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Brainstorm Health: Health Care in Fortune’s Future 50, Novartis FDA Setback, Flu Deaths

October 18, 2018, 7:35 PM UTC

Hello, readers. This is Sy.

This afternoon, Fortune unveiled the latest edition of our Future 50 list—a collection of companies posed for explosive growth compiled with the help of BCG and driven by factors such as shareholder return and other signs of current and future success alike (check out the fascinating methodology here.)

Unlike last year’s list, though, this year’s Future 50 encompasses the largest public companies both in the U.S. and abroad. And health care plays a significant role in the rankings.

The 2018 list still has an American company, rare drug maker Vertex Pharmaceuticals, at the top of the medical heap. The cystic fibrosis specialist has dominated its share of the market with a laser-like focus on its specialty products, which have reaped impressive sales. Vertex rang in at number seven on this year’s list.

And then there are companies that run the gamut from South Korea’s Celltrion (which creates “biosimilar” versions of some of Big Pharma’s best-selling “biologic” drugs, posing a challenge to giants like Johnson & Johnson and Roche) to U.S.-based Illumina, a genomic sequencing specialist that has its fingers in everything from at-home DNA tests to drug discovery and development. Samsung Biologics and Jiangsu Hengrui medicine also make the inaugural global cut of the rankings.

Make sure to parse the entire Future 50 here, health care firms and otherwise.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


Microscopy pioneer wins "Breakthrough" award. Harvard University biophysicist  Xiaowei Zhuang has won the prestigious Breakthrough Prize, which is awarded to various pioneers in the life sciences, physics, and mathematics, for her work in microscopy. I'll leave it to smarter folks to explain the precise nature of her work—but here are some its implications, according to Nature: "The technique has led to a slew of discoveries. Among them, Zhuang’s team has used STORM to peer at the molecules just underneath the membrane of neurons, and discovered that the cytoskeleton—a cell’s structural framework—consists of repeating elements... She has since developed another imaging technique, and aims eventually to create a "Google Map of every cell in our body — especially in the brain." (Nature)


The FDA rebuffs Novartis' heart drug bid. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent Swiss drug giant Novartis a Complete Response Letter (CRL) rebuffing the company's push to repurpose an approved anti-inflammatory medication as a treatment for heart attack survivors. CRLs are common in the life sciences, but their details are usually kept under wraps. In this case, we got some info (expanding use of the drug to heart patients had come under scrutiny by some despite some clinical data showing it could have promise in fighting the risk of future heart attacks): "Based on the correspondence, the [study] data would not support labeling for the use of canakinumab as a targeted therapy for those patients with cardiovascular disease who achieved a reduction of hsCRP below the 2 mg/L target," said Novartis in a statement. (Reuters)


Now is a pretty good time to get your flu shot. As the end of October nears, a friendly reminder that right about now is an excellent time to get your flu shot (which is recommended for all Americans six months of age and older unless you have a specific immune problem that makes it unsafe). The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to kick in and public health officials recommend that everyone be inoculated by the end of October, after which flu season will begin seriously ramping up through at least February. At least two states have already reported flu-related deaths this year.


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Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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