Business Insider’s biggest healthcare stories for February 5


Hello,

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 — Sign up to attend here. 

Are you new to this newsletter? Sign up here for daily dispatches from Insider’s healthcare team.


Texas Vaccine

Nurse Roy Christian receives the Covid-19 vaccine at John Sealy Hospital at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB Health) in Galveston, Texas on December 15, 2020.

Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images


Variants threaten our vaccine progress

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.

Andrew Dunn spoke with the leader of Russia’s program, who said the shot won’t be available in the US or UK any time soon.

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 results—the one-dose vaccine is 66% effective at preventing COVID-19—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 emphasize that those are good reasons to get the shot, we’ve noticed. 

Plus — 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 $650 million apiece from the rollout

Read the full story here>>

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. 

Read the full story here>>

Top vaccine developers are upgrading COVID-19 shots as mutations threaten our progress in curbing the pandemic


Coronavirus vaccine

Pharmacies are finding themselves with leftover coronavirus vaccines, meaning some people can score a shot early with the right planning.

Jessica Hill/AP Photo


The pandemic is changing how biotech VCs are investing

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 — known for backing companies like Juno and Grail — 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). 

Read the full story here>>

VCs have finally started paying attention to infectious diseases. Meet 6 up-and-coming biotechs tackling the pandemic pathogens of today and tomorrow.


DNA Testing 23andMe



Hollis Johnson/Business Insider


The highs and lows of going public

It was a busy week for newly public healthcare companies, and a couple that are looking to join them.

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. 

Read the full story here>>

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:


Tips on the news of the moment, or how to make the perfect macaron on the first try? Fill me in at lramsey@businessinsider.com. You can reach the whole healthcare team at healthcare@businessinsider.com

– Lydia

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