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Back home after a trip across the border to beautiful Vancouver, BC for the American Society of Human Genetics annual meeting. My goals were to sign 50+ copies of my new Hood biography, network, and pick up some story ideas about genomic medicine. Mission accomplished.
For a few of the happenings from the ASHG conference, and more from the wider world of biotech, read your weekly Frontpoints.
Healthcare stakeholders have been wrestling with how to determine the value of healthcare products for some time, and recent drug pricing controversies bring added urgency to the work. Several US organizations have developed “value frameworks” to bring some consistency to the process. These frameworks provide structured approaches to calculating the value of a product based on defined criteria and algorithms.
My mood is more cheery than usual. It may be the lingering endorphins. Twitter followers may have seen, but I set a personal best marathon time of 2:58:42 on a cool, rainy day in Portland, Ore. last Sunday (Official results here).
Seriously, I was impressed by the 4,500 volunteers and the community spirit of the Rose City. Marathons often bring out the best in people – smiles for strangers, jokes in the bagel line for finishers, and a quick helping hand for the injured. In short, it was a refreshing break from election season.
What mattered this week in biotech? Read Frontpoints.
I’m heading out this weekend to run the Portland Marathon. Time to rest the legs, eat some pasta, and be thankful for being in good health.
Before you head off to your own weekend adventures, catch up on the week of biotech highlights and lowlights in Frontpoints.
As if running 20 miles in 24 hours with an Atlas Venture relay team in New Hampshire wasn’t enough for my tired legs, I followed that up the next weekend with a very tough climb of Glacier Peak (elevation 10,525 feet), the most isolated volcano in the northern Cascade Range. My friends and I underestimated the difficulty of this climb, and we didn’t manage to summit before turnaround time. But I did capture one of the most beautiful mountain images I’ve ever seen.
For that photo, and the usual ups and downs of the biopharma business, read your weekly Frontpoints.
The medical world sees antibiotics as entitlements. They’re 100 percent curative, dirt cheap, and our birthright. The nickel-and-dime prices we are willing to pay have discouraged drugmakers from investing in R&D, leaving us all vulnerable to the rise of antibiotic resistant superbugs.
This is one of the few drug categories that I’ve said deserves HIGHER prices than we are currently willing to pay. But even more importantly, we need to reset how we think about prescribing these important drugs.
Hillary Clinton’s recent bout with pneumonia could be an excellent teaching moment. It spotlights a flaw in the prevailing prescribing model, and potentially points the way to a better approach to prescribing and payment.
More than a little history was made the past week or so in biotech. Big burning questions were met with action, like it or not.
For the rundown on the FDA tension between science-based review and individual patient desire; growth-through-acquisition (as an alternative to price jacking); and the first female named to run a major pharma company, read Frontpoints.
When I spill a few of the shockers in “Hood: Trailblazer of the Genomics Age,” people seem surprised. “I didn’t think the book would be so tough,” one woman said.
It is tough. It’s also fair. That’s the result of poring over thousands of pages of confidential files, public records, and conducting more than 150 interviews with Hood and his family, friends, collaborators, and detractors.
Once people read Hood, the biography of a charismatic and controversial personality in science, they like it:
Phil Sharp, the Nobel laureate at MIT, compared Hood to one of the best-selling and most controversial biology books of all-time. “Timmerman captures the glory and clay feet of a great scientist, like Jim Watson did for himself in The Double Helix,” Sharp wrote.
David Shaywitz, the chief medical officer of DNAnexus, said the Hood life story effectively picks up where Horace Freeland Judson’s 1979 masterpiece, The Eighth Day of Creation leaves off. “An unobstructed view into the egos and drama of modern high-stakes research,” Shaywitz wrote.
Keith Robison, a computational biologist and well-known blogger, called Hood “a valuable exploration of one of the leading figures in the early development of genomics and proteomics.”
If you pre-ordered a signed copy, your book went out in the mail yesterday!
Need to buy your copy? Here’s how to get one:
Here’s where to catch me this week in Boston/Cambridge:
I’m doing three formal sessions (and one informal meetup) at this big partnering event hosted by EBD Group.
11:45 am-12:15 pm, Sept. 14. Boston Marriott Copley, 110 Huntington Ave. Boston. “Maximizing Your Social Media Presence.” I’ll be moderating a panel with Adam Feuerstein of TheStreet, Laura Strong of Quintessence Bioscience, and Ryan McBride of Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research.
12:30 pm-1:30 pm, Sept. 14 “Food for Thought: What Makes Serial Entrepreneurs Tick?” I’m moderating this panel with Michael Gilman, Tillman Gerngross, and Troy Wilson.
5 pm-6 pm, Sept. 14. Boston Marriott Copley. Book signing in the exhibit area.
6:30 pm. Champions Sports Bar at the Boston Marriott Copley. Adam Feuerstein of TheStreet and I are organizing an informal biotech chat/networking event. Join us for a beer and some biotech talk.
