Shatterproof and Outcome Health Challenge Addiction Stigma

It’s no secret that the U.S. is experiencing an unprecedented amount of deaths due to substance abuse, a phenomenon that has turned into the leading cause of death of Americans under 50 years old. While scientific evidence proves substance use disorder is indeed a chronic brain disease with viable treatments, more than two-thirds of opioid treatment programs don’t offer medication to the patient, according to Shatterproof, a non-profit organization dedicated to de-stigmatizing addiction.

Outcome Health, a technology company that provides health education at the moment of care to improve patient outcomes, has announced that it will join Shatterproof in its mission by delivering actionable healthcare intelligence to physician practices across the country. Outcome’s digital platforms will be visible to patients on waiting room TVs and exam room wallboards. They’ll explain the science of addiction, include messages to break stigmas, and encourage patients to talk to their doctor about pain management options. The technology can promote specialty-specific content and deliver lifestyle management videos to patients’ pre-consultation

Bioasis and WuXi Biologics Unite Against Brain Cancer

Bioasis headquarters

xB3-001 is a much anticipated, investigational biological candidate to treat brain cancer currently in development by Bioasis and their new strategic partner, WuXi Biologics. Bioasis launched xB3, a proprietary platform technology, for the delivery of therapeutics across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) with the goal of treating CNS disorders in areas of high unmet medical need, including brain cancers and neurodegenerative diseases. China-based WuXi Biologics will now offer Bioasis its expertise in developing complex biologic molecules in line with its mission to accelerate and transform biologics discovery, development, and manufacturing to benefit patients around the world.

According to the biopharma company, delivery of most biologics across the BBB and into the brain has been the single greatest challenge to treating brain diseases. Manufacturing these sophisticated therapies requires a tailor-made approach, with the expertise and agility in cell line, process, and formulation development that WuXi Biologics offers. The company will focus on ensuring that Bioasis’ drug product candidates are manufactured with optimal formulation, stability, and exceptional quality for the clinic.

Roche and Microbiotica to Fight IBD

Roche’s Genentech has made a $500 million deal with the metagenomics specialty company Microbiotica to capitalize on microbiome research with the potential to open treatment pathways for inflammatory bowel disease. Genentech offered Microbiotica an undisclosed upfront payment, with eligibility to receive milestone payments of up to $534 million. In return, Microbiotica’s metagenomics microbiome platform will be used to analyze patient samples from clinical trials of Genentech’s investigational IBD medicines to identify microbiome biomarker signatures of drug response and new potential IBD drug targets.

Medscape Launches an Upgrade to Medical Learning

New technology is set to change Medical Education

Medscape is introducing physicians and their students to a new, interactive way to absorb a wide range of critical medical media and scientific curriculum, such as the mechanisms of disease and treatment. Working with Confideo Labs, a leader in virtual and augmented reality program development, Medscape Education launched Medscape 360, a suite of immersive Continuing Medical Education that effectively improves engagement, increases knowledge retention, and encourages measurable improvements in patient care.

Medscape provided Robert Harrington, MD, an Interventional Cardiologist, Professor of Medicine and Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Stanford University, with the product to guide an audience on a mixed reality journey through the anatomy of a virtual heart—live on stage—to showcase deeper anatomical understanding into clinical practice applications. Dr. Harrington then commented in a statement that, “The complexities and pace of clinical practice and the move to value-based care models demand new solutions that engage and challenge physicians, that support learning, and potentially improve the delivery of care. New immersive learning solutions from Medscape 360 have the potential to entirely change the physician’s’ view of medical education and to infuse it with an element of excitement.

Johnson & Johnson Innovation Announces Alliance with Boston University

As part of its vision to create a world without lung cancer, Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC announced a five-year alliance with Boston University. Under the alliance, a Johnson & Johnson Innovation Lung Cancer Center will be established at Boston University, allowing Boston University investigators and members of the Lung Cancer Initiative within Johnson & Johnson to work together to develop solutions that prevent, intercept, and cure lung cancer. Avrum Spira, MD, Professor of Medicine, Pathology, and Bioinformatics at Boston University has joined Johnson & Johnson Innovation as Global Head, Lung Cancer Initiative, Johnson & Johnson, and will direct the new center.

