AstraZeneca had another rough week

Happy Friday everyone,

We’ve made it through another week, and another onslaught of healthcare news. I’m Allison DeAngelis, and I’ll lead you through the takeaways:

If you’re new to this newsletter, sign up here.

Do you have comments or tips about biotech and pharmaceutical companies? You can email me at or tweet @ADeAngelis_bio. I will also accept your favorite memes from this Suez Canal situation.

Suez canal ever given
The Ever Given, trapped in the Suez Canal.

Now, let’s dig in (pun intended).

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Dr. Anthony Fauci.

COVID vaccines under the microscope

If I never hear the word “unprecedented” again, I’ll be very happy. But for now, we’re still dealing with the pandemic.

Even drug giant AstraZeneca was put under the microscope this week, when the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease released an usual late-night statement saying that the 79% efficacy rate AstraZeneca had reported for its vaccine may have been based on outdated data.

Read the full story here >>

AstraZeneca revises down its vaccine efficacy in a huge US trial, to 76% from 79%, following concerns from Fauci and other experts that the results were outdated

Moncef Slaoui
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed.

Biotechs cut ties with Moncef Slaoui

This week, Andrew Dunn and I covered the fallout from a “substantiated” allegation that Moncef Slaoui sexually harassed a female employee during his time at GlaxoSmithKline.

Slaoui left GSK in 2017, later becoming the head of President Donald Trump’s COVID vaccine effort, Operation Warp Speed. He also joined several biotech boards and a startup, Centessa, all of which distanced themselves from Slaoui after the allegation surfaced.

Read the full story here >>

Moncef Slaoui is retreating from the biotech industry after facing a substantiated sexual-harassment claim

masayoshi son softbank
Deep Nishar

SoftBank turns to Deep Nishar and biotech bets

Megan Hernbroth published an exclusive look at how SoftBank’s Deep Nishar diligently vets healthcare and biotech investments, resulting in some of the highest returns on investments across the firm. The pressure is on for Nishar, and his cohort of biotechnology and life sciences portfolio companies, after a series of public investment catastrophes like WeWork and failed pizza robot maker Zume, she reported.

Check out the full story here >>

Biotech founders are turning to Deep Nishar as a must-have investor. The SoftBank exec explains the strategy behind his winning bets.

– Allison

Read the original article on Business Insider

Do COVID-19 vaccines stop transmission? Top scientists are now recruiting thousands of college students to find out

Coronavirus vaccine Moderna trial college students transmission study
Richard Biggs, 20, an evolutionary biology major at the University of Colorado Boulder gets his first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

  • A study launched on Thursday to see how well Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine stops the spread of the virus.
  • The clinical trial will recruit 12,000 college students across 21 campuses.
  • Scientists hope it will tell us how well vaccines prevent asymptomatic infections and stop transmission.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Scientists launched an ambitious research study on Thursday that aims to figure out how well Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine works to prevent people from spreading the virus to others.

We know Moderna’s shot is very good at preventing people from becoming sick with the disease. But we don’t yet know if vaccinated people could still harbor the virus, perhaps without showing symptoms, and pass it on to others.

To figure that out, researchers plan to recruit 12,000 students across 21 college campuses, including the University of Maryland, Texas A&M, and Indiana University. People interested in participating can register online at

“We hope that within the next five or so months, we’ll be able to answer the very important question about whether vaccinated people get infected asymptomatically, and if they do, do they transmit the infection to others,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said Friday at a White House COVID-19 taskforce briefing.

Half of the volunteers will receive Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine right away, while the other half will get their shots four months later. While compensation varies, some student volunteers can get paid almost $1,000 to participate.

Researchers will track the volunteers to see how well vaccination prevents coronavirus infections, including asymptomatic cases, and reduces viral transmission among their close contacts. Every day, volunteers will take swabs of their nose, place them into a bar-coded vial, and drop them off at collection boxes. The samples will then be sent to laboratories to be checked for the coronavirus.

The trial will hopefully deliver results in September, Dr. Larry Corey, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center said in an interview. Corey has spearheaded the trial, helping design the study and advocating for funding since November, Insider previously reported.

