Pharma

Morning Read: What’s the most promising VC-backed health firm?

Highlights of the important and the interesting from the world of health care: What’s the most promising VC-backed health company? Of the 10,000 venture-backed private companies in the U.S., VentureSource has taken a stab at picking the Top 50 most promising ones. First some criteria: These private companies must have raised an equity round within […]

Highlights of the important and the interesting from the world of health care:

What’s the most promising VC-backed health company? Of the 10,000 venture-backed private companies in the U.S., VentureSource has taken a stab at picking the Top 50 most promising ones. First some criteria: These private companies must have raised an equity round within the last three years and have to be valued at less than $1 billion (sorry, Facebook). Next, the companies were judged on percentage change in their valuation over the last year, management’s track record, capital raised and investors on board.

Of the top 50, just 12 were health care companies. More notably, however, is that DNA-sequencing firm Pacific Biosciences came in at No. 1. The company’s $260 million in funding from the likes of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers certainly helped its cause. The size of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company’s anticipated market and IPO plans probably don’t hurt matters either. Another California company in the DNA-sequencing market, Complete Genomics, came in at No. 7, the only other health company in the Top 10. Complete Genomics aims to differentiate itself from Pacific Biosciences by marketing itself as a service provider instead of an instrument seller, according to VentureSource.

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A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

A specialty drug is a class of prescription medications used to treat complex, chronic or rare medical conditions. Although this classification was originally intended to define the treatment of rare, also termed “orphan” diseases, affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US, more recently, specialty drugs have emerged as the cornerstone of treatment for chronic and complex diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

What cost controls? Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard economist David Cutler says that the health overhaul incorporates “virtually all” of the notable ideas about how to control health costs that have emerged in recent years. That’ll be news to those who argue that the proposal does nothing to control costs or that reform efforts will send premiums up. To be clear, Cutler was a campaign adviser to then-candidate Obama so he’s open to charges of bias, though you could probably make that charge against most people on the planet for one reason or another. But don’t forget that even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said the Senate bill would actually reduce the deficit in coming years.

Among the cost-cutting measures the reform plan contains: insurance exchanges, investment in health IT, moving to “value-based” payment for Medicare, and empowering an independent Medicare advisory board. About the only key idea the proposal lacks is a public option. Cutler estimates that the overhaul proposal will save $600 billion over the next decade and more down the road. So it’s perfectly reasonable to argue that “Obamacare” doesn’t do enough to control costs. But it seems ignorant or intellectually dishonest to argue that it does nothing, or that it will drive up health costs.

Tomorrow’s drugs today: Health and Life lists 10 new meds you need to know, or in other words, a prediction for the next blockbuster drugs. Take a look to see which pharmaceutical companies could have a bright future. At the top of the list is the curious case of “Byetta once weekly.” Byetta, a blood-sugar control drug from Amylin and Eli Lilly, is already on the market, but requires twice-daily injections. Armed with strong clinical results, Byetta once weekly seems quite promising except for one thing–its FDA review has been pushed back and there are some concerns the drug may not completely pass. Health and Life’s list spans therapeutics in nearly all lifecycle stages, from investigational to already on the market.

What will reform actually do? For anyone who’s forgotten about what’s actually in the health care overhaul, NPR has published this helpful article. Expanded coverage, the individual mandate, an end to “pre-existing conditions,” subsidies, small-business tax credits–it’s all in there. It’s a good and quick refresher for those of us who’ve gotten caught up in the “Will-they-or-won’t-they-pass-it?” drama of recent months.

Photo from flickr user Image Editor