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Brainstorm Health Daily: March 24, 2017

Greetings and happy Friday, readers. Once again, this is Sy.

The Google-funded startup Calico, as with many of the tech-originating firms foraying into the life sciences, has a lofty goal: to tackle the spectrum of “aging-related” diseases, which encompasses everything from Parkinson’s to Alzheimer’s to cancer. While the outfit is notoriously cagey about its work, it’s certainly not shy about striking up partnerships.

The latest one came on Thursday afternoon, when the biotech C4 Therapeutics announced a five-year research collaboration with Calico to develop drugs for “diseases of aging,” including cancer.

There’s not a whole lot in the way of details. The firms will “leverage C4T’s expertise and capabilities in targeted protein degradation to jointly discover and advance small molecule protein degraders as therapeutic agents to remove certain disease-causing proteins,” according to a press release. In simpler terms, the firms wants to create medicines to sniff out proteins that may help cause cancers and destroy them.

“We know from decades of translational research that it can be incredibly challenging to find effective pharmacologic inhibitors of many of the biologically well-validated targets, particularly in cancer,” said Hal Barron, R&D chief over at Calico, in a statement. “Through the alternative strategy of specifically targeting such proteins for degradation, we believe we have the opportunity to identify promising new therapeutics in cancer and in other diseases as well.”

Beyond that, we know very little, including what other disease targets or specific cancers will be Calico’s and C4T’s focus as they pursue preclinical experimental molecules. Calico has previously struck partnerships with academic institutes like the University of California, San Francisco and biopharma companies such as AbbVie.

It’s been a pleasure writing these essays for you this week, and I hope you’ve found them informative and interesting. I’ll be back for one more round on Monday before Cliff gets home from vacation on Tuesday, March 28.

Read on for the day’s news, and enjoy your weekend.

Sy Mukherjee


New York attorney general reaches settlement with mobile health firms. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced on Thursday that his office has reached settlements with three mobile health app-developing companies over “misleading marketing and privacy practices.” The specific health-related apps were fairly popular ones sold on the Apple and Android app stores: Cardiio, Runtastic, and My Baby’s Beat (from Isreali app maker Matis). The first two apps allegedly were not tested for accuracy when it came to “vigorous exercise,” and the third was marketed as a fetal heartbeat monitor despite never receiving FDA clearance as such. “Mobile health apps can benefit consumers if they function as advertised, do not make misleading claims, and protect sensitive user information,” said Schneiderman in a statement.

GE Healthcare pumping $500 million into health care, engineer-hiring push. GE Healthcare is pouring some massive resources into health care in a bid to go full digital. The tech giant is spending $500 million and hiring 5,000 new software engineers to meet its digital health goals, which includes expansions of its existing cloud, analytics, and medical imaging platforms. GE has been pursuing similar machine learning services as IBM’s Watson unit, including developing software that can assist radiologists in reading medical scans. (Business Insider)


Flexion surges on rumors of Sanofi buyout. Flexion Therapeutics shares soared more than 33% in Thursday trading on rumors that French pharma giant Sanofi is nearing a $1 billion-plus deal to snatch up the firm. The reports are unconfirmed, but Flexion stock has yet to fall back to Earth. The biotech is developing a drug to treat osteoarthritis. (TheStreet)

Valeant chief Papa got a big payday. (Relatively) new Valeant CEO Joseph Papa was brought in to help turn around the struggling drug maker. Progress has been slow – but that hasn’t stopped Papa from picking up a pretty hefty paycheck. On top of his $980,000-plus base salary, Papa collected a $9.1 million bonus and another $42 million in stock awards. “The board is very supportive of Mr. Papa’s efforts to date and is confident in his abilities and those of his team to lead us through our transformation,” said Valeant in a statement. (FiercePharma)

Lilly to spend $850 million on manufacturing, facilities revamp. File this one under “things that will make Donald Trump happy” – U.S. drug maker Eli Lilly is ramping up an $850 million renovation project that will see significant improvements and upgrades to manufacturing facilities, research labs, and even the firm’s headquarters in Indianapolis. Newly minted Lilly chief Dave Ricks praised the virtues of conducting research and manufacturing in the U.S. as his firm attempts to launch 20 new treatments over the next ten years after a costly failure in the Alzheimer’s space last year. Trump has been calling on biopharma firms to stop doing so much of their manufacturing overseas in a bid to create more U.S. jobs. (Endpoints)


President Trump issues the House GOP an ultimatum on the American Health Care Act. The House was forced to delay its much ballyhooed vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) from yesterday, the seven-year anniversary of Obamacare, to today. While there’s still no real reason that a vote must occur this week given deep divisions and general confusion over the legislation’s policies, President Trump issued an ultimatum to House Republicans during a late night meeting Thursday: either vote for the bill by day’s end Friday, or Obamacare is staying in place and I’m moving on to issues like tax reform. The vote isn’t expected to occur until later this afternoon. As of now, the situation is extremely fluid – but prominent moderates have begun to publicize their opposition, including the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, while conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus still remain opposed to many of Trumpcare’s provisions. (Fortune)

Death rates are on the rise for white Americans. The death rate for middle-aged white Americans without college degrees is on the rise – and it appears to be fueled by “deaths of despair,” or those stemming from alcohol and drug poisoning, suicide, and alcoholic liver disease and cirrhosis, potentially pointing to a lack of economic opportunity for people without college degrees as a big underlying factor. “Ultimately, we see our story as about the collapse of the white, high school educated, working class after its heyday in the early 1970s, and the pathologies that accompany that decline,” wrote the study authors. (Fortune)


Trumpcare Is Deeply Unpopular Ahead of Its Crucial Congressional Voteby Sy Mukherjee 

6 Insane Jobs That Seem Too Good to Be Trueby Polina Marinova

Apple Responds to Hacker’s Threat to Wipe Hundreds of Millions of iPhonesby Robert Hackett

New Video Shows Amazon Prime Delivery Drone in Flightby Barb Darrow

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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