Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Technically the Start of the Day

By the end of the day, it will be the end of the roll to the reader.

"Baker scales back plan for health care fee on employers" by Priyanka Dayal McCluskey and Jon Chesto Globe Staff  June 20, 2017

Governor Charlie Baker’s push to compel businesses to cover more of the state’s ever-rising health care costs gained momentum Tuesday after his administration scaled back a controversial plan that had angered business leaders.

Administration officials asked lawmakers to allow an increase to an existing fee on employers to raise an estimated $200 million annually for health coverage. The request comes just 10 days before the start of the next fiscal year, as House and Senate members are hashing out a new budget amid a revenue shortfall.

If their past tax revenue projections are any guide.... pffft.

Baker had initially proposed raising $300 million in the next fiscal year through a fee that would have charged many businesses $2,000 per worker to help pay the costs of the state Medicaid program, called MassHealth. After a backlash and many subsequent meetings with employer groups, administration officials said Tuesday that they now have a plan that enjoys the business community’s support.

And certainly the pharmaceutical $ector after throwing $500m at them, and it's a $mart move that is being is welcomed in the Globe.

Not everyone was ready to praise the administration’s plan. The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, one of the most vocal groups on this issue, declined to comment, and the Chamber was missing from a list pro-business sound bites distributed by the administration.

Lora Pellegrini, president of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, called the new proposals “on the whole . . . a positive development.”

“By working with the business community, they found a place of compromise,” Pellegrini said. “They’ve also come up with strategies to reduce the cost of enrollment in MassHealth and put some market-based solutions in place for the commercial market.”

Administration officials called for a series of changes to MassHealth — including toughening eligibility rules and covering fewer prescription drugs — that they project will save the state another $115 million per year. MassHealth, which is jointly funded by the state and federal governments, provides coverage to about 1.9 million Massachusetts residents, including the poor and people with disabilities.

Just $et a$ide $100m a year for Big Pharma, and Hollywood gets another $80m. 

I know it's sick, but I'm starting to think these crisis are manufactured so they can cut health for the poor (not illegal immigrants and war refugees, though, right?) and transfer that money other places That's what it is starting to look like -- while maintaining the illusion and imagery of liberal, deep-blue Massachusetts.

Following a strategy used by commercial insurers, the administration wants to limit the number of similar drugs MassHealth covers for a particular condition. For example, if there are four drugs available to treat a certain condition, officials might only pay for the two most cost-effective ones.

What if the first two co$t effective drugs fail? Each patient is different.

Baker’s finance secretary, Kristen Lepore, asked the House and Senate budget chiefs to include the administration’s proposals in the spending plan they are finalizing for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

“While our administration has made it a priority to control spending at MassHealth and has slowed its growth rate over the past two years, further action must be taken to contain the program’s growth,” Lepore said in a letter to Senator Karen E. Spilka and Representative Brian S. Dempsey.

Wow. They are also on board.

House and Senate leaders previously said they supported raising about $180 million from businesses to help pay for MassHealth, but they left the details up to the Baker administration. At about $16 billion annually, MassHealth is the single biggest piece of state spending.

Well, shouldn't it be? I was led to believe thru schools and media that is government's mission for us all. WTF?

Missing from the administration’s latest list of proposals was a cap on payments to high-priced hospitals. The governor suggested price caps as a way to curb health care costs in his earlier budget proposal, but House and Senate leaders nixed that idea. The hospital industry lobbied against price caps. 

Okay, so Partners, the healthcare Goliath in the state, will be allowed to still gouge, 'er, charge 3x the amount for the same procedures at other hospitals. It's all about kickback, 'er, lobbying loot and the power of said intere$ts here in Ma$$achu$etts.

Lynn Nicholas, president of the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association, said in a statement that the group “appreciates the Baker administration’s efforts to address the financial challenges facing the state while recognizing the . . . economic contributions of Massachusetts hospitals, health systems and other care providers.”

The administration’s proposals for tackling health care spending include a five-year moratorium on new health insurance mandates. The administration also wants to restore a rule that stopped residents with access to “affordable” health insurance through employers from enrolling in MassHealth. And they want to move 140,000 adults now on MassHealth into subsidized commercial plans on the state Health Connector. These changes require federal approval, which the administration plans to request this summer. They also need approval from the state Legislature.

Already, the administration is restructuring MassHealth to move to a model of “accountable care,” which aims to control costs and better manage patients’ health by keeping them within set networks of providers. 

In a word, rationing. You know, the reason you don't want the Canadian system.

Employer groups said they appreciated the steps taken by the administration to curb the costs of health coverage for poor and low-income residents.

“Now it feels like the package has some connection to the problem, which is the unsustainable cost of Medicaid,” said JD Chesloff, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable.

And yet the war machine rolls on, and all sorts of venture capital is burned through for dubious projects.

