Fierce Biotech's top 10 editor's picks for 2021

It’s the time of year when we all get a little sentimental. We’re wrapping up work so we can shift to wrapping presents for under the tree. At Fierce Biotech, it’s no different.

If you don’t know me, I’m Fierce Biotech's Senior Editor Annalee Armstrong. I joined the Fierce crew in April and have been among the excellent team of journalists churning out the biotech news you need week after week.

I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done in 2021, the second year of the ongoing and seemingly never-ending pandemic. Most of us are still working from our home offices to bring you the essential stories that keep you up to date.

I wanted to share some of our best for the year. In 2021, we dug deeper than ever before into some of the biggest issues facing the biotech industry. The stories below were some of my favorites to write, edit and read. I hope you’ll enjoy a look back at our work, and I promise we have even bigger and better plans ahead for 2022.

The stories featured here were written by Kyle LaHucik, Ben Adams, Amirah Al Idrus, Arlene Weintraub and myself. They are listed in chronological order because I couldn't pick favorites—at least not objectively. 

Happy holidays to our faithful Fierce Biotech readers.

1. The discovery of Lumakras

Not all scientists are great at breaking down the discovery process and chemistry behind drug development, but Amgen’s vice president of research, Margaret Chu-Moyer, Ph.D., sure was. This will go down as one of my favorite interviews of the year.

How a protein 'Polaroid' led Amgen to finally crack the 'Achilles heel tumor' with Lumakras in 8 years

2. Aduhelm Editor's Corner

This was a deeply personal piece from Ben, who detailed his family’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease in the context of the Aduhelm approval.

Editor's Corner—The FDA's decision on aducanumab will drag down innovation for years to come

3. Biogen's phase 4

Another Aduhelm story, which looked at the new ground Biogen would have to cover as it tries to get a phase 4 confirmatory study off the ground. Amirah talked to ethicists and others to navigate the complicated issues to come.

Biogen, fresh off coveted FDA nod for Aduhelm, must now navigate ethics minefield for phase 4 trial

4. Virtual World series

This one escalated quickly. What started out as a quick interview with Novartis ballooned into a multipart series the likes of which we’d never seen before at Fierce Biotech. I’d like to, again, thank the very patient PRs who stood by as we made sure this one was perfect. We ended up with a package of seven stories. I’ve linked the main ones here, and you can see the rest on the navigation bar in each piece.

'Forced into a virtual world': How pharma R&D bounced back from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic

'Forced into a virtual world': Can the tech that kept pharma R&D going through the pandemic tackle trial diversity, too?

5. Psychedelics series

This was a fun Fierce Biotech/Fierce Biotech Research mash-up on the wild world of psychedelics. Need I say more?

Psychedelics are getting closer to approval, but the market may not be ready

Investors are tripping on psychedelics startups despite a murky path to commercial success

6. What's next in mRNA

We all know about BioNTech and Moderna. But what else is out there for mRNA, the technology that brought us the COVID-19 vaccines? I set out to explore the companies in this groundbreaking field. 

The mRNA era has arrived thanks to COVID-19. What's next in the pipeline?

7. JAK inhibitors

When the FDA slapped new restrictions and labels on a suite of approved JAK inhibitors, the attention was understandably on Pfizer's Xeljanz, AbbVie’s Rinvoq and Eli Lilly’s Olumiant. But what about the new ones, and similar classes of drugs that could also have the same safety issues? Kyle dug into what's next for JAKs to come.

Pharmas with up-and-coming JAK inhibitors face 'shrinking' potential after FDA crackdown

8. Rotten Tomatoes

This special report, always a staff favorite, made its triumphant return in 2021. We can’t wait to see what y'all get up to in 2022 to make this list.

Fierce Biotech's Rotten Tomatoes 2021

9. Women in Alzheimer's series

This story arose as we reported out the controversial approval of Biogen’s Aduhelm. As I wrote story after story on the issue, I realized the number of incredible women who were at the forefront of this devastating disease and the challenging—and at times, sad—clinical trial landscape.

'What it takes': Beyond the headlines, women are pushing groundbreaking new Alzheimer's treatments forward

'What it takes': In the eye of Aduhelm storm, Biogen's CMO tries to keep patients from getting lost

'What it takes': As Lilly's Alzheimer's drug approaches FDA, launch leader feels 'amplified' sense of excitement

'What it takes': Genentech's Rachelle Doody recalls 'great sadness' of Alzheimer's failures but sees a future of options for patients

10. LGBTQ series

In this three-story series, we examined representation of the LGBTQ+ community in biotech. Kyle talked to dozens of executives and industry insiders who trusted him with their incredible stories of being out and proud in a science-led industry.

'We're getting there': LGBTQ+ progress in biotech lingers in the 'diagnose' stage

'Don't check yourself when you come to work': Being openly LGBTQ+ in a scientist-led industry

'Day job and a gay job': LGBTQ+ leaders in biopharma want those who look, talk and love like them to be seen and counted