πŸ—ž GSK flunks a cancer trial; Sanofi digs deeper into AI; Novo Nordisk goes vegan

Hello and welcome back to The Friday Kable, your round-up of the most interesting life sciences stories this week.

With the UN climate summit COP27 underway, we expected a lot of climate-focused news this week. And we got what we expected. But a whole lot more happened elsewhere too. Indonesia saw fewer kids suffering from acute kidney injury, probably because all syrups are now banned in the country. Nepal, meanwhile, says cough syrups in the country might harm kids but tough luck because they can't test for harmful substances. In Afghanistan, the Taliban doesn't want women to pursue an education. But the Taliban also doesn't want women and men interacting. So, the Taliban is now training female doctors, to look after female patients. Poor Taliban.

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The pharmaceutical industry is one of the largest carbon emitters. But looks like most companies don't consider carbon costs in their targets. A new report highlights the problematic fact that only 4% of biopharma companies are on course to meet 2030 climate goals.
(My Green Lab)


India's Aurobindo Pharma and its US unit AuroMedics have issued product recalls for a blood pressure drug and an anticoagulant due to manufacturing lapses. And Zydus received an establishment inspection report from the US FDA for its plant in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, following an inspection in July this year.
(Economic Times, Economic Times)

On the flip side, Indian drugmaker Lupin has received tentative approval from the US FDA for its birth control pills.

As a corrective measure post The Gambia debacle, the Indian government is setting up a national drugs database, including all the formulations manufactured and marketed in the country for drug regulation.
(The Times Of India)

Pakistan and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have inked a results-based loan agreement worth US$100 million to improve secondary hospital health services in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
(Pakistan Observer)

Seven local Bangladeshi firms are collaborating with international hospital chains in a Tk5000 crore investment to set up world-class healthcare facilities in Dhaka and Chattogram, targeting patients seeking treatment overseas.
(The Business Standard)

Covid may be over elsewhere, but Japan's Covid cases are bouncing back, with experts fearing that the 8th Covid wave could surpass the previous wave's peak.
(Japan Today)

Indonesia has revoked the licences of two more local drug manufacturers as it continues its hunt for acute kidney injury (AKI) led pediatric deaths.

China's daily Covid cases jump to a six-month high. Still, the country is undeterred by increasing infections and growing economic and social costs as it continues to maintain its 'dynamic clearing' of Covid cases.


The COP27 host country, Egypt, is launching a global plan, The Sharm-El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda, in collaboration with the High-Level Champions and the Marrakech Partnership. Loaded with a 30-goal strategy, the Adaptation Agenda seeks to enhance resilience for 4 billion people in climate-vulnerable communities by 2030 through climate financing, pledge implementation, and to address the adaptation gap in top-priority sectors of food, agricultural, water, oceans and infrastructure.

Also, on the sidelines of COP27, the UAE and Egypt agreed to develop one of the world's largest wind farms, a 10-gigawatt onshore wind project in Egypt that will offset 23.8 million tonnes or 9% of the country's carbon dioxide emissions. Go Egypt!!

Lebanon is dealing with a cholera outbreak after nearly three decades, exposing its ongoing water crisis. In the meantime, Egypt has sent 27 tonnes of medicine and vaccines to fight this outbreak.

In the UAE, mask sales dropped by 90% as the Covid situation stabilised and rules eased.

Saudi Arabia is building a $1.5 million round-the-clock primary healthcare centre in Yemen's Hadramawt region, expected to be completed in August 2024.
(Al Arabiya News)

Iran is optimistic that it can boost its current export revenue of medicinal plants of $700 million to $15 billion by focusing on plant technologies. As a result, Iran has signed three MoUs with Serbia, Venezuela, and Iraq to develop medicinal and traditional plant and natural product technologies.
(Tehran Times)


Africa's cancer mortality rate stands at a worrisome 70% of diagnosed cases. But that will hopefully change now. AstraZeneca and health partners have launched a programme to create a fairer cancer care ecosystem. Over the next three years, The Accelerating Change Together; Cancer Care in Africa (ACT; CCA) will train 10,000 oncologist professionals to screen and diagnose over one million Africans for lung, breast and prostate cancer.
(African Business)

The Coalition for Women's Health In Africa (CoWHA), a continent-wide women's health initiative for Africa, was launched in Kenya. The initiative will tackle gender health disparity and advance women's health through knowledge sharing, research, and policy implementation.
(Modern Ghana)

Here's some good news. South Africa will soon begin testing the US FDA-approved bi-monthly HIV injectable shot, Apretude, early next year. Apretude, with 80% efficacy, will likely replace the daily pill Truvada in preventing 52,000 new HIV infections in the next two decades.
(News 24)

Uganda is closing its schools nationwide after 8 students died from Ebola while extending a three-week lockdown in the epicentre, Mubende and neighbouring Kassanda.
(The South African)

In the wake of the Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Europe and the West have been shopping for fossil fuel in Africa. This phenomenon, known as the dash for gas, was highlighted at the COP27 Summit as a short-term approach undermining Africa's quest for renewable energy. Moreover, climate activists worry that any new gas infrastructure in Africa will leave the continent trapped with billions in stranded assets as demand drops.

