We're on the brink of a 3rd US COVID-19 vaccine

Hello,

It’s snowy again here in Denver, just in time for the East Coast to get a break. My dog is loving it, and I wish I was tech-savvy enough to include videos in emails. You’ll have to just imagine a 70-pound pup bounding through a foot of snow. 

This week, we’ve gotten promising news about vaccines and taken a closer look at when founder relationships fall apart and one-time kingmakers’ futures become more uncertain. We also took stock of what’s coming next for virtual-care providers and gene therapy companies. 

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

We’re on the brink of another vaccine authorization

There’s a lot of vaccine news to be optimistic about this week. 

As Aylin Woodward reported, the more data we get, the more it seems vaccinated people aren’t spreading the coronavirus. That’s been a big unanswered question, since clinical trials have focused on whether vaccines prevent people from getting sick with COVID-19 rather than whether they’re transmitting it. 

There’s also more data in the debate over delaying second vaccine doses, Andrew Dunn reports.

He spoke with experts this week about data out of Scotland’s vaccine rollout showing that protection starts to drop after five weeks of receiving the first dose. That suggests delaying second doses is a bad idea.

“I think delaying the second dose for a considerable period of time is a mistake,” Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told Andrew.

Meanwhile, Moderna and Pfizer are both gearing up to test booster shots to combat variants.

Finally, we’re preparing for another vaccine authorization in the US as Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose shot goes up for review. 

A Food and Drug Administration expert panel is meeting today to hash out the evidence on the safety and effectiveness of the shot. 

If authorized, the US would have three vaccines at its disposal, speeding up the time it might take to get the country vaccinated, Aria Bendix reports. 

Hilary Brueck has a closer look at how the three shots — Moderna’s, Pfizer/BioNTech’s, and J&J’s — compare. 

Want a closer look at the evidence presented for J&J’s coronavirus vaccine? Andrew took a deep dive into FDA documents released Wednesday.

Of note, here’s a chart of how well the vaccine works. 

Read the full story here>>

One simple chart shows how well J&J’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine works, with protection starting after 2 weeks

Comcast sign logo in the wall of a building at Universal Studios.Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

When things fall apart

This week, our colleague Melia Russell published an important look at what happened between mental health startup Modern Health’s cofounders. 

It’s a look at what happens when founder relationships go south, but also the pressure that can face young companies looking to strike big deals in healthcare. 

You can read the full investigation here>>

In the vein of when things start to unravel, Megan Hernbroth has the story of one-time healthcare benefits kingmaker Comcast Ventures.

Its future in healthcare is uncertain, she learned. 

Read the full story here>>

Comcast Ventures became an unlikely benefits-startup kingmaker with a prescient bet on Accolade. Now, the fund’s healthcare future is uncertain after investing-team members exited.

Oscar Health CEO Mario SchlosserPhoto by Amber De Vos/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Money is pouring into upstarts trying to change the way healthcare is paid for

It’s a good time to be a company looking to change how healthcare is paid for. 

In 2020, investors poured $3.6 billion into companies focused on new ways to pay for care — both insurers and providers.

Included among the funding total — a fresh $380 million Devoted Health quietly raised, Blake Dodge and Shelby Livingston report. 

Also included is Oscar Health, which is set to go public. In an update to its IPO filing, the company said it’s looking to raise roughly $1 billion at a valuation of $8.2 billion. 

But it’s not all smooth sailing. Dr. Atul Gawande, the one-time CEO of now-shuttered Haven, spoke candidly about his experience in a February interview with the UCSF School of Medicine. 

In it, he offered the most detailed remarks to date on why Amazon’s health venture with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway fell apart. A system of employer-funded healthcare here in the US is at the center of it. 

Blake took a look at the biggest backers involved in the record funding year for so-called “value-based care” startups. 

Read the full story here>>

Startups trying to change the way healthcare is paid for pulled in a record $3.6 billion in 2020. Meet the top 8 VC firms that placed the most bets.

What’s coming next

I’ll leave you with a few notable trends our team picked up on this week. 

  • Allison DeAngelis has been keeping tabs on the safety issues plaguing gene therapy companies. She spoke with analysts about how biotechs might need M&A to get out of those issues. Here are the 8 companies analysts are watching.
  • While Cigna’s buying MDLIVE, other virtual care companies like Maven and Ginger are striking up their own deals to provide prescriptions. Megan explains why that could be the future of telemedicine. 
  • Blake spoke with the team behind Truveta, a startup created by 14 health systems. The group wants to build a data startup that doesn’t just rely on big tech. 

Thoughts? Tips? Reach me at [email protected], and you can reach the whole healthcare team at [email protected] 

– Lydia

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