This week we highlight the United States Food and Drug Administration’s approval of an insulin biosimilar and their granting of its status as interchangeable with the name brand drug. This promises significant savings for diabetic patients who often face financial hardships because of the cost of care. We also look at an artificial intelligence tool for modeling protein folding, biotech initial public offerings, rapid DNA sequencing for a sick infant, and a tool for matching mental health providers with patients.
Each week, we highlight five things you need to know in the life sciences industry. Here’s the latest.
For many diabetics, the cost of insulin presents a substantial and rising financial burden. The U.S. government has taken a number of actions to help offset or at least slow these price increases. This week brought a substantial new development with the approval of a biosimilar for insulin and identified it as interchangeable. The biosimilar is expected to cost 15% to 35% less than the branded equivalent. The interchangeable status means that pharmacists can automatically use the biosimilar unless the prescribing physician specifically identifies that the branded drug should be used.
For years, academics have used computer software to model what a protein’s structure will be, based on its genetic sequence. However, this has been an extremely time- and resource-intensive process. Now, Alphabet has unveiled AlphaFold, an AI-based tool for modeling protein structures, including a database of more than 350,000 protein models from humans and other important model organizations. They expect that this will expand to more than 130 million structures by year end.
Endpoints this week highlights another three IPOs in the biotech space. Nuvelent is expecting to raise $60 million to $65 million just months after its launch. Icosavax raised $182 million to pursue its vaccine candidates targeting infections that do not have current vaccines. Rallybio raised $80.6 million based on the promise of its drug for a rare autoimmune disease afflicting infants. These three IPOs bring the total for the year to 92 biotech IPOs, more than all of last year.
Access to rapid, accurate and increasingly affordable DNA sequencing tests in health care is the next step in personalized care. In a recent example, a medical team was able to sequence a child’s DNA, and within 13 hours identified and treated a genetic disease, which resulted in his sister’s death 10 years earlier without diagnosis. This situation is an example of what is possible, but is not a representation of the technology, training, financial reality or treatment options of all hospitals and patients. According to Stephen Kingsmore, chief executive of Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine, “Only about a third of sick babies with a suspected genetic disease who have their genomes sequenced get a firm diagnosis. And only 10% of those babies have treatment options once the condition is identified.” It should also be noted that many companies offer genome sequencing in the triple digits, but the advanced sequencing used in clinical applications is closer to five. The study described in this article is a snapshot into where we are going, and should serve as a catalyst for further discussions into when such technologies should be leveraged, how to increase access to all communities, and how payers and providers will need to consider breakthrough technologies in this new age of medicine.
Finding the right mental health providers can be challenging for patients. Providers must deliver the right type of care as well as accept new patients and their insurance. To bridge these needs, SonderMind gathers this information via a survey then uses the data and their platform to match providers and patients. The company’s Series C funding round raised $150 million providing them the capital needed to expand to all 50 states and boosting valuations to above $1 billion.