Business briefs: Takeda, Sangamo, Catalyst, plus seniors and insurance

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Takeda and Zinfandel Pharmaceuticals are beginning Phase III trials of pioglitazone, familiar in the diabetes space as the now off-patent Actos, for use in Alzheimer's patients. The clinical trial is geared toward using the drug in patients with biomarkers that indicate a risk of mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer's within five years, and then using a low dose of the drug in patients that have these biomarkers but are “cognitively normal.” PMLive notes that this not the first time Actos has been considered for the AD space, and that earlier tests focused on the more downstream patients who showed limited benefit from the drug. The new plan is in sync with other approaches in the field which are seeking to help patients before the disease is expressed.

Sangamo BioSciences announced Monday it acquired privately held biotech Ceregene, which focuses on adeno-associated virus gene therapies. The deal includes 100,000 shares of Sangamo stock, for which the company gains ownership of 120 patented or patent-pending items in Ceregene's portfolio. This includes the Phase II Alzheimer's therapy NGF-AAV and the associated needle used to insert the medication into the brain. FierceBiotech notes that lying-low Ceregene has a bit of a history, including a Genzyme deal for a Parkinson's disease treatment, CERE-120, that failed in Phase IIb trials four months ago.

The FDA handed Catalyst a breakthrough designation label for its experimental drug Firdapse for the rare auto-immune disorder Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome, reports BioCentury. The treatment for the muscle-weakening condition is already approved in the EU, and Catalyst expects to file an NDA in late 2014 or early 2015.

Deft Research says it has crunched the numbers and that the greatest group at risk for paying a fee rather than signing up for health insurance is not the young, but the old. Specifically, that is, seniors who are too young to qualify for Medicare and too well-off (relatively speaking) for a subsidy to counterbalance the monthly cost of having health insurance. Deft's example: deducting the $2,259 subsidy, a single, 28-year-old earning $20,000 a year would end up paying $1,021 a year for the middle-coverage silver plan. In contrast, a single, 60-year-old earning $45,000 will pay $4,275 after receiving their $3,916 subsidy, an amount Deft's researchers said the older uninsured will find too costly. Silver plans cover 70% of healthcare costs. Bronze plans, which cover 60% of costs, are an option, but the lower premium comes with a higher out-of-pocket cost.
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