Scientists zeroed in on colleges as an ideal place to carry out this research. One nationwide study found nearly 400,000 COVID-19 cases on campuses since reopening last fall.

“High-density housing, the impulse to socialize and less fear of severe disease in young people are all factors that contribute to the high burden of SARS-CoV-2 infection on college campuses,” Dr. Holly Janes, a professor at Fred Hutch and study leader, said in a statement.

Answering one of the largest unknowns around COVID-19 vaccines

The first COVID-19 shots, from Moderna and Pfizer, proved to be overwhelmingly effective in data first released in November 2020. The primary goal of those studies was to look at symptomatic cases of COVID-19, partly because it was an easier metric to track.

Those studies enrolled tens of thousands of people, and showed the shots were incredibly effective at preventing people from developing symptomatic cases cases of COVID-19. In Moderna’s study, the two-dose vaccine was 94% effective at preventing COVID-19 cases, when compared to people who got placebo shots.

The initial studies left open the possibility that immunized people could still be vulnerable to spreading the virus, potentially as unknowing asymptomatic carriers.

“It’s definitely an unknown,” Corey said. “In my circles, it’s been pretty well delineated that you don’t know whether you can asymptomatically transmit, and therefore you should still be careful around unvaccinated persons.”

That uncertainty has been a key reason public-health officials have urged the public, including vaccinated individuals, to continue wearing masks and socially distancing.

While real-world data gives hopeful signs the shots have a marked impact on reducing infections, this study will attempt to answer that question in a rigorous manner.

Delay in funding could take it longer to find an answer

Moderna coronavirus vaccine trial college students transmission asymptomatic infection study
Olivia Parsons, 22, a neuroscience major at the University of Colorado Boulder, left, gets her first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

While the original goal was to start this research in January, it took longer than expected to secure federal funding to run the study, the Wall Street Journal’s Peter Loftus reported in December. The emergence of variants, ramping up of vaccine supply, and recognition that the virus would likely become endemic helped move the study proposal along, Corey said.

The US National Institute of Health’s infectious-disease unit is funding the trial, and Corey said the funding is in the “high tens of millions.”

The delay may make it harder for the trial generate an answer. The US government is pushing to make all American adults eligible for vaccines by May 1. For volunteers who are randomly selected to receive the shot four months later, that means waiting until July.

Corey hopes a sense of altruism will convince volunteers to stick with the trial

The five-month follow-up period will also bleed into the summer for volunteers, when some will likely depart campuses. That could make it harder to track or keep people in the study. Corey said the trial sites will look to recruit students who want to stay on campus or live nearby, and he hopes a sense of altruism will retain volunteers, even if they can access a vaccine outside the trial.

“The reason to volunteer is to help the country answer this question for themselves and their parents and their relatives and their communities,” Corey said.

Despite those challenges, the biggest obstacle, securing funding to run the trial, has been overcome. The research has the potential to provide the best data yet to answer a question that will inform how quickly society can get back to a world without masking and social distancing.

And, in the process, some college kids can get the vaccine now and be paid help figure out the answer to this question. Compensation will vary by location to account for cost-of-living differences, and volunteers can make as much as $947 if they fully participate, a Fred Hutchinson spokesperson said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Moncef Slaoui is retreating from the biotech industry after facing a substantiated sexual-harassment claim

Moncef Slaoui
Moncef Slaoui, the former chief advisor to the White House’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine initiative.

  • Moncef Slaoui, the former head of Operation Warp Speed, is facing a sexual-harassment allegation.
  • His former employer GlaxoSmithKline said an investigation “substantiated the allegations and is ongoing.”
  • The complaint is from several years ago when Slaoui worked at GSK. He left the company in 2017.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Biotech companies are cutting ties with Moncef Slaoui, after the drug industry veteran was accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct.

The allegations stem from Slaoui’s tenure at GlaxoSmithKline, the pharma company said in a statement on Wednesday. The company launched an investigation into the claims and substantiated them, GSK said.

Slaoui left GSK in 2017. Last year, he was tapped by President Donald Trump as the scientific head of the US vaccine effort, then known as Operation Warp Speed. He stepped down from that role in January at the request of the Biden administration.

