🗞 Novartis makes cancer care (a little) affordable; Gavi-Moderna in new deal for Covax
Hello and welcome back to The Friday Kable, your round-up of the most interesting life science stories this week.
This has been a bit of an up-and-down week on the news front with some days being very light and some overloaded. A whole lot of deals went down. Disease is still rampant. The WHO is dithering in parts and decisive in others. In really big developments though, Novartis has licensed a cancer drug to MPP and Sanofi's Indian arm is discontinuing its cholera vaccine. Oh and, polio is back. Well and truly back.
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In a first, Novartis has tied up with the MPP to license its best-selling cancer drug Nilotinib. The deal comes at a time when the world is fighting cancer, the second leading cause of death worldwide and access to next-gen cancer meds is unaffordable for LMICs. The agreement was signed on the sidelines of the World Cancer Congress in Geneva and the first set of beneficiaries are Egypt, Guatemala, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tunisia.
(Medicines Patent Pool)
The WHO is temporarily switching to a one-dose regimen instead of the standard two-dose vaccine for cholera. The unprecedented action is due to increasing outbreaks around the word and low vaccine supply and the cessation of production of one of two approved vaccines later this year. Well, one dose still outweighs no doses in the time of cholera.
27 countries face cholera outbreaks in what is considered a turbo-charged effect of climate change. And just when you think the drugmakers will increase cholera vaccine doses, Sanofi's Indian subsidiary Shantha Biotechnics, maker of Shanchol, one of only two approved oral vaccines for cholera, will discontinue production of the vaccine within months and supply by the end of 2023.
A new partnership is forged at the 2022 World Health Summit as The WHO signs an MoU with UNITE, Parliamentarians Network for Global Health, with 40 parliamentarian signatories representing 30 countries. The partnership sees UNITE commit to supporting WHO in global health security architecture, equitable access to health and sustainable finance for future pandemic preparedness.
Last month the WHO chief said that the end is in sight for Covid-19. But even though new cases and deaths worldwide are on a downward trend, the agency is not ready to remove the emergency tag. In fact, the WHO says Covid-19 still remains a public health emergency considering all the emerging variants.
After more than three decades of working on eradicating polio and bringing the global caseload down by almost 99.9%, polio seems to be making a comeback with a chance to go global, worries the WHO. In the meantime, various governments have pledged $2.6 billion to once again get the eradication ball rolling through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).
The Gates Foundation too has pledged $1.2 billion towards the global fight against polio. The funds will go towards ending wild poliovirus in Pakistan and Afghanistan and stopping outbreaks of newer polio variants.
(The Gates Foundation)
Gavi and Moderna have cancelled their current supply deal for Covid vaccines. Instead, Moderna will supply up to 100 million doses of its new, variant-adapted vaccines at its lowest price from 2023.
India won't procure any more Covid-19 vaccines releasing ₹4,237 crores from the vaccination budget back to the finance ministry. There are enough doses for the next six months.
200 rotting, bare dead bodies were discovered on the rooftop of Pakistan's Nishtar hospital. Hospital authorities claim the bodies are used for medical experiments by students.
Sri Lanka and Maldives are working with The International Organization for Migration (IOM) to strengthen border management capabilities to prevent infectious diseases. Japan is funding this project with $8.6 million to improve safety and security and support process efficiency at primary points of entry.
Unlike its Western counterparts, China doesn't seem to believe in repurposing vaccines. Instead, the country's Covid vaccine maker, Sinopharm, has successfully managed to separate the monkeypox virus from its only patient to manufacture its own monkeypox vaccine. In the meantime, countries around the globe are using the older shot from smallpox vaccine manufacturer, Danish drugmaker Bavarian Nordic.
Indonesia reports the deaths of nearly 100 children from acute kidney injury this year. It is now indicated that some medicines contain toxic diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, causing kidney failure similar to those found in the Gambian syrups. The country had, however, proactively banned all syrup and liquid medicine.
The Taliban has launched a second sub-national polio vaccination campaign this week in 22 high-risk areas across Afghanistan in collaboration with the WHO and the UN.
(The Khaama Press)
MENA & GCC
Chinese vaccine manufacturer Suzhou Abogen has joined ranks with Pfizer and Moderna to clinically trial its redesigned vaccine against the latest omicron variants, BA.4 and BA.5, in the UAE. Suzhou currently has four mRNA vaccines in various stages of development, two of which target the Omicron BA.1 strain, and are already in the recruitment stage in Indonesia and the UAE.
