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This biopharma superlative is a no-brainer: The most noteworthy drug approval of the year goes, hands-down, to the two CAR-T drugs that hit the market earlier this year.

Kymriah, from Novartis (NVS), was approved in late August, with a price tag set at $475,000. And Yescarta, developed by Kite Pharma and acquired by Gilead Sciences (GILD), was approved in October, with a $373,000 set price. Both work with just a single infusion.


These personalized cellular therapies work, of course, by reprogramming part of a patient’s immune system: T-cells are extracted from the blood, and then reengineered so they learn to target a patient’s blood cancer. It’s been a decades-long process to coax these immune cells into cancer-fighting action, but these therapies are now working well in many patients who have no other treatment options.

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