Top 5 News: 5/16-5/22

Top 5 logo1) Royal Philips moving 200-person research unit to Massachusetts  BBJ, 5/19/15
Royal Philips has signed a five-year deal with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to move its North American research center from New York to Cambridge. Philips (NYSE: PHG) will invest $25 million over five years in the research initiative, its largest to date in North America. Philips said it plans to hire dozens of people as well as relocate researchers from its existing research headquarters in Westchester, New York, and other existing locations in Massachusetts.
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2) FDA OKs first quarterly schizophrenia drug  PharmaTimes, 5/19/15
US regulators have issued a green light for the first schizophrenia medicine dosed just four times a year, which could potentially help patients better stick to treatment and thus improve symptom control.
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3) With path to approval, bluebird bio now worth more than Dunkin’ Donuts  BBJ, 5/19/15
The most successful of the state’s biotech firms to go public in the past two years, bluebird bio, just got a little more successful despite the fact that the apparent success of its gene therapy treatment for a very rare blood disease is based on trial data from just four patients.
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4) Drugs for rare diseases must be pursued even if few patients need them Boston Globe, 5/19/15
STEVEN SYRE is right about one thing: Chronic and debilitating rare diseases do take a physical, emotional, and financial toll on the 30 million Americans who live with one (“Drug prices that give us a headache,” Business, May 12). Regardless of the disease or the number of people affected, we must look at the benefits innovative treatments can provide and the potential that exists to extend and improve the quality of all patients’ lives.
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5) MIT’s implantable device could help docs determine best cancer medicine  BBJ, 5/18/15
Imagine a device that can help doctors determine the best drug to treat a tumor, helping oncologists treat cancer with increased precision and personalization. Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed one. The tiny implantable device – about the size of a grain of rice – can carry doses of up to 30 different drugs. After implanting the device in the tumor, researchers can measure how effectively each drug is at treating a patient’s cancer, eliminating much of the trial and error that current oncologists face.
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BIOTECH 101 Hits the State House

This month, the Biotech Caucus hosted a Massachusetts “BIOTECH 101” event at the State House.

This educational event began with an industry snapshot presentation by Robert Coughlin, President and CEO of MassBio. The presentation provided a high level look at the biotechnology industry in the Commonwealth and its vital impact on the Massachusetts economy.

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Massachusetts Legislators and their staff then heard from a panel of experts as they discussed how the innovative science and technology that our talented Massachusetts workforce is focused on is improving the lives of patients around the world.

DSC_0179 Read the rest of this entry

Crippling Out of Pocket Costs on Prescription Drugs Hurt Patients

By Lynne Graziano Morin, Senior Advocacy Manager, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

lynn morinWe all know that Greater Boston is a mecca for innovation and scientific development. It’s almost part of the state’s DNA. Thanks to the work that is going on in our own backyard, new drugs are available to patients and saving lives.

While the costs to develop these drugs are high, the cost of not developing them is measured in something much more valuable than money — human lives. These are medications that countless patients rely on. As someone who has worked in patient outreach for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), I frequently helped patients navigate an often confusing cancer journey.

And in my new role as a Senior Advocacy Manager for LLS, I hear stories about the struggles patients face. I’ve listened many times, as patient after patient talks about the crippling out-of-pocket costs associated with the prescription drugs they take to treat their blood cancer – even with insurance coverage.

Unfortunately insurers often place these life-saving medications on the highest tiers of their drug formularies, forcing patients to pay as much as 50 percent of the cost of the actual drug. These patients are often filled with fear upon hearing their diagnosis. Patients wonder if the treatment plan their doctor prescribes will work, or if there will be unpleasant side effects to deal with. The last thing these patients need is an added worry about whether they can afford their medication.

It’s an untenable predicament, and one that Massachusetts legislators can do something about by supporting Sen. Anthony Petrucelli’s bill SB541 – An Act concerning out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drug coverage that places a limit on how much a patient will have to pay out of pocket for any one prescription drug.

LLS – like other patient advocacy organizations — is dedicated to supporting research into promising new therapies. That’s why LLS not only invests funds to accelerate innovative, life-saving treatments and cures for blood cancer, but we also work to ensure that blood cancer patients have access to the best available treatment today. We work to ensure that blood cancer patients can get the right care, at the right place, at the right time.

I would like to encourage all of those in the biosciences to contact lawmakers and educate them as to why this legislation is necessary. 

About the Author Lynne Graziano Morin is the Sr. Manager, Field Advocacy and Outreach, for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). She works tirelessly to ensure that patients have access to the treatments they need to live longer, better, healthier lives. LLS drives policies here in Massachusetts, and across the country, that accelerate the development and approval of innovative treatments and ensure that patients have sustainable access to quality, affordable coordinated care.

Guest Posting Disclaimer: Guest Postings on the MassBioHQ blog are submitted by individual guest posters and in no way represent the opinions or endorsement of MassBio or MassBio employees. MassBio does not represent or guarantee the truthfulness, accuracy, or reliability of statements or facts posted under the Guest Postings on the MassBioHQ blog

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Top 5 News: 5/9-5/15

Top 5 logo1) Vertex wins key approval for cystic fibrosis treatment – Boston Globe, 5/12/15
An experimental cystic fibrosis therapy developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. won key backing Tuesday from a panel of independent medical experts, paving the way for the Food and Drug Administration to approve it for use by 8,500 US patients. The medicine, known as Orkambi, could eventually help about half the 30,000 Americans and 70,000 people worldwide who suffer from the most common form of the genetic lung disease. Link

2) Life sciences center will be funded, after all – Boston Globe, 5/14/15
Will Susan Windham-Bannister be the first and only head of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center? Windham-Bannister is stepping down at the end of the month, and the center’s fate has been the buzz of biotech circles since Charlie Baker took the helm of Beacon Hill. Baker has never liked the idea of the state picking winners, and when his budget came out, there was no funding mechanism for the center. The reason: His administration is studying consolidating the myriad state agencies that do some kind of economic development. Link

3) Moderna launches another subsidiary targeting rare-disease drugs – BBJ, 5/12/15
Moderna Therapeutics, a privately held drug developer in Cambridge with 180 employees, today announced it will set up a subsidiary devoted to rare disease treatments. The company announced the launch of Elpidera LLC, which it calls “a new Moderna venture” to apply the company’s expertise in drugs based on so-called messenger RNA to diseases with small patient populations and severe unmet medical needs. Link 

4) The 25 most influential people in biopharma in 2015 – FierceBiotech, 5/13/15
Over the years, we’ve seen many high-profile individuals adopt a selfless motivation for what drives them. It’s all about patients, they’ll say. Or honesty. Or putting staffers first. And no doubt sometimes that’s true. The truly influential, though, never lose sight of the fact that in order to make a lasting impact on this business, you have to force it to change in some fundamental way. Or get people to look your way while you give it a try. Here are 25 individuals who meet those criteria. Link

5) Biotech 101: WPI event for high schoolers nurtures budding scientists Telegram.com, 5/12/15
The latest MCAS scores would seem to show that science is hard. Only 71 percent of high school test-takers in the state – the lowest rate of the three test areas – earned at least a proficient score on the 2014 science exam, for example. But Joseph Duffy, the department head of biology and biotechnology at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, wants to show students that even the most grueling scientific work being done today starts from relatively simple concepts. Mr. Duffy was one of several WPI faculty members who tried to shed a more inviting light on biotechnology coursework at the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation’s Biotech Futures event on Tuesday. Link