Israel may soon lift the ban on Brits donating blood on local grounds, pending Health ministry approval following similar recommendations in other countries. The ban was placed on citizens who were UK residents between 1980 and 1996 at the time of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) or Mad Cow disease transmission; it still continues more than 25 years later.
A drive-through queue in Dubai may not necessarily be for a famous burger but to draw blood for testing diseases. Unilabs is partnering with Dubai Health Authority (DHA) to launch this easy-to-access and speedy drive-through-blood-test service in line with UAE's goal for a top-notch healthcare system.
East Jerusalem's Al Makassed Hospital gets $25 million in aid from the UAE in collaboration with the WHO and UN, benefitting 1,30,000 Palestinians. The funds will also be utilized to improve women's healthcare and offer training opportunities for medical professionals.
In Yemen, at least 10 kids treated for leukaemia have died after being treated with expired doses of cancer meds smuggled into the country. 50 children were treated with the drugs, originally manufactured in India. Unofficial sources say 18 kids died from the drugs, which had bacterial contamination.
In an inclusive move, Saudi Arabia made it mandatory to include drug information on both the outer packaging and inner leaflets in Braille for the blind and visually impaired.
Egypt's Holding Company for Pharmaceuticals has received over $172 million in financing from Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) to develop its affiliated pharmaceutical companies and build local manufacturing capacity for raw materials and APIs.
Morocco is seeking to scrap taxes on imported drugs and health products, and the final decision will be released in the 2023 Finance Bill. The announcement comes one month after the government reduced the prices of 70 different drugs, mainly cancer, diabetes and antipsychotics.
(Morocco World News)
Africa is likely to miss this year's 70% Covid-19 vaccination target after the doses administered drop below 50% between July and September. In fact, only 24% of Africa's population has received their primary doses compared to 64% globally. Liberia, Mauritius, and Seychelles are the only countries to have surpassed the 70% target, with Rwanda almost there.
Zambia hopes to cut its imports of medicines and pharmaceutical raw materials as it launches an initiative called "Zambia Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Initiative". In addition, the health ministry has created a working committee to develop a roadmap for various regulations aimed at making it easier to make in Zambia.
The brain drain situation in Nigeria is at the precipice of a national disaster. The country's healthcare system is functioning with only 24,000 licensed physicians, less than 5,000 radiographers, critical players in cancer diagnosis, and less than 100 trained radiation therapists to treat cancer. We are at a loss for words.
Another African country facing a paralysed public health system is Zimbabwe, which is now causing people to cross the border into Zambia and South Africa to seek medical attention. Reason: government health funding is currently at 12.7%, below the 15% agreed upon by African countries in 2001 at the Abuja Declaration.
A worrying trend of Ebola is emerging in Uganda after eight new patients of the dreaded disease were found unrelated to the earlier patients. The WHO is concerned that there may be more chains of transmission and contacts in the country unknown to authorities.
Last week the US sent out a shipment of Gilead's Remdesivir and Mapp Biopharmaceutical's experimental Ebola antibody MBP134, to Uganda to protect Ugandan health workers against the Sudan strain. The WHO supports using untested antivirals while it conducts clinical trials for efficacy reports on the sidelines.
The UK is offering a £14 million comprehensive health package to Ethiopia. The funds will be used to support 1,50,000 malnourished women and children and survivors of sexual violence with medical assistance.
A deluge is creating havoc in Nigeria and its border country, Chad impacting millions of people. In Nigeria, 600 people have been killed, and 440,000 hectares of farmland have been destroyed, adding to the already worsening food crisis. On the other hand, Chad has declared a state of emergency due to heavy rains not experienced in decades.
Zimbabwe becomes the first African country to approve the WHO-recommended long-acting injectable cabotegravir (CAB-LA) for HIV prevention after the treatment passed two safety and efficacy tests. CAB-LA is recommended for high-risk populations along with two other products, Tenofovir-based oral PrEP and dapivirine vaginal ring.
Somalia is experiencing a drought not seen in the last fifty years. A child is hospitalised every minute for severe malnutrition. The UN warns of unprecedented pediatric deaths if international donors do not supplement long-term funding. If you can, please do help.
The United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) is collaborating with three private Nigerian hospitals with a grant of $3 million. The selected hospitals, Lily, Cedarcrest and Mobihealthcare, will conduct a study on reactivating underperforming healthcare facilities, developing a comprehensive cancer treatment centre in Abuja and expanding telehealth services to improve the country's health infrastructure.
