Novo Nordisk expands out of diabetes; Egypt sets up an organ transplant centre… and a cold storage facility

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

What a week it has been, eh? It saw the end of one Ebola outbreak and the surge of another. It even witnessed the splendorous comeback of polio from way out in the left field. So much polio that the Rotarians had to dig deep into their pockets once again. Also, a new, more effective malaria vaccine is likely to dig into arms in Africa next year onwards, provided certain contracted parties (are allowed to) meet their contractual obligations. The US FDA is ramping up inspections and handing out red cards like a football referee on steroids. Japan is pumping in over a quarter of trillion yen into prepping for the next pandemic.

So much more in this week's Friday Kable. Read on.

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Nearly 40% of Covid recovery funds went to big companies in 21 developing countries. In comparison, only 37% were used for desperately-needed social protection measures even when 100 million people face extreme poverty due to the pandemic and cost of living crisis. Hopefully, international lending organizations like IMF and World Bank will promote a people-centred recovery plan instead of failed austerity measures in the coming Annual Meeting
(Financial Transparency Coalition

Rotary International, the torch bearer of many polio eradication campaigns, pledges $150 milliontowards eradicating an illness that most people thought was out the door. The fresh pledge will go to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which aims to raise $4.8 billion to counter polio.
(Rotary International)

Timely treatment of Covid-19 symptoms and medical oxygen could have saved lives in LMICs. As a result, USAID is implementing a $20 million test-to-treat for early detection and treatment of Covid symptoms and a $50 million medical oxygen expansion initiative across 20 LMICs as a part of the Covid-19 response.


The most awaited malarial vaccine developed at Oxford and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India gets the Indian drug regulator DCGI's nod to export approximately 2 lakh doses to the UK. Oxford's vaccine offers 80% efficacy and is currently in the advanced stages of trials in African countries.
(The Print)

Lupin again gets pulled up by the US FDA, this time with a warning letter for its Tarapur API plant. That's strike two since back in April, a 483 form was issued by USFDA for the same unit. Lupin is, however, confident that such warnings will not disrupt supplies or earnings.
(Economic Times)

Maybe Lupin should take advice from Zhejiang Tianyu Pharmaceutical, which entered the FDA'scrosshairs for substandard impurity, testing and hygiene not once but twice. The company is now seeking help from outside consultants for remediation with the FDA after it failed to address issues raised in Form 483 and a warning letter.
(Fierce Pharma)

Pharma companies offering freebies to doctors in India are an open secret. However, last month's writ petition against the makers of Dolo offering freebies to doctors worth Rs 1000 crore opened a can of worms. As a result, a high-level committee is created to develop a legally enforceable regulatory framework penalizing healthcare companies' and related stakeholders' unethical marketing practices. And The committee is supposed to submit its report in 90 days.
(Economic Times)

C-sections deliveries in Bangladesh jumped eightfold to 33.22% since 2004, surpassing its neighbouring countries. Intriguingly, the prevalence is higher in rural areas than in urban ones. With doctors getting financially incentivized to deliver babies surgically, it's no wonder that the country surpasses the WHO-recommended level of 15% and the global average of 21%.
(The Business Standard)

Bangladesh's health experts blame the poor healthcare system for the unqualified pharmacists in the hospitals. Doctors are forced to take up the pharmacists' duties with no graduates in all government and most private hospitals, even when 4,000 graduate pharmacists pass out annually. However, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) assures to appoint graduate pharmacists shortly.
(The Business Standard)

Thailand's mental disfunction cases have risen more than 11% by 2021, in line with the global pandemic trend. However, the proactive health authority is pushing the government to include psychiatric drugs on the essential medicines list and add more psychiatric wards in state hospitals.
(Thai PBS)

Money saved is earned, and by reducing the country's burden of heart disease, Indonesia could become wealthier by Rp7.7 trillion annually. With 9.4 million heart patients, the health ministry is intensifying awareness at the primary level and screening for the 14 death-causing diseases at the secondary level.
(Antara News)

Last week South Korea's covid numbers hit an all-time low of 11 weeks, and why not. Everyone in South Korea, or at least over 97%, has Covid-19 antibodies through natural infection or vaccination. But unfortunately, the virus is tricky and mutates, so herd immunity is still a distant dream.
(Korea Times)

Japan is ageing rapidly, and so are its kids. And no, it's not the curious case of Benjamin Button but two instances of digitization and the pandemic. So it's no surprise that middle and old age issues, including locomotive disorders like joint pain and walking difficulties, are now being observed in children. So follow the expert advice of moving your butt, or welcome to 40 at 10. Oh yes, and blink more.
(Japan Today)

More than two years into the pandemic, the Japanese government takes cognizance of its feeble vaccine sector. And it has earmarked $2 billion for the next 5 years in a vaccine research facility, focussing on eight pathogens, including coronaviruses, monkeypox, dengue and Zika virus. The goal is large-scale production of diagnostic tests, treatments and vaccines within the first 100 days of a potential pandemic.


