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26
May
2020

Finding a Path in Biotech Venture Capital: Nina Kjellson on The Long Run

Today’s guest on The Long Run is Nina Kjellson. Nina is a general partner with Canaan Partners on the West Coast. Her investing style leans toward high science, which you can see in portfolio companies like PACT Pharma, a company developing neoantigen targeted T cell therapies for cancer, Tizona Therapeutics, a targeted antibody developer for cancer, and Vineti, a software...
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26
May
2020

Miscommunications, Misapplied Policy & Misunderstood Liberty: Why the US Pandemic Response is in Trouble

On April 17 — seemingly a long time ago — I wrote about what steps would have to be taken in order to (cautiously) “reopen” US states from their various lock-downs and stay-at-home advisories. The piece tried to focus on the “how”, versus the “when”. By the early days of May, most states had begun re-opening, and now all 50...
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21
May
2020

A Glimmer of Hope, and a Premature Celebration

We all woke up Monday morning and saw an encouraging headline. Then things started to go downhill. To recap, Moderna, the Cambridge, Mass.-based messenger RNA therapeutics and vaccines company, provided a snapshot of preliminary data from its Phase I trial of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate, being tested in collaboration with Tony Fauci’s crew at the National Institute of Allergy and...
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20
May
2020

Pharma’s Digital Champions Should Focus On Solving One Problem Well

Come for the tech, stay for the culture.  That seems to be the hope of most digital champions inside large pharma companies. These executives hope to instill in their organizations not only important new capabilities, but also a “Silicon Valley” mindset, an innovative spirit characteristically associated with tech entrepreneurs. The reality, of course, is more complicated; pharma executives – and...
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19
May
2020

Getting the COVID-19 Numbers Wrong

When I was in college, everyone wanted to major in psychology. I signed up, but switched out after only a few weeks. Why? Well, the more I read, the less I seemed to know. Psychology, after all, is an inexact science. I sought refuge in the exact worlds of computer science and mathematics. Those courses led me to build a...
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19
May
2020

COVID Doctors Navigate Tension Between Individual Autonomy and Systematized Care

I was recently speaking with a friend of mine, a pulmonologist at a large academic medical center in the Midwest, about his COVID-19 experience. I was especially interested, in the context of iterative experimentation, to learn how his hospital was working on improving the care of COVID-19 patients, especially those in the ICU, which he oversees.  It’s real problem, he...
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19
May
2020

Stepping Up One’s Game, Pandemic Style

Luke Timmerman calls me his humor columnist. That’s become a laugh line of its own in our house. My adult daughter, staying with us during the pandemic, said this to me just last week: “If you’re going to need frequent comedic validation, you’re going to have to step up your game.”  Giggles have been hard to come by these past...
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14
May
2020

Meet My Friend Who Supported Trump in 2016

[This week, I’m re-publishing this column written Nov. 9, 2016. It’s probably more important to read now.—Luke] I’ve been dreading this moment since June. That’s when I started telling people: Trump was going to win. I could feel it in my bones, because of where I’m from. We’ve heard enough by now that the elites have let us down. The...
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13
May
2020

Coronavirus Vaccine Strategy: Larry Corey on The Long Run

Today’s guest on The Long Run is Larry Corey. Larry is one of the nation’s best-known virologists and vaccine developers. Much of his research over the years has been on HIV, herpes simplex viruses, and viruses associated with cancer. He’s the founding director and principal investigator of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network – a collaborative group to study vaccine candidates...
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13
May
2020

If Trikafta Isn’t Good Enough for ICER, What Drug Is?

Last week ICER released a report concluding that Vertex’s groundbreaking triple-combination cystic fibrosis (CF) drug, Trikafta, is too expensive for the value it provides to patients. By all scientific and clinical standards—including ICER’s own—Trikafta, a novel combination of a CFTR potentiator and two correctors, is a transformative drug. It compensates for a mutation present in 90% of all CF patients, turning a disease...
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11
May
2020

Science in Plain English for the Pandemic

Art Krieg is one of the leaders in the field of oligonucleotide drug discovery, going back to the 1980s. Today, he’s the founder and chief scientific officer of Cambridge, Mass.-based Checkmate Pharmaceuticals, a cancer immunotherapy company. It’s his job to explain scientific concepts to a variety of professional audiences. But he leveraged that skill recently to do an interesting thing...
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7
May
2020

Keeping the Faith and Bracing for the Long Slog

We’re suffering from a social disease. It ranks up there with COVID-19. It’s boundless cynicism. We need to tamp this down. Just like we need to wrestle the new coronavirus to the ground. I’m not willing to accept “shit happens” as the national motto. This is a country of can-do problem-solvers. We can do so much better. You can see...
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7
May
2020

Randomized Controlled Trials For Healthcare Delivery Work; Now Let’s Do More At Scale

The value of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in healthcare delivery was highlighted earlier this year with the publication in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) of a paper that rigorously evaluated a deeply appealing hypothesis: that you can improve care and reduce costs by focusing on “superutilizers” – the patients who consume the most healthcare resources.  I discussed this...
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5
May
2020

Giving Models and Modelers a Bad Name

As someone who has spent a career building and studying disease models, primarily for cancer, the latest update from Chris Murray and the IHME model makes me cringe. The IHME model, readers will recall, has been frequently cited by the White House coronavirus task force. On May 4, the IHME called a press conference to release the results of their...
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5
May
2020

The Spirit of Giving Is More Powerful Than Ever

When people look back on the pandemic, they will be amazed by the outpouring of generosity. The response from frontline healthcare workers, scientists, and the biopharmaceutical industry is simply extraordinary. Food banks and social services are also saving lives. The common thread is the inherently human capacity to be generous. The word philanthropy brings to mind a variety of images,...
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