We on the healthcare desk are just brimming with pride this week after learning that our very own Megan Hernbroth won an award from the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California chapter! Her award was for her excellent reporting on the downfall of Zume Pizza, a pizza-robot company backed by SoftBank.
The next time you chat with Megan, be sure to say congratulations!
Even better? Come join her in a discussion next week with top VCs about the future of healthcare. It’s on February 10 at 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT â€” Sign up to attend here.
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In the span of just a few weeks, we’ve gotten definitive data on three more coronavirus vaccines, showing that they work. That brings the tally of effective shots to at least half a dozen.
The latest one is Russia’s coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V. It’s 91.6% effective at preventing COVID-19, according to data published Tuesday.
And J&J filed its vaccine data for an emergency use authorization on Thursday. We should get a more complete picture of the vaccine in the coming weeks, before an outside panel of experts publicly scrutinize the data later this month.
J&J’s resultsâ€”the one-dose vaccine is 66% effective at preventing COVID-19â€”are prompting a change in tone in the conversation around vaccines. Because the vaccine is still very good at preventing more serious cases of COVID-19, as well as deaths and hospitalizations, US health experts have started to emphasise that those are good reasons to get the shot, we’ve noticed.
Plus â€” early results from vaccine trials are still coming in. Medicago laid out for Andrew its plan to test a plant-based COVID-19 vaccine in 30,000 people after encouraging early results. That trial is slated to start this month.
In the meantime, the initial rollout of vaccines carries on in the US. The federal government is opening up more access to the shots at retail pharmacies. Shelby Livingston reports that CVS Health and Walgreens stand to make more than $US650 million apiece from the rollout.
There’s a major elephant in the room when it comes to talking about the progress we’re making with vaccines: variants. Increasingly, vaccine developers are preparing upgrades to COVID-19 shots to better fend off emerging coronavirus variants.
CureVac and GlaxoSmithKline, for instance, said they’re making ‘next-generation’ vaccines that they say can tackle multiple COVID-19 variants at once, Dr. Catherine Schuster-Bruce reports.
AstraZeneca, working with Oxford University, says it’s developing a COVID-19 vaccine to target variants that could be ready by the fall.
Regulatory bodies are bracing for the need for coronavirus vaccine upgrades.
On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration said it wants to make it quicker for vaccine developers to upgrade their shots to respond to virus variants. It’d be similar to how we get annual flu vaccine updates to counter new flu strains.
Andrew has a comprehensive read on how vaccine developers are thinking through tweaks to existing COVID-19 shots.
Top vaccine developers are upgrading COVID-19 shots as mutations threaten our progress in curbing the pandemic
One constant refrain I’ve heard over the past year is how much the pandemic has reinforced where people were expecting the healthcare industry to head. (More care will move online and to patients’ homes, especially).
But in some ways, the pandemic has led investors to reevaluate how they invest in a particular space.
For instance, ARCH Venture Partners cofounder Bob Nelsen told Allison DeAngelis about how the biotech firm â€” known for backing companies like Juno and Grail â€” is taking a new approach to mental health investments.
VCs, too, are looking at companies tackling infectious diseases in a new light.
Patricia Kelly Yeo pinpointed 6 biotechs that are gearing up to tackle future pandemics (while, of course, working on ways to confront the current pandemic).
VCs have finally started paying attention to infectious diseases. Meet 6 up-and-coming biotechs tackling the pandemic pathogens of today and tomorrow.
It was a busy week for newly public healthcare companies, and a couple that are looking to join them.
- Sana Biotechnology started trading, popping to a $US6.5 billion valuation on its first day of trading.
- Talkspace filed its S-4 as it prepares to go public via SPAC. The document shed a more comprehensive light on the mental health startup’s financials and its competitors (of which there appears to be many).
- Newly public Clover Health tumbled 12% on Thursday after short-seller Hindenburg Research said Clover was facing a DOJ investigation. (Clover, for its part, issued a rebuttal on Friday, which you can read here.)
It’s this roller coaster that 23andMe has to look forward to, after saying it plans go public via SPAC IPO.
The consumer genetics market itself, is a turbulent one that in 2019 and early 2020 hit a lull.
Megan and I spoke with 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki on Thursday to get a sense of what’s ahead for the company as it goes public.
We spoke with the CEO of 23andMe about the future of the consumer-genetics industry and why she wouldn’t have considered a SPAC deal 6 months ago
I’ll leave you with a few more dispatches from the week you won’t want to miss:
- Megan got an exclusive look at the presentation that had VCs clamoring to invest in SWORD Health, a startup taking a new approach to physical therapy.
- Blake Dodge and Hugh Langley looked at the work Google Health is doing with Android phones to take on Apple. It’s a sign of what the secretive team could do in healthcare.
- Megan reported on the $US25 million raised by Folx, an LBGTQIA+ healthcare startup, noting what its growth reveals for other upstarts that want to make more specific primary care models.