Biopharma’s big week is upon us

January 13, 2020, 11:45 PM UTC

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Hello and happy Monday, readers—I hope you had a wonderful weekend.

Here we go again. It’s that week in San Francisco. The big biopharma bash. The life of the life sciences scene. The Woodstock of would-be drug developers.

I’m speaking, of course, about the 38th annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference—a confab that attracts thousands of investors, biopharma executives, academics, and a fair number of us ink-stained wretches eager to cover the craziness each year.

I won’t be attending the festivities, aka #JPM20, in person this time around. But that doesn’t mean we won’t have plenty of updates, interviews, and key insights from what plays out over the following week in the Bay (in fact, look to this column for some breaking news about a major genomic sequencing player tomorrow).

And there’s already been a few notable developments to set off the conference and all the wheeling-and-dealing that comes with it. For instance: Med tech giant Medtronic announced that it’s acquiring Stimgenics, a company focused on spinal cord stimulation in order to treat chronic pain just ahead of JPM week; Illumina, a titan of the genomics space, reached a partnership with Swiss drug developer Roche to bolster the latter’s diagnostics business; and virtual doctor visit specialist Teladoc announced it would acquire rival InTouch Health in a $600 million deal that includes $150 million in upfront cash.

Much, much more to come. In the meantime, read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


The explosion of knowledge in the genomics world. We have a guest post up on Fortune co-written by Bryan Roberts, one of the investing gurus over at Venrock, and John Stuelpnagel, a co-founder of Illumina and Ariosa Diagnostics, as well as the chairman of biotech Inscripta (note: Venrock is an investor in the latter firm). Bryan and John delve into the explosion of knowledge that's driving change in the genomic sequencing space—a "revolution of observation," as they put it. Read the whole thing here. (Fortune)


Biogen doubles down on Alzheimer's bet with Pfizer drug deal. Biogen turned heads across the country with its stunning decision to submit its Alzheimer's treatment, aducanumab, for FDA approval after initially leaving it for dead. It appears the company is doubling down on the Alzheimer's drug development bet—Biogen announced Monday that it's snatching up an early-stage Alzheimer's and Parkinson's drug from Pfizer meant to treat certain symptoms associated with the conditions. This is, admittedly, different from aducanumab, which Biogen believes can treat the underlying disease that drives Alzheimer's (as opposed to just its symptoms). But the firm is clearly taking a different tact from other drug giants who have largely abandoned this space in the wake of multiple failures. (Reuters)


Study suggests a modest increase in the minimum wage would be a boon for mental health. How far can a dollar go? According to a new report published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Healthquite a bit—and with life-saving potential. The Emory university researchers found that just a $1 increase in the minimum wage in each state may be associated with 27,000 fewer suicides (a $2 spike could be linked with nearly 60,000 fewer suicides, according to the study). As always, it's important to note that correlation is not causation. But this does add to the body of work linking economic security with personal wellbeing. (NPR)


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