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Brainstorm Health: Stem Cells in Space, CVS Stock Plunge, Merck Setback

Hello and happy hump day, readers.

Biopharma can come across as having otherworldly ambitions. So why not take matters, literally, to outer space?

That’s what Israel-based Pluristem Therapeutics is hoping to do via a collaboration with NASA. The biotech, which focuses on developing stem cell therapy products, is partnering with the space agency’s Ames Research center to see whether or not its experimental PLX cell therapies could help treat and prevent various medical conditions that may arise during space missions, according to a press release.

Specifically, Pluristem wants to test out whether or not its treatments can help alleviate the kind of muscle loss and cardiovascular effects of living in extreme conditions like microgravity.

“During space missions astronauts are exposed to a challenging environment which includes radiation and microgravity, leading to muscle and bone loss as well as other potentially serious medical conditions,” said Dr. Ruth Globus of NASA’s Ames Research Center in a statement.

It sounds like the stuff of science fiction. But this isn’t even the first major collaboration between NASA and biopharmaceutical companies. In fact, pharma giants like Merck and others have been conducting experiments on the ISS’ U.S. National Lab for years in order to better understand the effect of microgravity on drug development and delivery, with the ultimate hope of improving manufacturing methods and efficacy.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

Abbott, Novo team up on diabetes digital health app. Drug makers Abbott and Novo Nordisk on Wednesday announced that the companies are working on a combined digital tool that connects data from Novo’s insulin pens to Abbott’s existing FreeStyle Libre continuous glucose monitoring system. The idea is to allow patients to view both glucose and insulin data via an integrated platform (as is increasingly the case in the diabetes treatment field).

INDICATIONS

Keytruda faces setback in liver cancer. Merck’s wildly successful cancer immunotherapy drug Keytruda faced a rare setback this week. The treatment failed its primary goals in a key liver cancer trial, fueling doubts about whether or not Merck will be able to cling on to a previously granted FDA accelerated approval in this particular liver cancer indication. Now, it’s up to Merck to persuade federal regulators. (FiercePharma)

THE BIG PICTURE

CVS stock hit on earnings outlook. Shares of CVS fell more than 8% in Wednesday trading after the company announced that its 2019 outlook faces serious headwinds stemming from the costs of its blockbuster $68 billion deal to acquire insurer Aetna. “2019 will be a year of transition as we integrate Aetna and focus on key pillars of our growth strategy,” said CVS chief Larry Merlo in a statement. “We are fully aware of the need to address the impact of certain headwinds that are having a disproportionate impact in 2019.” (Fortune)

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