AION Labs, an Israel-based multi-partner alliance of global pharma, tech leaders and investors, has launched its first startup OMEC.AI approved by the Israel Innovation Authority. OMEC.AI's next-gen automated platform will help identify the clinical trial readiness of a drug candidate and make it to the clinical trial phase.
(PR Newswire)

Oman has achieved what no other nation in the East Mediterranean Region has yet, a WHO certification for eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis from 2022-2030. This feat was possible by implementing public health interventions and making treatments available to HIV moms and children without discrimination.
(Oman News Agency)

Every few days, The Kable reports exciting plans Egypt explores to develop the country's healthcare system. For example, the government is now setting up the MENA region's largest organ transplant centre. This newly-announced organ transplant centre will link an automated database for transplants, patients and donors.

Egypt is on a mission to become a vaccine hub. After signing a $150 million multi-vaccine facility and a research centre with UAE and Saudi investors, Egypt partners with China's Sinovac Biotech to launch an automated vaccine storage complex that can store up to 150 million doses annually. But for now, it will be 60 million doses, a complimentary gift by the Chinese.
(Egypt Today)

UAE's diabetes patients can now gain to win thousands of dirhams for losing weight. One of the largest contributors to Type 2 diabetes globally at 18%, UAE's  RAK Hospital offers $1,361 to a man and woman based on diabetes biomarker performance.
(RAK Hospital)


Cerba Lancet Africa, a diagnostic service provider, partners with Ethiopia's International Clinical Laboratories (ICL), the leading private clinical pathology laboratory. The deal offers patients and healthcare professionals in Ethiopia and surrounding regions, including Somalia, Djibouti and South Sudan world-class diagnostic services.
(Cerba Healthcare)

Here's some not-so-good news for African city dwellers. Anopheles stephensi, an invasive malaria vector, thrives in urban settings. However, this menace can be stopped if the WHO's  5-pronged plan is implemented successfully across regions which includes sector and border collaboration and strengthening information, surveillance and research.

Nigeria lost almost $6 billion to cancer-related deaths. A similar fate is true for African countries like Algeria, losing $2.6 billion or Angola, losing $1.2 billion. However, initiatives like cancer screening coverage by health insurance or cancer fund supporting patients in Nigeria are seeing great results. Nevertheless, universal healthcare, access to cancer registries and better prevention are needed to urgently fight this battle.

The second most climate-vulnerable country in the world, Somalia has not seen rain in four years, with a bleak fifth year ahead. With nearly $7 billion spent on humanitarian responses, donors are fatigued by the recurring crises. The need of the hour is to increase global funding for resilient programmes, empower local organizations to reach restricted areas and end red tape.

Investing in Innovation (i3), the Pan-African incubator for African health startups has announced its first cohort of 30 companies. The initiative is supported by the Gates Foundation, Merck, the WHO, AmerisourceBergen and the African Union's NEPAD initiative. The 30 startups in the first cohort will receive a $50,000 grant each and access to market support.

The Ebola outbreak in Uganda continues to worsen, with over 20 deaths. The WHO says this outbreak isn't as lethal because this is not the DRC strain. Did we say 20-plus people have died since the outbreak was first reported last week? Continuing on Ebola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has declared an end to its latest Ebola virus outbreak.

Rest of the world

Angry editors of the prestigious Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin are raising alarms about overtly promotional and sensationalized press releases of new prescription medicines released by the UK healthcare department. Big Pharma's new drugs are called game-changers and groundbreaking without proof, or offering an objective risk-benefit view.
(Fierce Pharma)

When in Rome, eat like a Roman. It's no wonder the Latin community in the US is struggling with diabetes with their intake of processed meat and food, and most Latinos on the organ waiting list need a kidney. Fortunately, outreach programmes involving churches or hiring staff from the same community have increased awareness and increased multi-ethnic organ donations.

