nature offers such a wide diversity of proteins that basically, for us, are building blocks of future medicines,” Dr. Vladimir Yarov-Yarovoy of UC-Davis Health says. He’s one of the lead researchers in a 20-person team. What they are doing is reprograming the proteins of the venom, called peptides, from the scary, hairy spiders and turning it into a painkiller. Read Full Article on CBS News >>
Eating Junk Food Just Once a Day Raises the Risk of Inflammatory Bowel Disease by Two-thirds, Study Warns
July 14, 2021 Inflammatory Bowel Disease / Research Consuming just one ultra-processed snack a day may increase your risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease by two thirds. A study published in the British Medical Journal found those who ate junk food five times a day were 80 times more likely to get IBD than those on a healthy diet. Doctors still aren’t sure what causes the debilitating condition, which can leave patients with cramps, recurring diarrhea, weight loss and fatigue. Read Full Article on Daily Mail >>

// Politics

Vulnerable House Democrats Call for Sweeping Drug Pricing Reforms in Spending Plan
July 14, 2021 Drug Pricing / Healthcare More than a dozen of the House’s most vulnerable Democrats are urging their leadership to include a major set of drug pricing reforms in their party’s upcoming multitrillion-dollar spending plan, a move that could help pay for the proposal. Read Full Article on Politico >>