(21st Century Chronicle)
The Ghana Medical Association will come under the government's new tax regime six decades after its inception. Feeling shortchanged, the Association has threatened to shut down all health facilities in a nationwide strike.
Rest of the world
Looks like Novavax is always making a late entry. The vaccine secured FDA EUA for its booster version of the monovalent shot seven weeks after Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech scored their latest booster nods. But the company is optimistic since it still gets to target almost 50% of adults who are yet to receive their first booster dose. In the meantime, Novavax is awaiting trial reports to be used as a second booster.
Abbvie bolsters its immunology portfolio after acquiring UK-based DJS Antibodies for an upfront payment of $255 million and other milestone payments. Abbvie's attraction is not just DJS' lead program; DJS-002, currently in preclinical studies to treat fibrosis, but also DJS' HEPTAD platform for biotherapeutics research.
An IP extension may have sealed the deal for South Korean company LG Chem which acquired a foreign company (a first for South Korea), Aveo, for $566 million. With the agreement, LG becomes the owner of Aveo's newly FDA-approved kidney cancer drug Fotivda, along with three anti-cancer candidates in the clinical stage.
Eli Lilly is expanding its gene therapy arsenal, first by acquiring Prevail Therapeutics for its neurodegenerative diseases portfolio for $1 billion and then for a $700 million research hub in Boston. Now Eli is set to buy Akouos for $487 million. The deal comes a month after Akouos received FDA clearance for clinical testing of the AK-OTOF, gene therapy for hearing loss caused by mutations in the otoferlin gene.
ProPhase Labs' subsidiary, ProPhase Precision Medicine, partners with a leading Abu Dhabi-based AI health-tech company, G42 Healthcare. The alliance sees both companies collaborate on genomic sequencing, data sharing, obtaining advanced certifications, creating a genome sequencing facility in the US and targeting high-growth and underserved markets with personalized precision medicine.
Zymeworks has partnered with Irish company Jazz Pharmaceuticals to develop and commercialize its lead drug candidate, Zanidatamab, a HER2-targeted bispecific antibody, for up to $1.8 billion in biobucks. However, this move has upset Zymeworks' largest shareholder, Dubai-based hedge fund All Blue Falcons FZE, who felt shortchanged after their offer to buy the company at $773 million was rejected.
Back in 2014, J&J was lauded for its initiative to build a large manufacturing plant to produce cosmetic projects like baby powder. The plant, however, was never opened for production after litigations of the cancer-causing powder made global headlines. The unused plant has now been sold to India's Hetero for more than $16 million.
R & D
GSK must be thrilled with the performance of its shingles vaccine, Shingrix, a recombinant Zoster vaccine after a study proves that the vaccine provides at least 10 years of protection against shingles in adults aged 50 years plus.
Researchers at the Indian Institute of India (IIT), Delhi, have developed SARS-CoV-2 Virus-Like Particles (VLPs) that look and behave like Covid virus. But what makes it special, unlike other VLPs, is the presence of all four structural proteins from SARS-Cov-2, thus making it a possible vaccine candidate. Moreover, these VLPs are non-infectious, so any leakage (hmm) will not lead to a pandemic. Just saying.
(ACS Infectious Diseases)
After developing Turkey's Covid-19 vaccine within 18 months of the pandemic, the makers of Turkovac are back. The team is creating a new vaccine for Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), a serious health problem in Türkiye.
Merck is contributing to the Chinese startup Jacobio Pharma's colorectal cancer clinical trial. The collaboration will evaluate if Jacobio's JAB-21822, combined with Merck's cetuximab, can improve anti-tumour activity, regressing tumours and eventually delaying tumour growth in colorectal cancer patients.
In a first, 250 reputed international journals, including 50 African titles, have slammed rich countries and global communities for not fulfilling their $100 billion climate pledge.
Barbados Water Authority (BWA) received a second grant of $40 million from the UN's Green Climate Fund (GCF), made possible by a convincing funding proposal on climate mitigation. With the fund, Barbados seeks to implement climate-resilient water and energy management technologies for the multifaceted project 3R-CReWS.
Eight hundred twenty-eight million people went hungry in 2021, according to the Global Hunger Index, with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia reporting an alarming situation. India is fallen six places to 107.
(Global Hunger Index)
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