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Brainstorm Health: Pfizer & Bain Capital, Siemens Healthineers, Azar Opioid Crisis Comments

Happy Tuesday, readers. This is Sy.

There’s a new biotech in town.

Cerevel Therapeutics, formed by drug giant Pfizer and investment firm Bain Capital, hopes to tackle central nervous system (CNS) disorders running the gamut from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s, epilepsy to schizophrenia, and even drug addiction, according to the companies. Cerevel will also be backed by a cool $350 million from Bain-affiliated funds—a critical cushion when you’re working in the notoriously difficult brain drug business.

The details are still a bit sparse. But the fledgling biotech’s most advanced experimental assets include a Parkinson’s disease drug that’s expected to enter phase three clinical trials in 2019 and a phase two epilepsy treatment.

Pfizer was criticized earlier this year after it heavily scaled back its Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s drug development efforts. Cerevel, in which Pfizer will maintain a 25% equity stake, may in part be an effort to address those concerns.

“Pfizer felt that placing this set of neuroscience assets, after its decision to curtail research within the area, in a company with dedicated focus and expertise in CNS was the optimal next step,” as the pair of companies said Tuesday.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


Digital health and the #1 business. Urine tests are ubiquitous. Seriously, seriously ubiquitous (a sad note on the its success: urine screens actually spiked to an $8.5 billion per year industry in 2014, at least in part because of the opioid epidemic). Now, digital health companies want to get some skin in that game. German’s Siemens Healthineers has partnered with Israeli startup to create a service that lets test their urine without having to schlep on over to the doctor’s office (with the help of a smartphone). (Reuters)


AbbVie touts arthritis drug results as flagship Humira faces competition. AbbVie, manufacturer of the world’s best-selling drug, Humira, is playing up clinical trial results for an experimental medication for rheumatoid arthritis (one of the major indications for its aforementioned best-selling drug). The company said that the treatment, upadacitinib, demonstrated improvements over a common generic drug in several important clinical endpoints such as quality of life, potentially setting up marketing approval discussions with the Food and Drug Administration. Humira biosimilars are set to hit the U.S. in 2023. (Reuters)


HHS Secretary Azar says America is ‘turning the tide’ on the opioid crisis. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar is pointing to new federal data as a possible sign of a shift in the fight against opioid addiction. The nation is “beginning to turn the tide” on the epidemic, Azar said, noting Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data showing fewer overdose deaths last year. Azar was speaking at the Milken Institute’s health care conference in D.C. (Politico)


Why We Should Leave AI Development to the Marketby Adam Lashinsky

Cannabis Stocks Aren’t Just Plunging, They’ve Already Fallen Into Bear Market Territoryby Kevin Kelleher

How a New Blockchain Aims to Shut Down Assassination Marketsby Jen Wieczner

Jawboning Won’t Revive China’s Slowing Economyby Clay Chandler

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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