Eileen McAnneny, president of the business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said she supports the administration’s latest proposal largely because it’s a step toward addressing the biggest cause of the state’s budget pressures.

“There are lots of priorities in state government [and] providing health insurance to people is certainly an important one,” said Mark Gallagher, executive vice president at the Massachusetts High Technology Council. “As a program starts to creep up to 40 percent of the state budget, it starts to become the one and only priority of state government, and everything else is pushed far down the priority list.”

Ignore all the billions in $et a$ides, pay raises, etc, etc.


Maybe those millionaires in town could start paying more?

"Cybereason gets $100 million investment" by Andy Rosen Globe Staff  June 21, 2017

Digital security provider Cybereason is poised to announce Wednesday that it received a $100 million investment from SoftBank Corp. of Japan, an infusion that more than doubles the Boston company’s funding and gives it new prominence among the region’s technology startups.  

See: A Softbank For Robots

Cybereason, which helps clients quickly identify, defend, and analyze attacks on their computer systems, said it has now raised a total of $189 million since being founded in 2012.

Chief executive and cofounder Lior Div said the company plans to use the money for business development, to improve its technology, and to build its workforce. Cybereason has about 300 employees, 110 of whom are in Boston.

I know I have seen his name before:

"When Lior Div was thinking of expanding the cybersecurity company he cofounded in 2012 in Israel to the United States, he said his top three choices were San Francisco, San Francisco, and San Francisco. Boston was a very distant fifth. “Boston is not the first name that you will hear,” Div said about Israeli technology companies looking to have an American presence. “But when you do the math, Boston is the answer.” Div, chief executive of Cybereason, said Boston ultimately beat out Silicon Valley and New York for the company’s headquarters because of its proximity to Tel Aviv and its tech and cybersecurity talent pool. Cybereason is among the growing number of Israeli-founded companies calling Massachusetts home and establishing a role as major contributors to the state’s economy. A new study released Wednesday by the New England-Israel Business Council found that companies with ties to Israel experienced significant growth in revenue and jobs in a span of three years. At least 200 businesses with Israeli connections employed nearly 9,000 workers in Massachusetts and generated $9.3 billion in revenue last year, according to the study. The group’s prior study found about the same number of businesses employed 6,700 and generated $6.2 billion in revenue in 2012. Most of the growth spanned sectors including app development, cybersecurity, data storage, medical devices, biopharmaceuticals, energy and water technology, and 3-D printing, the report said. From 2013 to 2015, the report found that 48 Israeli-founded companies in Massachusetts secured nearly $1.2 billion in venture capital investments, making up 10 percent of all venture capital funds raised in the state. Israel, with a population of 8 million, is second only to India, with a population of 1.2 billion, in the number of entrepreneurs working in tech companies in Massachusetts, according to the study. Another asset is the international exposure Massachusetts gets from its higher education community. About 30 percent of the 200 local companies with connections to Israel were founded by Israeli alumni of Massachusetts colleges and universities, the study found. Another important advantage for Boston was the introduction of nonstop flights between Logan and Tel Aviv. The study found that Boston was cheaper than New York and San Francisco in travel costs between Israel over one week....."

Makes you wanna cry, doesn't it?

He said the company is seeking to differentiate itself in the burgeoning cybersecurity field by using software to rapidly determine the scope of hacking attacks, looking across clients’ systems to find evidence of how far the danger has spread.

“We’re actually making it accessible to people who are not experts,” Div said in an interview. “This is a huge difference between us and the others companies out there.”

The big investment furthers the relationship between Cybereason and SoftBank, which has been one of the company’s largest clients and has been a partner in distributing its services in Japan.

They also have an office in Mexico.

SoftBank is now Cybereason’s top investor. Previous investors in Cybereason include CRV, Spark Capital, and Lockheed Martin.

I'm sorry, what was that last one?

The companies did not reveal the valuation on which this week’s investment was based.

“Cybereason’s products are truly amazing. SoftBank tested a number of cybersecurity products from all over the world, but Cybereason’s products are by far better than those of their competitors,” Ken Miyauchi, president and CEO of SoftBank Corp., said in a statement.

Izhar Armony, general partner at CRV, said in an interview that the investment by SoftBank is particularly encouraging given the existing relationship with Cybereason.

“Customers know better than investors, so if a big customer decides to become a large investor, it’s a very strong validation of the approach, the technology, and the people,” he said.

The investment is the second significant move announced in the region recently by SoftBank. This month, SoftBank Group, the parent company of SoftBank Corp., acquired Boston Dynamics from Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google. Waltham-based Boston Dynamics makes walking robots that have drawn broad attention in online videos.


You wanna check the stock price?

