Welcome to Dispensed, Business Insider’s weekly healthcare newsletter. With Lydia Ramsey skiing the Colorado slopes, this week’s edition is being written — for the very first time — by her colleague, Andrew Dunn.
And what a week for my first newsletter. Breathe in. Breathe out. Wash your hands. We’ve got a lot of coronavirus developments to go through, starting with speedy progress on developing a vaccine candidate.
How the buzzy biotech upstart Moderna sped past Big Pharma to develop the first potential coronavirus vaccine in just 42 days
- In the sprint to develop vaccines for the coronavirus outbreak, the world’s largest drugmakers have been lapped by a startup biotech.
- It took 42 days for Moderna to turn the genomic sequence of the virus into a vaccine candidate and ship it to US health officials.
- The National Institutes of Health will now start the first human trial in a matter of weeks, focused on safety. It will require months of additional study to know if the vaccine is safe and effective in protecting people against this novel coronavirus.
- Moderna showed how its novel genetic technology can speed up vaccine development. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech is also testing vaccines for infectious diseases like the Zika virus, respiratory syncytial virus, and cytomegalovirus, or CMV.
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Even with a speedy start, a vaccine will face a lengthy road to ever reach a mass market. There’s also the open question of how can Moderna ramp up its production, if the vaccine does work. The relatively small biotech has never mass-produced a drug before, but is looking at all options to boost its manufacturing.
Repurposing some existing antiviral drugs holds more short-term promise. The big biotech Gilead Sciences is doing just that, announcing this week additional clinical trials to test remdesivir against COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The US is gearing up to test the first coronavirus treatments and vaccines. Here’s how 6 top drugmakers are racing to tackle an outbreak that’s spreading around the world.
One last coronavirus impact I’m closely watching is on supply chains for pharma companies. Late Thursay night, the FDA released a statement on the first drug shortage caused by the outbreak.
There are 20 other drugs solely sourced from China. The FDA said that none of those are in shortage at this time, but the agency is closely monitoring the situation.
The FDA just announced the first drug shortage caused by the coronavirus, but wouldn’t identify the drug
Switching gears, there were non-coronavirus stories as well I wrote this week. I recently sat down with Amgen’s research chief David Reese when he was in Washington.
(Side note: I’m based in DC, so let me know who I should meet down here: firstname.lastname@example.org)
We talked about why the California biotech has narrowed its research focus and is using genetics to fight against what he calls “existential challenges” facing the business of developing new drugs.
Creating new drugs is too slow and too expensive. A top exec at the $130 billion biotech Amgen shares how he’s ‘loading the dice’ to juice the chances of success
And our cannabis team has put out some fascinating reporting on a couple of budding psychedelics startups. Cannabis fellow Yeji Jesse Lee has a great profile of ATAI Life Sciences, a business attempting to turn magic mushrooms into medicine.
ATAI has raised $100 million to turn psychedelics into treatments for depression and anxiety. Now the unusual biotech is gearing up to raise millions more for the next phase of human testing.
- Florian Brand helped start ATAI Life Sciences with one vision in mind: to effectively treat mental-health disorders by turning psychedelics into medicines.
- The way to do that? By bringing psychedelics through clinical trials and getting approval from regulatory agencies.
Prominent backers like Mike Novogratz, Peter Thiel, Thor Bjorgolfsson, and Steve Jurvetson have come on board with this vision, investing over $100 million in ATAI. More recently, traditional biotech and pharmaceutical investors have shown interest as well.
- ATAI plans to raise a fresh round of funding, Brand said. The round is expected to equal or exceed ATAI’s Series B round of $43 million.
Jeremy Berke also published the slides another psychedelic startup has used to close a $8.5 million Series A round. Field Trip’s executives envision testing psychotherapies across 50 to 60 clinics in North America by 2023.
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Field Trip raised $8.5 million to take psychedelic medicine mainstream. We got an exclusive look at the pitch deck that helped make it happen.
That wraps my debut Dispensed. I’m off to Toronto for a long weekend trip, dutifully following the cheap airline tickets. I’ll be back Tuesday, but in the meantime Lydia has returned. Get in touch with the whole healthcare team with news at email@example.com.
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