On Wednesday, GSK said it fired Slaoui from the board of Galvani Bioelectronics, a startup in which it owns a majority stake. Slaoui also exited three other firms: Centessa Pharmaceuticals, Vaxcyte, and Medicxi.

In a statement late Wednesday, Slaoui apologized and said he was stepping back from his professional responsibilities.

“I have the utmost respect for my colleagues and feel terrible that my actions have put a former colleague in an uncomfortable situation. I would like to apologise unreservedly to the employee concerned and I am deeply sorry for any distress caused,” he said in the statement.

‘This simply should not have happened’

Emma Walmsley
GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley.

In a letter to GSK employees obtained by Insider, CEO Emma Walmsley said that the company received the sexual-harassment complaint in February and that the board “immediately initiated an investigation with an experienced law firm.”

“Protecting the woman who came forward and her privacy has been a critical priority throughout this time,” Walmsley wrote. “This will continue. I respect and admire her courage and strength. I’ve spent many nights lately putting myself in her shoes. More than anything, this simply should not have happened.”

Slaoui, who has a Ph.D. in molecular biology and immunology, spent nearly three decades ascending the ranks at GSK. Then he became well known as the face of the Trump administration’s ambitious effort to develop and mass-produce coronavirus vaccines. In January, he resigned at the request of President Joe Biden’s team.

Slaoui worked at GSK for almost 3 decades

Slaoui started at GSK in 1988 as a bench scientist. By 2006 he had joined GSK’s board of directors, and he oversaw the vaccines business starting in 2009. After retiring from GSK, Slaoui became a venture capitalist, joining the firm Medicxi as a partner in 2017.

Medicxi said on Thursday that Slaoui had stepped down from his role as a partner at the firm.

Vaxcyte, where Slaoui served as chairman, said it requested his resignation when it learned of the allegations against him. Centessa, a biotech startup, said Slaoui has left his role as chief scientific officer.

Slaoui also served on the board of coronavirus-vaccine maker Moderna from 2017 to 2020. In a statement, Moderna said it “was not aware of these or any other allegations of improper conduct by Dr. Slaoui.” The company declined to comment further.

Walmsley said in her memo that she was “shocked and angry about all of this, but I’m resolute.”

“We are in an age of progress with a female CEO, growing ranks of female leaders, new commitments to diverse representation, and a culture that values speaking up,” Walmsley wrote. “I expect everyone to represent GSK with integrity – especially senior leaders.”

A vaccine-research site in Rockville, Maryland, that opened in December 2016 and was named after Slaoui will be renamed, she added.

This article has been updated with Slaoui’s departures from Centessa, Vaxcyte, and Medicxi.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Moncef Slaoui exits biotechs after a sexual harassment allegation

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Good morning. Welcome to Insider Healthcare. This is senior healthcare reporter Andrew Dunn filling in with today’s healthcare news:

If you’re new to this newsletter, sign up here. For tips in the biotech and pharma space, particularly on COVID-19 vaccines, email me at

Moncef Slaoui
Moncef Slaoui, the former chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed.

Moncef Slaoui, the former head of Warp Speed, has exited 3 biotech firms after facing a ‘substantiated’ sexual-harassment claim

Read more about the complaint here>>

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ICU nurse Megan Tschacher shows off her vaccination card.

Since January, there’s been a 300% spike in dark net ads for COVID vaccines, fake vaccine cards, and fake test results

Read more about 1,200 online vendors purporting to have COVID-19 shots>>

hot vaxx summer 4x3

‘Hot vax summer’ is coming, and it’s set to be a blissful release of pent-up horniness

Read more about sultry summer plans>>

More stories we’re reading today:

– Andrew

Read the original article on Business Insider

‘It wasn’t completely accurate’: Fauci criticizes AstraZeneca’s COVID-shot disclosure, calling it an ‘unforced error’

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on June 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. Top federal health officials discussed efforts for safely getting back to work and school during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a rare public rebuke, the top US infectious disease doctor is criticizing the pharma company AstraZeneca for statements it recently made about its coronavirus vaccine.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday that AstraZeneca’s Monday press release about its COVID-19 vaccine “wasn’t completely accurate.”