France's Valneva is not ready to give up on its vaccine dream even after a delayed EU approval and an abrupt reduction of the pre-placed order. On the contrary, the company has announced that it is in "active discussions" with an unnamed prospective partner to fund the development of its next-gen Covid vaccine. Also, talks are on with various governments for the unsold stock of the original VLA2001.

Mo₹€ Mon€¥

Novo Nordisk signs a $70 million licensing deal with biotech startup Ventus Therapeutics for potential applications in cardiometabolic disorders such as NASH and chronic kidney disease. The lead drug in question, VENT-01, is currently in preclinical development.
(Ventus Therapeutics)

Pheon Therapeutics, a leading antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) specialist, finally launched with $68 million in funding. Pheon hopes these funds will help the biotech company advance its lead ADC program to treat solid tumours into clinical development with an IND status within 18 months and establish a pipeline of novel ADCs.
(Pheon Therapeutics)

This is a busy year for Chinese CDMO, Asymchem Labs. The company plans a $697 million manufacturing campus outside Shanghai, focussing on small molecule R&D and production sites. Back in April 2022, the company completed the construction of two new Chinese manufacturing units in Dunhua and Tianjin, doubling its existing production capacity. The company, however, canned a $57.9 million acquisition of Snapdragon Chemistry due to US regulatory issues.
(Fierce Pharma)

Torrent Pharmaceuticals is all set to enter the Indian dermatology market with the acquisition of Curatio Health Care for $245.22 million. The acquisition will be funded with 80-85% of the debt and balance through internal accruals and, once completed, will place Torrent among the top 10 derma players in the country.
(Economic Times)

India's Covid-19 testing specialist Molbio Diagnostics gets a unicorn valuation after an $85 million boost from Singapore's investment firm Temasek. Molbio will use these funds to expand its molecular diagnostic technology, Truenat, endorsed by the WHO, globally and in acquisition and asset purchases.

R & D

China's first mRNA covid vaccine Walvax gets its first approval, and your guess is wrong. Not in China but in Indonesia. Not surprising, the approval raises a few questions. The vaccine is approved before the efficacy reports are published, it targets the original SARS variant and not omicron, and 63% of Indonesians are already vaccinated. Maybe the less stringent storage requirement in a tropical climate like Indonesia worked in its favour.

For years, evidence pointed to bacteria being linked to cancer and its progression. However, two studies now provide a compelling association between cancer and another microorganism: fungi. So while head-scratching questions of why and how they get into the tumour are mulled, scientists have started cataloguing fungal populations of different tumours to find new treatment possibilities.
(Cell, Cell)

Scientists across the globe are working on a universal vaccine for Covid and the best delivery method for it. So will it be a nasal, oral, injectable or a combination? Only time will tell. However, for current and past circulating Covid-19 variants, Indian researchers believe that the spike protein vaccine with the original Wuhan variant is effective enough even if post-vaccination infections are caused by other variants. Thanks to T-cell CD4+ and CD8+, responses were largely sustained even with reduced neutralization by antibodies.
(BBA Molecular Basis of Disease)

Smoking may be blamed for most human problems. However, scientists have now developed an "ageing clock" with 16 biomarkers indicating that loneliness and unhappiness rank higher than smoking as causes of ageing. Smoking adds 1.25 years to a person's biological age, while loneliness makes you older by 1.65 years. So it's a good idea to go for anti-ageing therapy that also focuses on mental health.
(Aging US)

After a series of clinical drug failures over the years, Alzheimer's patients have something to cheer for. In a rather surprising trial success, Biogen and Eisai, Iecanemab met all of its goals in the Phase 3 study, demonstrating slowed cognitive decline in participants. However, critical positive questions remain unanswered, like side effects, drug price and limited clinical effects.

Nota Bene

The world is facing a global food crisis, and to tackle this phenomenon caused by the Covid pandemic, soaring prices, and climate change, The Asian Development Bank (ADB) sets aside $14 billion through 2025. ADB will support projects to help the 1.1 billion Asia-Pacific population, especially those designed toward the vulnerable, including women.

While the world faces a food crisis, the UAE faces a food waste crisis. In a concerted effort, the Emirates Foundation partners with Accuro, a leading food and support service provider, to achieve a 50% reduction in wastage by 2030. Accuro will create a pilot plan to road-test behavioural changes, including creating new responsible norms, especially in staff canteens and cafeterias, providing training to staff and recording food waste data.

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