"US stock indexes retreated from their record heights Tuesday after a slump in the price of oil weighed on energy companies. Losses were widespread, with five stocks dropping on the New York Stock Exchange for every two that rose. Many of the sharpest declines were concentrated in the energy sector. The price of oil has been sloshing between $40 and $55 per barrel for much of the last year, down from a peak of more than $110 in summer 2013. The worst-performing stock in the S&P 500 was Chipotle Mexican Grill. On the opposite end was home builder Lennar.  Parexel International, a biopharmaceutical services provider, jumped 3.7 percent after it said it will go private following a buyout by Pamplona Capital Management....."

Let's pick it up there:

"Parexel sold for $5 billion to private equity firm" by Robert Weisman Globe Staff  June 20, 2017

Parexel International Corp., one of the largest companies performing contract research and managing clinical trials for drug makers, said Tuesday that it agreed to be acquired by private equity firm Pamplona Capital Management LLP in a $5 billion deal.

There is $o much money out there, but not enough for healthcare.

The $88.10 per share price represents a nearly 28 percent premium over the Waltham company’s $68.86 stock close on May 5, the day before market speculation about a Parexel takeover sparked a run-up in its shares. Parexel’s stock climbed 3.7 percent Tuesday to $87.04.

Wall Street.

Under pressure from an activist investor, Parexel’s board had undertaken a comprehensive review of its options, chief executive Josef von Rickenbach said in a statement. The process led the board to solicit bids for the contract research organization, which also provides consulting and a range of other services for biopharma and medical technology companies.

Parexel’s move was also prompted in part by consolidation in the contract research field and changes in the types of clinical trials run by global drug developers. 

It's the death throes of central bank capitali$m, the cannibali$ation at the top.

“The market for biopharmaceutical services is evolving,” von Rickenbach said in the statement. “We believe the more flexible corporate structure afforded by this transaction will better position us to advance Parexel’s strategy in light of these realities.”

One factor influencing outsourcing firms to combine forces is the growing clamor about high prescription drug prices, which could eventually reduce how much drug makers can charge for their therapies. That, in turn, could lead to cost-cutting in the industry.

I doubt it, and we know the rea$ons why.

“Parexel is the latest example of what appears to be a trend of increased consolidation in the pharma outsourcing space,” analyst John Kreger, at financial firm William Blair & Co., wrote in a note to investors Tuesday. “We would not be surprised to see further deals in the coming months given what appears to be a growing interest in gaining further scale.”

Leading the charge for a company reassessment was New York hedge fund Starboard Value, an aggressive investor that last month said it had taken a 5.7 percent stake in Parexel. The firm began pushing for higher profits and a potential sale, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Representatives of Parexel and Pamplona declined requests to discuss their deal. Starboard executives didn’t respond to a request for an interview.

Parexel had been cutting costs aggressively prior to the purchase, disclosing in May plans to eliminate more than 1,000 positions of its 19,600 jobs worldwide. The company has about 1,450 employees in Massachusetts.


Time to draw blood:

"Biotech startup Rubius raises $120m to develop red blood cell technology" by Robert Weisman Globe Staff  June 21, 2017

Rubius Therapeutics Inc. of Cambridge is set to announce Wednesday that it has raised $120 million — one of the largest biotech financing rounds this year — to develop a novel drug-making technology.

The funding, led by life sciences venture capital firm Flagship Pioneering in Cambridge, will let Rubius step up work on its drug discovery technique, which genetically engineers red blood cells so they can produce drugs for a range of diseases. The company had been operating in what is known as stealth mode, with plans under wraps.

Eugenics is no longer a dirty word.

Rubius has already made and tested about 200 red cells, each producing different proteins, and plans to use them as catalysts for medicines to fight cancers, enzyme deficiencies, autoimmune and infectious diseases, and rare blood disorders such as hemophilia.

“We’re developing a new class of medicines that no one else is working on,” Rubius president Torben Straight Nissen, a biopharma industry veteran, said. “The ultimate goal is to bring as many red cell therapies to patients as possible.”

Rubius, which raised an initial $25 million in early 2015, started in Flagship VentureLabs, a Kendall Square incubator that has spawned dozens of companies. It now employs about 40 cell therapy scientists and researchers in larger space at 325 Vassar St., near Memorial Drive, and could grow to nearly 100 employees in the coming year, Nissen said.

Nissen said the company could be moving to even bigger quarters as it advances its experimental therapies into clinical trials. “We’re looking to expand our footprint over the next six to 12 months, and we’re looking to stay in Cambridge or Boston,” he said.

The company’s scientific approach is part of a broader Flagship strategy to focus not on individual drug candidates but on “platform” technologies capable of generating many medicines, said Flagship chief executive Noubar Afeyan, Rubius cofounder.