On Monday, AstraZeneca announced success in a 32,000-person clinical trial conducted mainly in the US. The news was supposed to provide a much-needed moment of clarity on the two-dose vaccine. Instead, the announcement has become the latest controversy facing the program, which has already faced a string of confusion from public missteps by the company.

The National Institutes of Health’s infectious-disease unit, which Fauci leads, issued an extraordinary statement shortly after midnight on Tuesday. The board of independent experts that oversees the study “expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data,” the statement said.

AstraZeneca said Tuesday it would release the “most up to date efficacy data” within 48 hours.

In Tuesday morning interviews, Fauci elaborated on the late-night statement from US health authorities. He told the health news publication STAT that he was “sort of stunned” by AstraZeneca’s press release.

“This is really what you call an unforced error,” Fauci said in a “Good Morning America” interview Tuesday.

AstraZeneca’s release said the study showed the vaccine was 79% effective at preventing symptomatic disease and 100% effective at stopping severe disease. That interim analysis included 141 cases of COVID-19 among trial participants and five cases of severe disease.

The expert panel took issue with the company announcing interim results based on data that was current as of February 17. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said that the full dataset still shows the shot is safe and effective at preventing COVID-19.

By basing its release on an early view of the data, AstraZeneca may have made its vaccine appear better, leading the data and safety monitoring board to write “a rather harsh note” to the company saying the release was misleading, copying Fauci on the letter, he said.

“If you look at it, the data really are quite good, but when they put it into the press release, it wasn’t completely accurate,” Fauci told “Good Morning America.” “We have to keep essentially trying as hard as we can to get people to understand there are safeguards in place.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

The cofounders of bankrupt poop-testing startup uBiome have been charged with fraud

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UBiome founders and former co-CEOs Zachary Apte and Jessica Richman.

  • The SEC has charged uBiome cofounders Jessica Richman and Zachary Apte with fraud.
  • Richman and Apte also face criminal charges related to the poop-testing startup uBiome.
  • uBiome was a microbiome-testing startup that shut down in 2019 after an FBI raid.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jessica Richman and Zachary Apte, the cofounders of the now shuttered microbiome company uBiome, are facing criminal and civil charges stemming from their efforts to build uBiome into a poop-testing powerhouse.

The Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that Richman and Apte defrauded investors out of $60 million by giving a false impression of how well the company was doing. The married cofounders are also facing criminal charges in federal court in California. They were indicted on Thursday on charges including healthcare fraud and wire fraud, as well as related conspiracy charges.

The SEC complaint alleged Richman, 46, and Apte, 36, portrayed uBiome as receiving health-insurance reimbursements for its tests, which tested poop samples for different conditions related to gut health. The complaint alleged the cofounders made millions as uBiome raised money from investors.

“We allege that Richman and Apte touted uBiome as a successful and fast-growing biotech pioneer while hiding the fact that the company’s purported success depended on deceit,” Erin Schneider, the director of the SEC’s San Francisco regional office, said in a statement.

uBiome is the latest Silicon Valley biotech to be accused of tricking investors. The now shuttered blood-testing company Theranos in 2018 settled with the SEC over allegations of “massive fraud.” Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes was charged with fraud and is expected to appear in court this summer.

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The microbiome-testing company uBiome came under scrutiny after an FBI raid.

uBiome morphed from science project to venture-backed startup

uBiome was founded in 2012 on the promise of helping ordinary people understand the bacteria living in and on them, known as their microbiome.

The company morphed from citizen science project to venture-backed startup, taking in $105 million from investors and reaching a valuation of $600 million.

Then the troubles began. The FBI raided the company in April 2019. By the end of June that year, the company’s top leadership and many of its board members had departed. In October 2019, the company said it was shutting down in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.

The complaints paint a detailed picture of how uBiome got health-insurance companies to cover its tests using what prosecutors say was deception.

The SEC complaint alleged the uBiome founders duped doctors into ordering tests. uBiome built out a portal that connected patients with doctors who could order the test. The complaint alleged the network of doctors was designed to get doctors to order the two medical tests uBiome offered and prescribe based only on an online question form.

