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Brainstorm Health: Fortune 40 Under 40, Drug Prices, Liver Disease Deaths

Good afternoon, readers. This is Sy.

This morning, Fortune published the 2018 40 Under 40 list—a compilation of the most influential entrepreneurs in business, an all-star crew of young talent from sectors running the gamut from entertainment to finance to, of course, health care.

While the entirety of the list is well worth exploring, I wanted to highlight three individuals specifically doing work in medicine and health care. One is Feng Zhang, a 36-year-old wunderkind likely familiar to readers of Brainstorm Health Daily. Zhang was one of the pioneers of the CRISPR gene-editing technology that’s taken so many life sciences companies by storm and raised hopes of, potentially, one day being able harness the genomic slicing-and-dicing technique to tackle everything from cancer to inherited diseases to HIV/AIDS (just this month, UCLA and UCSF scientists heralded its potential to create cheaper and more efficient forms of cancer immunotherapy).

The other two are siblings Geoffrey and Matthew Chaiken, who co-founded a digital health and technology outfit called Blink Health. In a sense, the pair has always had health care in their blood—both their father and grandfather were physicians. But though they didn’t go directly into medicine, the Chaikens are firmly involved in the industry: Their company aims to use e-commerce tech to tackle the quagmire of sky high prescription drug costs by offering cheaper prices to patients who rely on generic medicines. And they’ve already scored partnerships with pharma giants like Roche, Eli Lilly, and Pfizer, as well as participating pharmacies in the vast majority of zip codes.

I hope you’ll check out the list in full, and read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

VA, IBM Watson expand cancer partnership. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and IBM Watson Health are continuing a partnership meant to harness IBM’s artificial intelligence tech to suss out more targeted and effective treatments for veterans with late-stage cancers. “It is incredibly challenging to read, understand and stay up-to-date with the breadth and depth of medical literature and link them to relevant mutations for personalized cancer treatments. This is where AI can play an important role in helping to scale precision oncology, as demonstrated in our work with VA, the largest integrated health system in the U.S.,” said Dr. Kyu Rhee, chief health officer for IBM Watson Health, in a statement. (TechCrunch)

INDICATIONS

This week in the drug price shuffle. Following Pfizer’s decision to (temporarily) hit the pause button on planned drug price hikes following political pressure from the Trump administration, drug giant Novartis is taking similar (temporary) measures, vowing no further increases for the rest of this year. (That won’t do anything to undo the price increases the firm already implemented earlier in 2018.) As I’ve reported earlier, a one-by-one, name-and-shame approach to dealing with high drug prices is unlikely to have a broader systemic effect on how much patients have to pay for their medicine. But that’s not the only bit of news in the world of drug prices—The FDA is reportedly considering measures to allow, on a very limited basis, the importation of drugs from abroad in the case of massive price hikes. More on that later.

Mersana shares plummet on clinical trial patient death. Shares of biotech Mersana plummeted 33% in Thursday trading after the FDA placed a partial clinical hold on the firm’s experimental cancer drug. It’s unclear whether or not the drug specifically caused the death. But on a broader level, it’s worth noting the investing risk for companies that don’t have assets that are actually in the clinic and have been tested in humans.

THE BIG PICTURE

A concerning rise in liver disease for young people. Young Americans may be drinking themselves to death, according to a new study published in BMJ. “Mortality due to cirrhosis has been increasing in the US since 2009. Driven by deaths due to alcoholic cirrhosis, people aged 25-34 have experienced the greatest relative increase in mortality,” wrote the study authors, noting that yearly death rates attributable to liver cirrhosis spiked a staggering 65% between 1999 and 2016. (NPR)

REQUIRED READING

Alphabet’s Loon Will Send Internet-Beaming Balloons to Kenyaby Jonathan Vanian

The Fortune Global 500by Fortune Staff

Where to Invest When the Bull Market Endsby Matthew Heimer

How Fortune’s 40 Under 40 Gets Stuff Doneby Megan Arnold

Produced by Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

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