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The return of biotech’s “bump factor” amid an economic downturn

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Hello, everyone. Damian here with a deep dive on a historic moment for genome editing, mixology tips from a biotech lifer, and a look at why scientists are interested in muscle-building drugs.


Everything you need to know about a historic moment in CRISPR
Scientific history is playing out before us. Yesterday, U.K. regulators approved Casgevy, the first-ever medicine to use CRISPR genome editing, just a decade after the revolutionary technology was just described.

What does that mean? A cadre of STAT reporters got together to answer just about every question you might have about this medical milestone, including what this therapy might mean for patients with sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia, how the treatment works, and what it portends for the future of genetic medicine.

Read more.


What pairs well with a biotech downturn?
Who polices algorithms? And how would you name the first approved CRISPR medicine?

We cover all that and more this week on “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. Our colleague Casey Ross joins us to tell the bombshell story of how the nation’s largest health insurer used a computer algorithm to deny patient care and boost its profitability. Then, biotech veteran Michael Gilman calls in to offer a behind-the-scenes peek at what it’s like to be a startup CEO in this economic downturn — and which cocktail recipes help make it bearable.

Listen here.

Wegovy leads to weight loss. The next drugs might preserve muscle, too
GLP-1-targeting drugs like Wegovy and Zepbound have helped patients with obesity lose about a fifth of their body weight. But roughly 40% of that weight could be lean mass, which is a concern for some experts — and a potential opportunity for other drugmakers.

As STAT’s Allison DeAngelis and Elaine Chen report, the idea of shedding fat while preserving muscle has set in motion a scientific race among a handful of companies. For a few firms, including Biohaven and the Eli Lilly-owned Versanis, the key is a bodily protein called myostatin, which regulates muscle growth.

For years, researchers have known that inhibiting myostatin inhibition leads to striking atrophy, producing the memorably jacked mice and dogs of scientific lore. The effects were markedly less dramatic in humans, which largely ruled out myostatin drugs as treatments for muscular disorders. But the pathway is getting another look as companies search for compounds that might spare muscle tissue from the effects of powerful weight-loss treatment.

Read more.

Biotech is bumping again
At least in Cambridge, Mass., where the density of biotech companies means you can hardly stand in line for a coffee without running into a colleague of one stripe another. That all went away in 2020, as Covid-19 scattered workforces around the world. But three years later, the city’s Kendall Square biotech hub has regained its “bump factor.”

As Robert Weisman writes in the Boston Globe, the streets of Kendall are back their old ways, at least Tuesday through Thursday, with throngs of scientists, entrepreneurs, and investors bouncing up and down Main Street.

“We eat lunch in Kendall because of the bump factor,” said Bill Kane of BioMed Realty. “You can set up a table here and bump into people like Eric Lander and Bob Langer.”

More reads
• FDA’s Janet Woodcock to retire early next year, STAT
• FDA hearing targets unproven $900,000 drug for deadly cancer, Bloomberg
• Eli Lilly to invest 2 billion euros to build first German production plant, Reuters