How uBiome got health insurers to pay for its tests

The civil complaint also alleged the company fooled doctors into retesting old samples. The criminal complaint alleged that uBiome worked to “re-sequence” existing samples by telling consumers that there had been newer versions of uBiome’s test. By doing so, the complaint alleged, uBiome could increase the number of billable claims, all while using an existing sample.

By using this network of doctors, uBiome was often able to get reimbursements from insurers.

The criminal complaint alleged uBiome tricked insurers into paying for tests that weren’t medically necessary or properly vetted by medical regulators. In some cases, the company faked documents by using the names of doctors and other healthcare workers without their knowledge, prosecutors said.

But the insurers were catching on to uBiome.

According to the SEC complaint, at least 18 insurers had sent the company letters about its billing practices by April 2019. The criminal complaint alleged that Apte and Richman didn’t tell investors about the questions insurers were asking.

What’s more, the complaint alleged that Apte and Richman “had to falsify documents and lie to insurance providers in order to attempt to keep them at bay.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

New data on Eli Lilly’s experimental Alzheimer’s drug backs a hotly debated scientific theory, but shows mixed benefits for patients

FILE PHOTO:  Patients with Alzheimer's and dementia are sit inside the Alzheimer foundation in Mexico City April 19, 2012. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Patients sit inside the Alzheimer’s Foundation in Mexico City

  • Eli Lilly’s experimental treatment slowed down cognitive decline by 32% in a midstage trial.
  • But the drug missed most of the secondary trial goals, including one watched by experts.
  • An Eli Lilly executive told Insider the data was mixed, but very exciting.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The latest test of Eli Lilly’s Alzheimer’s disease drug ended with a mixed bag of results, but experts say there are signs the experimental treatment may curb the disease’s decimation of cognition and memory.

Lilly gave an in-depth look at the performance of its drug, called donanemab, on Saturday at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases. The drug met the trial’s primary goals, reducing a harmful substance that builds up in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. It also slowed down the rate of cognitive decline by 32%, according to data scheduled to be published Saturday in a medical journal. But it missed the mark on several secondary tests.

The Alzheimer’s drug-development field has been marked by failure after failure, so the news that Lilly may have a working drug sent a surge of energy through the field when the drugmaker first disclosed some information about the results in January.

Those earlier failures – even within Lilly’s own drug-development pipeline – may have tempered expectations for donanemab. Dr. Mark Mintun, the vice president of the Alzheimer’s disease unit at Lilly, said he couldn’t think of a similar Alzheimer’s disease trial that hit its primary goal.

At this point, any news is good news, Dr. Howard Fillit, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, told Insider.

“We’ve basically had a 100% failure rate on drug approvals since 2003. The thing that we’re going for is incremental benefits,” he said.

The donanemab data may give hope to the scientific community and other drug companies, but Fillit said the jury is still out on how effective the drug will be for patients themselves.

Donanemab missed the mark on a memory assessment experts were watching

Donanemab was designed to target a plaque that builds up in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients called amyloid beta. The hope is that getting rid of the plaque will reduce the rate of decline of a person’s memory and cognition.

Scans of trial participants’ brains showed that people taking donanemab did see their plaques fade away. That’s not only a boon to Eli Lilly, but other drugmakers that are working on treatments targeting amyloid beta, such as Biogen and Roche.

FILE - In this May 19, 2015, file photo, a doctor points to PET scan results that are part of a study on Alzheimer's disease at a hospital in Washington. Scientists know that long before the memory problems of Alzheimer's become obvious, people experience more subtle changes in their thinking and judgment. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
FILE – In this May 19, 2015, file photo, a doctor points to PET scan results that are part of a study on Alzheimer’s disease at a hospital in Washington. Scientists know that long before the memory problems of Alzheimer’s become obvious, people experience more subtle changes in their thinking and judgment. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

It wasn’t as clear how much benefit donanemab had on subjects’ ability to recall words, follow instructions and other abilities lost to dementia.

The drug passed the main test of memory and cognition.

But Alzheimer’s experts had their eyes on one datapoint in particular: the scores from a widely accepted dementia assessment known as CDR-SB. The tool is used to measure things like memory and judgement, as well as a person’s ability to do household chores and maintain their personal hygiene. The higher the score, the more skills have been lost to dementia like Alzheimer’s.