MIT Koch Institute
Noon-1 pm, Sept. 15. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. I’ll be doing a brownbag session on Hood with students, postdocs, faculty and staff.
Mass Innovation Labs
5:30-5:50 pm ET, Sept. 15. Mass Innovation Labs, 675 West Kendall St., Cambridge, MA. Journalist Wade Roush will facilitate a Q&A on Hood during happy hour at this startup hotspot. Free admission, and all Boston-area TR subscribers are welcome, but I ask that you RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can give an accurate headcount.
See you out there. And don’t forget to leave a review of Hood on Amazon!
I’m back in the saddle after a family camping trip in Yellowstone National Park. It was a wonderful way to see some beautiful scenery and tons of bison, elk, deer, bear, and even a wolf. My four-year-old daughter was fascinated by the geysers, and didn’t whine too much about the long drive. Importantly for those of us in the information economy, it’s a great way to go off the grid, get some digital detox, and get ready for a busy fall of biotech news and analysis.
To catch up on the major happenings from before and after Labor Day, get your Frontpoints.
The list goes on. Each of these drug pricing stories is upsetting. The facts of each case vary, but the pattern is clear—the pharmaceutical industry, both branded and generic, can’t restrain itself.
Back to school time means back to news time. Populist election-season anger over pharma price gouging is back in a big way. It’s surely with us all the way through November.
Catch up on those developments and much more in this week’s Frontpoints.
Maybe it’s the summertime lulls that make it a good time for people to change jobs. For whatever reason, I seemed to notice more than the usual volume of notable personnel moves over the past week.
Catch up on those impactful switches, and other matters of import, in this week’s Frontpoints.
With recent scandals over price increases for old drugs (Turing and Valeant Pharmaceuticals), public uproar regarding the pricing of high-profile new drugs (Sovaldi), as well as the general recognition of significant financial strain for patients being treated with specialty pharmaceuticals, there has been a growing demand for methods to determine whether or not the healthcare system is getting good value for the money it spends on pharmaceuticals. In response, several organizations have created “value frameworks” used to measure medical product value and determine whether or not the manufacturers’ list prices are merited.
Among these organizations is the non-profit Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER). ICER positions itself as a “trustworthy independent source to help assess how valuable a new drug really is”. ICER’s value framework combines cost-effectiveness budget impact analyses to determine “value-based price benchmarks”, a range of drug prices that ICER considers to be reasonable given the drug’s demonstrated benefits, and impact on payer budgets.
ICER has published reports on the cost-effectiveness and budget impact of a number of important new drugs including the hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, the cholesterol-lowering PCSK9 inhibitor class of drugs and drugs for the treatment of multiple myeloma. Through press releases, conference presentations and statements in the media, ICER has been disseminating the results of its research not only to professional healthcare stakeholders, but also to a broader public audience.
This week, I saw more than the usual volume of press releases that said “Company ABC will be presenting at Investor Conference XYZ.” Dog days of summer are here, to be sure.
If you don’t have sand between your toes, here are the deals, data, financings and worthwhile reads to catch up on in Frontpoints.
This summer, I’ve been dialling down my social media consumption and dialing up my old-fashioned book reading. Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death” knocked me on my ass 20 years ago as a journalism student, and did it again upon re-reading a couple weeks ago. It’s about the corrosive, and dangerous, effect of television on public discourse. Given the rise of an authoritarian strongman-entertainer wannabe in the U.S. who gets excellent TV ratings, this book is even more relevant than it was when first published 30 years ago.
That’s a dark read, but fortunately I got some lighter recommendations from thoughtful biotech pros when I asked this week. I passed along some excellent suggestions on Forbes.
It’s always a good time to re-dedicate oneself to reading old-fashioned books, there was a lot of fast-moving action in biotech online. Catch up on a dizzying array of headlines, along with some healthy perspective, in this week’s Frontpoints.
I read an article that the San Francisco 49ers are kicking off a quarterback competition to decide whether Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert gets the starting job. They will be put through their athletic paces in training camp, where all of their teammates will participate in determining the outcome. But based on a recent deal the 49ers struck, with Orig3n, Inc., I was wondering why are they making this so complicated?
Allow me to explain. The 49ers have entered into a deal with Orig3n to reward fans for making genetic contributions to populate their ever-growing database that informs pharmaceutical research. In fact, Orig3n has two uses for the gene samples they collect: the first is to build up LifeCapsule, which the company claims is the world’s largest blood cell repository dedicated to supporting regenerative medicine. That’s the primary focus of the 49ers deal.
The second use is for LifeProfiles, where consumers can learn more about their own genetic profiles in the quest to know their own propensity for greatness (by, for instance, comparing their sample to those from the 49ers bench). These tests offer the following claim: “the SUPERHERO assessment decodes secret information in your DNA, giving you insights into where your super-powers lie.”. They tell you, with some sheen of scientific specificity, whether the footnote on your cape should reflect your extreme intelligence, strength or speed.
So why not save everyone some time and just run Colin and Blaine through these tests?
I am available to speak about biotech trends at public and private biotech events. See me for details.