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Brainstorm Health: Loneliness Study, Novartis Marijuana Deal, PokitDok

Good afternoon, readers.

2018 was a landmark year for marijuana policy in the U.S. (not to mention for our neighbors to the north). Heck, just yesterday, former cannabis skeptic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said he’d make legalizing recreational marijuana a top priority for 2019.

Industry tends to go where the policy winds blow. And that’s no different in the life sciences.

On Tuesday, Canadian marijuana firm Tilray said that it had struck a partnership with Swiss drug giant Novartis to help develop and distribute legal medical marijuana. Novartis’ generic drug arm, Sandoz, will help Tilray commercialize its (non-smokable) products, the company said.

Part of the rationale is to give these products a serious branding boost from a respected and well-known drug maker. “It just made sense for us to reach an agreement with a company like Sandoz, which is known for its focus on patients, its reliable supply chain, a well-established sales force and a global distribution network,” Tilray chief Brendan Kennedy tells Bloomberg. “If a product comes into a pharmacy with the Sandoz logo co-branded on it, or if a pharmaceutical sales rep is talking to a physician about a product that’s branded as Tilray and Sandoz, it lends credibility to that product.”

Readers may recall that U.K.-based GW Pharmaceuticals became the first company to win Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for a marijuana-derived treatment earlier this year. That milestone helped catalyze a flurry of interest in the space—the Tilray-Sandoz deal could prove a similar landmark for pure medical cannabis products.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


Change Healthcare gets into the blockchain game. Change Healthcare, largely owned by drug distributing giant McKesson, is expanding its blockchain business through an IP and asset acquisition deal with PokitDok, the companies announced. The deal is tailored toward expanding Change Healthcare’s blockchain offerings via PokitDok’s wide-ranging health care platform services, which include telehealth and other medical APIs. “This acquisition is about practical innovation to create a more connected, transparent and efficient healthcare system where patients control their own information,” said Change’s Kris Joshi in a statement.


Sanofi to move over to the NASDAQ. NASDAQ has been the go-to market for pre-revenue biotech listings for years now. But it’s adding a storied pharmaceutical mainstay to its roster come 2019: Sanofi, the French vaccines and insulin giant. The company is shuffling over from the NYSE as of January 2, citing “cost-efficiencies” and a number of investment tools. Its ticker will remain “SNY.”


The science of loneliness. A new study led by UCSD scientists finds that there are three distinct periods in life when loneliness peaks: The late 20s, the mid-50s, and the late-80s. Loneliness during these times is particularly acute, the researchers found; in fact, some 75% of study participants reported “moderate-to-high levels of loneliness,” according to CNN. There were no significant differences between men and women. (CNN)


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Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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