Eli Lilly’s drug didn’t meet expectations there.

The company reported that trial participants taking donanemab had a 0.36 point score difference compared to the participants that received a placebo treatment.

For comparison, Dr. Lon Schneider, director of the California Alzheimer’s Disease Center at University of Southern California, had hoped to see at least a one-point difference, according to the Wall Street research firm Mizuho.

Mintun, the Eli Lilly executive, said he hadn’t expected that donanemab would pass all five dementia tests, calling it statistically impossible. But giving patients more time to hold onto memories is meaningful for them, he said.

The clinical trial took a ‘Goldilocks approach,’ and more testing is needed

The donanemab trial assessed a small and very specific group of patients. The trial was limited to participants with amyloid plaques, as well as another protein linked to Alzheimer’s called tau. Fillit called it a Goldilocks approach – in the end, Lilly ended up with participants whose Alzheimer’s disease wasn’t too early or too advanced.

Fillit and Alzheimer’s disease researcher Rudy Tanzi said that Lilly will need to run another clinical trial, preferably a much larger late-stage test with participants from multiple countries, if it wants to bring the treatment to the US Food and Drug Administration for approval. In particular, the company would need to show the drug works, as measured by the CDR-SB score, Tanzi said.

Eli Lilly’s current plan is to run at least one more mid-stage trial. The format of that trial had already been set, but Mintun said the drug giant is discussing possible changes with the FDA, including potentially removing a significant CDR-SB change as the main goal.

Changing that CDR-SB requirement, particularly given that the original Phase 2 trial failed on that regard, would make investors skeptical of the drug, according to a note from Morgan Stanley analysts before the full results were announced.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Startups want to help vaccinate


Today in healthcare news: Startups want in on vaccination efforts, the potential of an intranasal vaccine, and what’s in the stimulus bill the Senate passed this weekend

Coronavirus vaccine
A pharmacist prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Digital health startups like Ro and Zocdoc want in on the US vaccination effort. They’re wading into a complex vaccine distribution puzzle.

Read the full story from Megan Hernbroth here>>

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Actor James Van Der Beek gets vaccinated with a nasal-spray flu vaccine called FluMist on September 15, 2014.

A future COVID-19 vaccine could be squirted up the nose. The nasal spray could stop transmission, especially in kids.

Read the full story from Aylin Woodward and Allison DeAngelis here>>

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat from New York, united his caucus to pass $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill.

11 things you need to know about the revised COVID stimulus bill Senate Democrats just passed

Read the full story from Kimberly Leonard here>>

More stories we’re reading:


Read the original article on Business Insider

What a 3rd authorized vaccine means for the summer


Hope you all had a great first week of March. I’ve been enjoying the longer hours of sunshine and some of the 60-degree days here in Denver. 

To start this week, I wanted to let you know we’re hiring for two new roles on the healthcare team! We’re looking to add another digital health reporter and another healthcare editor. You’d be working with me, editor Zach Tracer, and the rest of the fabulous team we have here at Insider. Interested in learning more? Let’s talk!

Meanwhile, this week, we chronicled the impact of having another vaccine available in the US, a rocky first day of trading for Oscar Health, and the arrival of 2021’s first digital health unicorn

Are you new to this newsletter? Subscribe here for daily updates from the healthcare team at Insider

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What summer 2021 will be like

Last Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine, adding a third shot to the US vaccine rollout. As an added bonus: it requires just one dose. 

That could dramatically impact what our summer looks like. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden said that we’ll have enough vaccines for “every adult in America” by the end of May.

Hilary Brueck and Andrew Dunn teamed up to argue that J&J’s vaccine is probably the best shot. That’s based the fact that it’s cheap, has mild side effects, and performs against the variants.

(What I got out of reading this post is that I shouldn’t write off the J&J shot just yet.) I’m still looking forward to one day getting a shot – any shot. 

More useful news: COVID-19 vaccines are proving crucial in curbing the pandemic by slashing infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, Andrew reports. That’s according to data coming in from the vaccine rollouts outside of clinical trials. 

