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Daily brief:  Trump fails to ruffle PBMs, pharma, Jowell leaves brain tumour research legacy

A rapid round-up of recent happenings, plus some key events taking place this week

Tessa Jowell

Welcome back to the start of a new week in pharma, biotech and healthcare.

The big news from the US on Friday was President Trump’s long-awaited speech on his pledge to drive down the cost of prescription medicines. Delivered from a sunny White House rose garden, Trump employed his usual colourful rhetoric, criticising ‘middle men’ (Pharmacy Benefit Managers) and pharma for growing rich at the expense of patients.

However a mixed bag of policy ideas did little to spook either PBMs or pharma and biotech, with share prices rising across the sectors as investors shrugged off the threat of new price controls.

Read more on PMLive: Trump pledges ‘total victory’ in war on drug prices

ASCO abstracts

The biggest event this week in the biopharma world is the release on Wednesday of abstracts for the ASCO cancer congress, which takes place 1-5 June.

The release has become an annual feeding frenzy for investors and journalists, who pore over the hundreds of abstracts from big and small companies, looking for clues for who may have an unexpected success or failure on their hands.

The abstracts are released at 5pm EDT (9pm UK time, 10pm CET) – we’ll give you a round-up of the highlights later this week.

AstraZeneca unveils its Q1          

AstraZeneca presents its Q1 results on Friday, and will need to show a good start to the year, after CEO Pascal Soriot promised a return to growth in 2018 after years of patent-expiry induced shrinkage.

AZ has had a run of good news in its cancer portfolio of late, with approval of Imfinzi in a new earlier-stage lung cancer setting, and approval for Lynparza in Europe as a maintenance treatment.

However the firm has also just been hit by a setback to its asthma treatment Fasenra, which could be falling behind GSK’s rival treatment Nucala.

UK news

Brain cancer research funding boost in memory of Tessa Jowell

Funding for research into improving treatment for brain cancers has been announced after Dame Tessa Jowell  died on Saturday aged 70.

The long-serving and widely admired Labour politician (pictured above) had been diagnosed last year with glioblastoma, a rare and aggressive brain tumour, for which there are currently no effective treatments.

During her illness, she campaigned bravely for greater awareness and funding of brain cancer research, and was the first person to sign up to the Universal Cancer Databank project, a global project aimed at accelerating progress by sharing patient data.

Jowell met Prime Minister Theresa May and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in February, where a new £45m brain cancer research fund was unveiled, including new government funding of £20m over five years.

This has now been doubled to £40m, which will bring the total research fund to £65m, including £25m from Cancer Research UK and £13m of regular funding.

Jowell also championed the greater use of adaptive trials to allow wider access to drugs in research, and the government has pledged to also commit to this goal.

There will be a national roll-out in England of a "gold standard dye" test to identify the disease, and an annual Tessa Jowell global symposium will be held to bring together leading researchers to identify gaps in research best practice and research priorities.

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

14th May 2018

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