“To address the major clinical needs of this disease, as well as its economic impact, a new approach is needed,” Dr. Spira said in a statement. “Building solutions that prevent and intercept disease requires very close collaboration between academic researchers and industry. We need better and more rapid alignment of discovery with clinical application and development experience to bring forward important new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.”

Cancer Spend to Double Globally

Spending on cancer therapeutics in America has doubled over the past five years, reaching nearly $50 billion in 2017. Two thirds of this notable figure can be attributed to the use of drugs launched within those same five years, all with list prices above $100,000 per year according to the annual IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science Oncology Report. IQVIA expects these prices to double in the next five years, reflecting the ongoing socio-political debate raging around increased drug prices.

However, there is an arguable effectiveness to protests and patient outcry. The report finds that despite increasing drug costs, the average patient with commercial insurance paid less than $500 for outpatient medicines in 2017 due to extensive coupons and rebates.

The positive side of the oncology trend report shows increasing advancement in therapeutics with 14 cancer drugs launched in 2017 (11 of which received “breakthrough” status from the FDA) and 78 therapies approved since 2012. The industry’s pipeline reached an historic level of more than 700 molecules in late-stage development in 2017, up more than 60% from a decade ago, showing a strength that oncology innovators can be proud of.

Opioid Epidemic and Medicare Collide

Bill to increase access to opioid treatment proposed in Senate.

A bill to increase access to opioid treatment programs and services for seniors on Medicare has been introduced by U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Ben Cardin (D-MD). “To combat the opioid crisis, we need a strong, sustained, ‘do everything’ response,” said Dr. Cassidy in his own statement. The legislation suggests opioid treatment programs and services, including medication-assisted treatment, counseling, behavioral and group therapy, toxicology testing, and any other services that the Secretary deems necessary, be covered and reimbursed to the patient in bundled payment.

“More and more seniors who depend on Medicare for their healthcare are becoming addicted to opioids. They need our help, and this bill will help provide them access to comprehensive addiction treatment so they can get the care they need when and where they need it,” Senator Nelson said in a statement.

According to AARP research, almost one-third of all Medicare patients (12 million) were prescribed opioid painkillers by their physicians in 2015. That same year, 2.7 million Americans over age 50 abused painkillers. The bill would not only help the seniors victimized in this phenomena, but would also save the government money in the long run considering the hospitalization rate due to opioid abuse has quintupled for those 65 and older in the past two decades.

Gilead Grabs Hookipa’s HIV, Hep B Drug Licenses

The two innovative biopharmaceutical companies have announced a research collaboration to jointly develop therapeutics against HIV and Hepatitis B infections. Hookipa, a clinical-stage biotech company developing a new class of active immunization therapies for oncology and infectious diseases, will manufacture arenavirus-based vectors for clinical development by Gilead. As part of the deal, Gilead receives exclusive rights to two of these arenavirus, vector-based technologies; the TheraT for HBV and Vaxwave for HIV.

“Gilead, a world leader in innovative therapies against major viral diseases, is the ideal partner for us to drive our pipeline development in this area for the benefit of patients in need,” Jörn Aldag, Chief Executive Officer of Hookipa, said in a statement. “This partnership is strong recognition of our unique immunization technology, and it helps us concentrate our own energy and resources on immuno-oncology.” Gilead provides an upfront payment of $10 million to the biotech company and will fund all research and development. In addition, Hookipa will see milestone payments based on the achievement of specified development, regulatory, and commercial milestones up to a total of more than $400 million.

Gilead is committed to advancing innovative approaches directed at functional cures against HIV and HBV,” said Bill Lee, PhD, Executive Vice President of Research, Gilead, in a statement. “We are convinced that Hookipa’s unique therapeutic vaccine technology, which has demonstrated excellent safety and immunogenicity in Phase I clinical studies, has strong potential to have synergistic effect with other Gilead cure efforts in both of these diseases areas.” Hookipa’s TheraT platform is based on a replicating arenavirus and is capable of eliciting the most potent T cell responses, an innovative step towards treating patients with aggressive cancers. The first clinical trial with HB-201 targeting human papilloma virus-induced head and neck cancer is being prepared.

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