In all, despite coronavirus cases plateauing at a lower level over the last week, there’s still reason to be optimistic about this summer, Andrew, Hilary, Aria Bendix, and Patricia Kelly Yeo report. 

Read the full story here>>

3 reasons to be optimistic about this summer, according to 18 doctors and scientists

Oscar Health CEO Mario Schlosser
Oscar Health CEO Mario Schlosser

A tough first day of trading for Oscar

After pricing at $39 a share Tuesday night, Oscar Health slipped 11% in its first day of trading. Shelby Livingston reports. The shares continued their slide, and are now trading around $32.

Oscar’s debut was a departure from 2020’s string of digital health initial public offerings, in which companies like Amwell, Oak. Street Health, and GoodRx all popped.

Even so, the IPO made a number of key investors in Oscar – including cofounder Josh Kushner – rich. Michael Goodman has the complete rundown here

I’ll be curious to see what awaits Alignment Healthcare, a Medicare Advantage startup with more members than Clover Health. Clover, a rival in the Medicare Advantage health insurance market, went public via SPAC in January. It’s been in the hot seat after a short-seller report, and is currently trading down off where it debuted. 

Alignment on Wednesday filed to go public, and its S-1 shows how it’s narrowing losses while transforming care for the sickest patients, Shelby reports. 

A big question that likely weighed on Oscar’s debut is one Shelby tackled in a smart analysis piece this week. 

Leading up to its public debut, Oscar was just about as good at losing money as it was at raising it. 

Its financials beg the question – Can Oscar ever turn a profit? 

Read the full story here>>

One giant question is swirling around the IPO of hot health insurer Oscar: Can the startup ever make money?

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DispatchHealth clinicians treat patients in their own homes.

One of digital health’s first 2021 unicorn

Even with Oscar’s disappointing debut, there’s seemingly no slowing down to startup funding. 

This week, top biotech VC Arch Venture Partners and top tech VC General Catalyst filed paperwork to form a SPAC that’ll make a $500 million bet in 2 of the hottest areas of healthcare, Allison DeAngelis reports. 

And we got one of our first digital health unicorns of 2021 after DispatchHealth raised $200 million at a $1.7 billion valuation.

Megan Hernbroth and Blake Dodge got a copy of the (super short) presentation Dispatch used to raise the latest round for its vision of doing hospital-level care at home.

Read the full story here>>

We got an exclusive look at the presentation that convinced Tiger Global and Humana to invest in a startup’s bold vision to do hospitalizations at home at a $1.7 billion valuation

I’ll leave you with this feature from Allison on BridgeBio’s first drug approval. 

The company ran out of money 3 times on its way to the approval. Now, it’s facing its biggest test yet.

Thoughts on reaching a year of lockdowns, tips on news we missed back in March 2020 when every story idea that wasn’t coronavirus-related got tabled? Questions about the jobs we have open?

Reach me at, and you can reach the whole healthcare team at

– Lydia

Read the original article on Business Insider

Oscar fell in its stock-market debut


Today in healthcare news: Oscar fell in its stock-market debut, inside DispatchHealth’s latest (short!) pitch deck that it used to reach a $1.7 billion valuation, and the data is in on how vaccine work outside clinical trials.

mario schlosser oscar health
Mario Schlosser, CEO and co-founder of Oscar speaks to guests during the TechCrunch Disrupt event in Manhattan, in New York City, NY, U.S. May 15, 2017.

Oscar Health, the original buzzy health-insurance startup, fell 11% in its IPO. We pored over its 215-page filing to find 4 key takeaways.

Read the full story from Shelby Livingston here>>

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DispatchHealth clinicians treat patients in their own homes.

We got an exclusive look at the presentation that convinced Tiger Global and Humana to invest in a startup’s bold vision to do hospitalizations at home at a $1.7 billion valuation

Read the full story from Blake Dodge and Megan Hernbroth here>>

Pfizer vial
The arrival of coronavirus vaccines means people have started hawking so-called “vaccines” on the Dark Web.

The data is in: COVID-19 vaccines are proving to be crucial in curbing the pandemic by slashing infections, hospitalizations, and deaths

Read the full story from Andrew Dunn here>>

More stories we’re reading:

– Lydia 

Read the original article on Business Insider