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Brainstorm Health: CRISPR Patent Drama, J&J Drug Pricing Ads, John Dingell Passes

Happy Friday, readers!

The CRISPR intellectual property saga has already been a long one – and yet, perhaps it’s only just begun.

The ongoing tug-of-war between the various parties that lay claim to the pioneering gene editing technique reached another inflection point on Friday. This time around, the victor is the University of California, Berkeley, and its associated research and biotech partners. Longtime readers will recall that the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard originally came out in front in this IP horserace. Now, Berkeley is being granted its own CRISPR patent, according to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office documents.

It will take a while to dust off what this all means for Berkeley, CRISPR pioneers Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, and affiliated firms such as Intellia and CRISPR Therapeutics – or for the Broad, Feng Zhang, and Editas Medicine and a number of other firms. (All of these companies’ shares were up in Friday trading, including a 5% spike for Intellia.)

But billions of dollars are potentially at stake here. So don’t expect a convoluted battle that’s already lasted six years to end anytime soon.

Read on for the day’s news, and have a great weekend.

Sy Mukherjee


FDA proposes a supply chain tracking overhaul. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to transform the way it tracks and traces medicines in an effort to protect supply chain security. The road to achieving that goal runs straight through improved technology, the agency writes in a regulatory notice. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb even busted out the “B” word… “We’re invested in exploring new ways to improve traceability, in some cases using the same technologies that can enhance drug supply chain security, like the use of blockchain. To advance these efforts, the FDA recently recruited Frank Yiannas, an expert on the use of traceability technologies in global food supply chains. He’ll be working closely with me on ways for the FDA to facilitate the expansion of such methods, such as blockchain technology, to further strengthen the U.S. food supply,” he wrote in a statement. (FDA)


What will J&J’s drug price transparency move do? Johnson & Johnson is taking a rare step among drug makers: The company says it will begin disclosing the (list) prices of certain prescription drugs in T.V. commercials. That’s a striking move (though perhaps understandable given the current state of political antipathy toward high drug prices). But the larger question is, how much value does such a disclosure actually provide consumers? The opaque system of drug price rebates makes it difficult to trace exactly where the money goes; unveiling a massive list price in an ad may actually, from a pharma company’s perspective, prove a tool used to call out insurers and pharmacy benefits managers, given the discrepancy between a list price and what patients pay. Then again, it’s more info than what consumers currently receive.


John Dingell, health care warrior, passes. Former Congressman John Dingell, the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, passed away Thursday night at the age of 92. Dingell had the rare distinction of having lived through – and presided over, and helped actively craft – countless seminal American health policies. Those include Medicare and Medicaid, as well as the Affordable Care Act (Dingell actually shared the very gavel he used during the Medicare debate with then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi leading up to the ACA’s passage).


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Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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