Brainstorm Health: CRISPR V. Superbugs, Gottlieb to NEA, UniQure Gene Therapy

May 22, 2019, 10:40 PM UTC
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Hello and happy hump day, readers!

Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb already has a new gig.

Gottlieb unexpectedly departed from his position as the country’s top drug regulator earlier this year, citing personal reasons and a wish to spend more time with his family. The surprise move came after a brief tenure that was, nonetheless, lauded by a surprising cross-section of drug, patient advocates, and lawmakers across the political spectrum.

But with the FDA job in the rear view, Gottlieb is getting back to his origins as a biotech investor. He’s now been named a special partner at New Enterprise Associates (NEA), a VC firm with a major health care investment portfolio (and a previous Gottlieb employer).

“Throughout his prior 10-year tenure at NEA, Scott’s broad expertise was a tremendous asset for our health care practice and portfolio companies,” said David Mott, General Partner and Head of Healthcare Investing at NEA, in a statement. “We are proud of his contributions to advancing innovation and increasing the quality of patient care as head of the FDA, and we’re thrilled to have him rejoin NEA, this time as a full-time investing partner.”

When Gottlieb first took the reins at the FDA, he recused himself from decisions involving dozens of firms that he’d made personal investments in. It seems he’s back in the game.

Read on for the day’s news.


How CRISPR could tackle superbugs. NPR has a fun, fascinating piece out on an issue near and dear to our hearts here at Brainstorm Health - the role that gene editing could play in fighting the antibiotic-resistant superbug crisis. The piece outlines a "living antibiotic" made out of genetically modified viruses - and explored how these "bacteriaphages" could become a game changer for one of public health's biggest ticking time bombs. (NPR

Could health issues hamper the 5G push? HSBC Securities analyst Sunil Rajgopal is sounding the alarm bell over a potential hurdle to 5G mobile network adoption: The technology's effect on health. “The race to 5G could be slowed by alleged health concerns related to radio frequency,” Rajgopal wrote in an investor note. “These concerns have been around as long as mobile phones, but there have been a number of recent regulatory/public initiatives demanding delays or outright bans on the rollout of 5G.” (Fortune)


Can UniQure's Huntington's gene therapy right the ship? Biotech UniQure is commonly known for, well, one of the drug industry's most impressive flops: A gene therapy that proved so expensive that nearly no one actually used it. But some analysts think a turnaround may be possible if the firm's Huntington's disease gene therapy ambitions play out. UniQure has now procured patents for the experimental treatment ahead of early-stage clinical trials. And if things work out (a big if) it could see a resurrection in its share price. (BioPharma Dive)


Algeria and Argentina are malaria-free. Oh hey, some actual good news on the public health front! The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Wednesday that both Algeria and Argentina have been officially designated as malaria free following an extensive awareness, prevention, and treatment campaign. One poetic element to the victory: “Algeria is where the malaria parasite was first discovered in humans almost a century and a half ago, and that was a significant milestone in responding to the disease,” says the WHO's Dr. Matshidiso Moeti. “Now Algeria has shown the rest of Africa that malaria can be beaten through country leadership, bold action, sound investment and science. The rest of the continent can learn from this experience.” (WHO)


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