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Actually Wegovy is good for dialysis companies, dialysis provider says

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Good morning, everyone. Damian here with a look at the legacy of a pharma CEO, yet more biotech layoffs, and a reprieve from the GLP-1 panic.

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How will we remember Humira?

For the last decade, AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez has presided over the drug industry’s most enviable cash cow, making billions in sales on the autoimmune treatment Humira despite the expiration of the drug’s core patents. With Gonzalez now slated to step down, what will the industry remember: the lucrative returns or the unceasing controversy?

As STAT’s Matthew Herper writes, AbbVie’s share price increased nine-fold over Gonzalez’s 11-year tenure, more than that of any large drugmaker. And while the company’s strategy of knitting a “patent thicket” to protect Humira’s sales landed Gonzalez in front of angry legislators, the backlash was never strong enough to put AbbVie in the company of corporate villains like Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Insys Therapeutics, or Turing Pharmaceuticals.

It didn’t exactly make Gonzalez a pharmaceutical hero, either. Some CEOs stand out as voices for industry ethics, as defenders of science, or as visionaries on the scope of what a drug company can do. Gonzalez is more likely to go down as a guy who figured out how to make a lot of money without caving to criticism.

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Another biotech startup is cutting staff

This time it’s Ring Therapeutics, a Flagship Pioneering company with an ambitious plan to engineer a new class of viruses to make gene therapy safer and more efficient.

As STAT’s Jason Mast reports, Ring has laid off just under 20% of its staff, or 19 employees. The company, launched in 2017, raised an $86.5 million C round last year, adding to a $117 million Series B in 2021 and a $50 million Series A in 2019.

The news comes just after Sonata Therapeutics, another Flagship startup, laid off a third of its staff. Flagship, the firm behind Moderna, has run into setbacks in its attempts to replicate that success. Laronde Therapeutics laid off about a dozen employees amid a data integrity problem, while Kaleido Biosciences, Evelo Biosciences, and Axcella Health have all shut down.

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Actually Wegovy is good for dialysis companies

At least according to the CEO of Fresenius Medical Care, a dialysis provider whose shares have been volatile since Novo Nordisk’s GLP-1 medicine demonstrated long-term benefits for patients with obesity last year.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Helen Giza said the selloff was overdone. A large number of patients with chronic kidney disease die from cardiovascular disease before ever going on dialysis, Giza said. That means, if treatments like Wegovy can prevent heart attacks and strokes, they’ll actually prove to be a net benefit for companies like Fresenius, she said.

Whether that’s true remains to be determined, but last year’s GLP-1 market panic does seem to have subsided. Fresenius, which fell by double-digits in October, has now made a full recovery, and Davita, a rival firm, is up about 66% after cratering around the same time.

Vir has reset

Vir Biotechnology is parting ways with its chief medical officer, the last executive left from the company’s early days, as it restructures and pivots away from a foundational focus on virology.

Phil Pang, who joined Vir in 2016, is leaving “to spend more time with his family,” the company said in a statement. As Ron Leuty of the San Francisco Business Times pointed out, his departure means all but two members of Vir’s 10-person executive team have been replaced since CEO Marianne De Backer joined the company last year.

Meanwhile, Vir is in the process of laying off 12% of its staff, closing two R&D facilities, and widening its research focus to include autoimmune disease and oncology. The company has lost more than 50% of its value since last summer, when its preventive medicine for influenza A failed in a large clinical trial.

More reads

  • Hospitals race to adopt generative AI, even as regulators struggle to keep up with the risks, STAT
  • Advent, Blackstone are said to circle $20 billion Sanofi arm, Bloomberg
  • Meet the fetal surgeon forging CRISPR’s next frontier: curing diseases in the womb, STAT
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