“We’re looking for first-of-its-kind platforms,” Afeyan said. “The risk of doing anything new in our business is so high that there’s more reward if you’re developing new approaches that can create multiple drugs. Once you can show that one or two [drug candidates] can become drugs, then 10 or 20 of them can.”

After the Rubius scientists genetically engineer the red cells, they can be grown in bioreactors, the stainless steel tanks used to produce biotech drugs. “We are basically using a manufacturing process where the actual art of making the protein is done by the cells,” Afeyan said.

The company’s financing round includes co-investors, including large publicly traded institutional firms that weren’t identified by Flagship.

They are in $tealth mode. 

I $uppo$e we may be up$et if we knew who they were?

More MIIC money?


Also see:

"Amazon is hoping to claim more territory once held by department stores, essentially placing a dressing room in your house. The company, which has been making a big push into selling clothes, is testing a new service that lets members of its Prime program try on styles before they put items on their charge cards — with no upfront fees. Customers have seven days to decide what they like, and then pay only for what they keep. Shipments arrive in a resealable box with a prepaid label for returns. More than a million pieces of clothing and accessories are eligible, Amazon said Tuesday, including from brands like Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Theory, and Levi’s that are big names at department stores." 

Rent-an-outfit from Amazon!

I wonder what it will be made of?

Why is it taking so long to get here?

"A lawsuit was filed Monday in Suffolk Superior Court against Dicom Midwest LLC, a Canadian contractor that Amazon uses to hire drivers, alleging that the company denied overtime pay to 50 or more drivers. The lawsuit, for which class-action status is sought, claims the company “edited” timesheets to reflect fewer hours worked. It’s one of several such suits that have been filed across the country, as drivers contracted to deliver for Amazon have pushed for better wages."

What about the food?

"Federal regulators Tuesday approved a new drug developed by Shire PLC to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in patients 13 and older. Development of the treatment, which will be marketed under the brand name Mydayis, was led by a research team based at the Irish company’s US headquarters in Lexington. Shire, a leading maker of rare-disease medicines, said it plans to make the newly approved ADHD drug available for commercial use in the United States in the third quarter. The company didn’t immediately disclose how much it will charge for the treatment. In a safety notice required by the Food and Drug Administration, which approved the drug, Shire said it could cause “physical and psychological dependence” if abused by patients."

What I do after my first post of the day is break and check my blog roll. 

Who wants to read the Globe all day?

"An investor group headed by a former Chicago City Council member and labor unions has submitted a bid to buy the Chicago Sun-Times — a move that, if successful, would prevent the paper’s biggest rival from purchasing it. The bid, led by former alderman Edwin Eisendrath and the Chicago Federation of Labor, comes a month after the owner of the Sun-Times, Chicago-based Wrapports LLC, announced it had agreed to enter into discussions with Tronc, which owns the rival Tribune and several other major newspapers, to acquire the paper. Terms of the offer haven’t been disclosed, but Eisendrath said the investor group has raised about $15 million. The announcement adds more uncertainty to the fate of the newspaper, which became part of journalism lore when it secretly operated a bar to expose crooked city inspectors. The Sun-Times was also home to the famed movie critic Roger Ebert and legendary columnist Mike Royko, before he left for the Tribune. All that history didn’t add up to much interest in buying the paper."

Can't imagine why! It's how I $tart my day!


"It’s good to keep up with the times, but the Social Security Administration found itself too far in front of many people it serves. Seeking to enhance online protections, the agency required ‘‘my Social Security’’ account holders to use a password sent to them via text message. That was a problem for some older folks who don’t text message and don’t plan to. Text messaging remains an authentication option and the agency continues to ‘‘highly recommend the extra security’’ it provides, but it is not mandatory. SSA is developing an alternative method that will be available within six months."


Baker’s health care fees seem like a solution in search of a problem

$o true.

With an eye on the future, Globe returns to downtown Boston

Wonder if they will have better eats.

Don’t bet on a Steve Jobs-like vindication for Uber’s ousted CEO

What has he been smoking?

Tesla is hiring.

"The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is planning to use the former Volpe Center site in Kendall Square to build up to 1,400 apartments and condominiums, along with office, lab, and retail space. The university will pay $750 million to buy the site from the federal government...."

"Syntimmune Inc., a four-year-old Waltham biotech, said Wednesday that it has closed a $50 million funding round that will enable it to press forward with its drug-development programs, including clinical trials of its experimental drug to treat autoimmune diseases. The round was led by Apple Tree Partners, a New York venture capital firm that contributed $48 million to the financing, and included additional investors. Syntimmune, which uses technology stemming from research conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, will use the money to advance its lead drug candidate, called SYNT001, a protein-based drug that will be tested on patients with pemphigus, a group of blistering diseases that affect the skin and mucous membranes, as well those with a type of anemia."

Rotation roulette lands on biotech as another sector spoils rout

Toshiba picks preferred bidder for microchip business