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The Senate health committee looks into its first subpoena in 40 years

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We’re seeing some rays of hope that this ghastly biotech job market may loosen up a bit. Also, Bernie Sanders wants to subpoena some pharma CEOs, and as always, we’ve got a rad podcast for you today.

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Hope on the horizon for the biotech job market?

When it came to jobs, biotech was beastly in 2023. But the mood at the J.P. Morgan conference last week was jubilant — and there’s optimism on the horizon now that the biotech job market will be vastly improved. The reset last year has been good for the industry, opines executive recruiter Christopher Palatucci. Salaries have since right-sized, and the “tourist investors” who were attracted by biotech’s glitz — and ultimately helped inflate valuations — have backed off. Many “me-too” companies have folded, clearing the way for more innovative startups.

Now, there’s hope that the IPO window will continue to open. Academic research is currently ripe for the picking, and there will be more need for early-stage preclinical and translational talent, he says.

Read more.

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Why are rich biotechs cutting costs?

Has JPM Week already worn off? And what’s going to move markets in 2024? We cover all that and more this week on “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast.

Our colleague Jason Mast joins us to discuss an emerging trend in biotech: Cash-rich startups are laying off employees and tweaking their strategies amid a tough market for venture capital. We also look ahead to the biggest biotech stories coming in 2024, including some major data readouts and a few pivotal FDA decisions.

Listen here.

Bernie Sanders wants to subpoena J&J, Merck CEOs

Bernie Sanders, who chairs the Senate health committee, is attempting to subpoena the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson and Merck following an investigation into high drug prices. This is unusual, since this particular committee hasn’t issued a subpoena in more than 40 years. The executives have refused to testify at a hearing on high prescription drug prices — a move that Sanders calls “absolutely unacceptable.”

Now, Sanders will convene a vote Jan. 31 to decide whether to subpoena the CEOs and investigate high drug costs.

“These CEOs may make tens of millions of dollars in compensation. The pharmaceutical companies they run may make billions in profits,” Sanders wrote. “But that does not give them a right to evade congressional oversight.”

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Groundwork for a possible long Covid diagnostic?

Long Covid is elusive; it’s hard to diagnose and treat it, and there’s little understanding of its basic biology. New research published in Science, however, shows high levels of certain immune-related proteins in blood of people with long Covid. These findings set the stage for developing new diagnostics for long Covid, and perhaps could inspire new therapeutic targets.

Long Covid carries a stigma, since it is hard to diagnose — but the study showed that people with lingering symptoms have increased inflammation, immune dysregulation, and elevated antibody responses. The scientists found damaged red blood cells and platelets that signal harm to endothelial cells lining blood vessels.

This is the first signal that a biomarker can reliably indicate long Covid. According to one immunologist not involved in the study, the study is “fascinating,” but she added that “it is unlikely that a single biomarker can be used to diagnose long Covid given the heterogeneity of the condition.”

Read more.

More reads

  • Ex-Pfizer employee convicted of insider trading on Covid pill, Bloomberg
  • After 17-year courtship, Sun and Taro finally agree on $348 million buyout, FiercePharma
  • The Supreme Court could overturn the Chevron doctrine. Here’s how that could hurt the FDA, Endpoints
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