Government joins the drug development business (Morning Read)

Among today’s current medical news: President Obama’s new plan to increase drug development, tighter regulations on external defibrillators; an obligatory healthcare reform update; the Super Angels phenomenon; healthcare jobs continue to grow; the best of the pharma blogs; a soft landing for Boston’s Paul Levy; and a new documentary on lobbying healthcare in the United Kingdom.

Current medical news and unique business news for anyone who cares about the healthcare industry.

Drug development, sponsored by the feds. The Obama administration will increase the federal government’s R & D budget as the big drugmakers continue to scale back: a billion-dollar government drug development center to help create medicines.

The job of the new center, to be called the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, is akin to that of a home seller who spruces up properties to attract buyers in a down market. In this case the center will do as much research as it needs to do so that it can attract drug company investment.

That means that in some cases, the center will use one of the institutes’ four new robotic screeners to find chemicals that affect enzymes and might lead to the development of a drug or a cure. In other cases, the center may need to not only discover the right chemicals but also perform animal tests to ensure that they are safe and even start human trials to see if they work. All of that has traditionally been done by drug companies, not the government.

“None of this is intended to be competitive with the private sector,” Dr. Collins said. “The hope would be that any project that reaches the point of commercial appeal would be moved out of the academic support line and into the private sector.”

Latest healthcare reform strategy. Sen. Charles Schumer said Democrats plan to require Republicans in the Senate to “to vote on the individual protections in the bill that are very popular and that even some of the new Republican House members have said they support. So in the end, their repeal bill is going to be so full of holes it looks like Swiss cheese.”

FDA targets defibrillators. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants external heart defibrillators to be subject to premarket approval rules similar to those that stents receive.

Healthcare: The jobs brightspot. Healthcare added 36,000 jobs in December — more than one-third of the total gain and second to the leisure and hospitality sector.

Arizona seeks Medicaid exemption. Arizona will try to request a federal waiver to cut Medicaid from 280,000 citizens.

Meet The Super Angels. Via The Boston Globe: “An idea that first began in California’s Silicon Valley, super angels get involved in promising new companies when they are still too small and untried to attract venture capital. But super angels take a more aggressive and systematic approach than plain angels, investing more money, more often. Where a traditional angel might back one or two start-ups a year, super angels will get behind as many as 20, investing anywhere from $25,000 to $250,000 in each one.”

Staying in the know with pharma. Are you following any of these blogs? My favorites from the list include Eye on FDA, Health Care Renewal and In The Pipeline.

Paul Levy’s cushion. The former Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CEO received a $1.6 million severance.

British health lobby documentary. The Health Industry Lobbying Tour is a guided tour by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency about companies lobbying Britain’s National Health Service. Money quote: “Among those companies waiting like vultures around a dying animal are those very same companies who spent $1 million a day in the States lobbying against Obama’s healthcare reforms.”

Dealflow and more. Prostate cancer treatment company Calypso Medical Technologies raises $6.4 million; personalized medicine business BlackBio raised $4.1 million