Following a cholera outbreak, Malawi has received 2.9 million doses of the oral cholera vaccine funded by Gavi in collaboration with the WHO and UNICEF.

The EU has announced a €500,000 funding package in response to Nigeria's cholera outbreak to reduce mortality through early detection, awareness, health education and case management.

The WHO warns that Ghana's unequal distribution of health personnel in urban and rural populations threatens health improvement efforts. With 81% of doctors concentrated in Greater Accra, Ashanti, Central, Volta and Northern regions and 42% in Accra alone, stakeholders are urged to take action on migration and retention, staffing and other policies.

South & Central America

Supported by the WHO and European Union, Guyana signed a groundbreaking pharmaceutical manufacturing deal under the South-South initiative, a partnership between Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa. Under the agreement, by 2040, 60% of essential medicines will be developed and manufactured within respective continents to tackle medical import dependency.
(Stabroek News)

Rest of the world

For the third time in three years, Novartis is pumping in big bucks to boost manufacturing capacity at Sandoz's antibiotics plant in Kundl, Austria. This year the company is investing €50 million by adding a new building at its existing site to raise the capacity for finished dose form penicillins for global distribution.

Mo₹€ Mon€Β₯

Denmark is ensuring a transition to a plant-based diet through various food policies. And the country's favourite pharma company Novo Nordisk is collaborating with Plant2Food, an open research platform to ensure the Danes get tasty, nutritious and affordable plant-based food in a €27 million partnership.

Renewable energy agency IRENA's climate finance platform, the Energy Transition Accelerator Financing Platform (ETAF), signed three new partners onsite at the COP27 Summit. Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Masdar Swiss R, and Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) will bring in close to $1 billion to advance energy transitions in developing markets.

The Hong Kong-based AI-driven drug discovery firm Insilico Medicine strikes gold by partnering with Sanofi in a $1.2 billion arrangement to advance drug development candidates for up to 6 new targets. This is Sanofi's second AI deal this year after Exscientia.

Singapore's health tech platform, Speedoc, has raised $28 million in funding to scale up its virtual hospitals across Southeast Asia, including its 24/7 virtual hospital platform, H-Ward.


Taiwan's non-profit organization, The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), has developed an AI-assisted system (AI-DR) for detecting diabetic eye diseases within seconds with 96% accuracy in diagnosing diabetic retinopathy.

Researchers have found a way to reverse the heart damage caused by the Nsp6 viral protein in the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In mice and fruit flies, an inexpensive Indian drug, 2DG, blocks the breakdown of glucose or glycolysis to prevent the virus from growing and thereby reducing heart damage.

Scientists from Vanderbilt University has conducted one of the most extensive genetic studies in breast cancer involving 3,86,000 Asian and European women. The study uncovers many genetic variations between both populations' ancestry regarding risk variants and their frequency, knowledge that scientists hope will help design personalised cancer treatments.
(American Journal of Human Genetics)

Researchers have found a way to shrink prostate cancer tumours. In mice studies, a radiopharmaceutical treatment using radioisotope PSMA5 and a compound called [211At]PSMA5 zeroed in on the tumour with laser precision shrinking the tumour size without reported side effects in any major organs.
(Science Translational Medicine)

Oncology-focussed GSK faced a trial setback after its experimental bone-marrow cancer drug DREAMM-3 (Blenrep) failed to meet primary endpoints in a late-stage clinical test jeopardising its existing approvals. Unfortunately, it looks like Blenrep didn't outdo existing treatments, including Bristol Myers Squibb's Pomalyst and low-dose dexamethasone at slowing disease progression or death. However, two phase-3 trials pitted against J&J and Takeda are expected in 2023.

Chemotherapy is a double-edged sword that kills cancer but also causes collateral damage. In fact, chemotherapy-induced tissue damage can instigate an inflammatory response in the lungs and help cancer cells dodge treatment. However, Israeli researchers have identified an anti-inflammatory medicine that can prevent cancer cells from 'hiding' and growing in tissue inflamed by the original treatment and reduce cancer relapse by 88%.
(Nature Communications)

Nota Bene

The United Nations Climate Summit officially opened this week with the inclusion of funding to compensate nations for "loss and damage" grant as an official agenda item. Pakistan proposed the agenda after this year's flood devastated vast swathes affecting 33 million people. However, how to determine liability or payments for the harms of human-caused climate change remains to be seen.

Two of the largest emitters, India and China, were caught off guard after the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda demanded they pay their share into the compensation fund. Both countries responded in the affirmative but maintained that main responsibility still lies with developed countries.

The European Union (EU) has signed five forest partnerships with Mongolia, Guyana, Uganda, the Republic of Congo, and Zambia on the sidelines of COP27 in promoting sustainable forest management and forest-based value chains and investments. These partnerships are a part of the EU's €7 billion in biodiversity investment till 2027.
(European Commission)

That's it for the week. Thanks for reading The Friday Kable. This post is public, so feel free to share it.

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