πŸ—ž Philips culls jobs worldwide; Senegal makes Rubella vaccines; Merck “finds” an Ebola vaccine

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

Thailand becomes the latest country to ramp up airport checks for Ebola, even as the outbreak in Uganda shows no signs of abating. Philips plans big layoffs around the world; TB rears its head again; An orally-inhalable Covid vaccine is launched in China; Uganda to start clinical trials for Ebola vaccines; Japan plans a farewell for chickens; And the climate crisis is coming for children.

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Tuberculosis cases rose globally for the first time in years during the Covid pandemic, with 10 million infections in 2021, a 4.1% rise from 2020, with 1.6 million dead. Drug-resistant TB infections increased by 3% more than in 2020 at 450,000 cases, and only one in three is receiving treatment. India accounts for a quarter of the total TB burden globally at 28%.

Africa reaches another tragic milestone. Over one million deaths on the continent are linked to air pollution, mainly driven by indoor cookstoves accounting for 63% of deaths. In contrast, increased ambient outdoor air pollution claimed 400,000 lives. However, outdoor air pollution is likely to grow exponentially with cities' rising population and expansion. While air pollution remains the second largest cause of death after AIDS, it was responsible for 14% of deaths of African children under five and is the cause of various cognitive, respiratory and other diseases in children. Countries need national-level air pollution prevention and control policies and sustainable funding to support these policies.
(The State of Air Quality and Health Impacts in Africa)


After prior warning letters by the US FDA against Glenmark's Baddi plant in Himachal Pradesh, India, the regulator has now issued an import alert 66-40. Until it receives clearance, Glenmark cannot export drugs made at the Baddi facility to the US. However, the tag may only affect a little of Glenmark's US business as the Baddi plant contributes only 1-2% of the company's US revenue.
(Economic Times)

Indonesia's cases of acute kidney failure in children from now-banned cough syrups have reached 269. An antidote, Fomepizole, has been reported to improve patients' conditions, and Indonesia is procuring 70 vials from Singapore, while Japan's Takeda has offered 200 vials.DCT platform provider ObvioHealth is collaborating with Oracle integrating its DCT platform and mobile app, with Oracle's cloud-based data management service Clinical One. The collaboration hopes to get breakthrough therapies to market faster in the APAC region, which is witnessing an influx of clinical trials but needs a decentralized trial model to increase trial equity and access.

Construction on Sri Lanka's planned pharmaceutical production zone will commence in February 2023, says the ministry. The project aims to increase manufacturing capacity by 30%.
(Economy Next)

CEPI signed a potential $140 million deal with South Korea's vaccine maker, SK Bioscience, to develop mRNA-based technologies for future infectious diseases. An initial $40 million will support Phase I/II trials of vaccine candidates against the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and Lassa virus and a further $100 million in late-stage trials.

Japan reports its first bird flu outbreak of the year, resulting in authorities culling over 340,000 chickens.

China has launched the world's first Covid vaccine that can be inhaled through the mouth, and Shanghai got the first taste. The sweet-tasting mist is being offered for free as a booster dose for previously vaccinated people.


Synthetic biology pioneer Ginkgo Bioworks and the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia (MISA) signed an MOU to develop biosecurity and biotechnology capabilities for global public health, including pathogen monitoring and sequencing programs and improving medical supply chains.
(Gingko Bioworks)

After signing a supply deal with Roche and Microsoft Azure, Korean medtech, Lunit is expanding into the UAE with Abu Dhabi's largest healthcare network, SEHA. The deal will allow Lunit to test its AI-based radiology solution, INSIGHT, at medical institutions across the Middle East.

Ayurveda is taking flight. First, Japan partnered with the All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA) for scientific collaboration. Now, Bahrain is adding a state-of-the-art Ayurvedic hospital within the framework of its modern healthcare delivery template.
(The Daily Tribune)

Sanctions from America and Europe are not holding Iran back as it sets out to achieve self-sufficiency, especially in the health sector. The country has partnered with Tajikistan to expand medical and health cooperation.
(Tehran Times)


The Ugandan health ministry has given a final nod to evaluate three experimental Sudan Ebolavirus vaccine candidates - one each from Oxford, Sabin and Merck. 3000 contacts of 150 patients will be in the trial initially.
(Ugandan Media Centre)

Malawi reported a polio outbreak after three decades in February 2022. A joint collaboration between Malawi, the WHO and Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) has since completed its fourth drive vaccinating 3.6 million children, hitting its goal of vaccinating all children under 5.

Funded by the Gates Foundation, Senegal's Institut Pasteur de Dakar (IPD), is collaborating with Batavia Biosciences and the Univercells Group to make affordable and speedy measles and rubella vaccines at its state-of-the-art MADIBA facility. IPD will use Batavia's highly intensified vaccine manufacturing platform HIP-Vax and Univercells' NevoLine platform to accelerate manufacturing at a low cost that can be used in essential, routine immunization campaigns in LMICs.

The EU has announced a €3 million funding package in response to Uganda's Ebola outbreak. The funds will be allocated to the WHO, UNICEF, International Rescue Committee and Uganda Red Cross Society for coordination, surveillance, tracing, risk communication, community engagement, and safe and dignified burials.

A vaccine for the Sudan strain of Ebola exists! After developing the successful Zaire ebolavirus vaccine, Merck also developed a Sudan strain vaccine in 2015 and tested it successfully on monkeys. After initial reports that these vaccines were destroyed, Merck has now found 100,000 doses in a freezer in Pennsylvania and is donating them to Uganda through the WHO.

Taxing sugary drinks boosts health and reduces healthcare costs. Several countries have endorsed this tax, the latest being Morocco. Ghana's Public Health Association (GPHA) is also advocating an increase of 20%.
(News Ghana)

Germany has offered Rwanda a two-year €98.1 million grant to fund SMEs and local pharma manufacturing.
(New Times)

Rest of the world

Nottingham-based PBD Biotech has developed a blood test that can quickly identify people with the disease and a subgroup of people at risk of developing the disease in the future. PBD has raised Β£2.4 million to fund clinical testing and build evidence of the test's effectiveness.
(PBD Biotech)

Another healthcare giant opting for massive layoffs after Novartis and J&J is Philips. The company is cutting 4,000 staff globally following a €1.3-billion hit due to faulty sleep apnea machines and global supply chain disruptions.

Mo₹€ Mon€Β₯

On the heels of the pandemic and when physician burnout is at an all-time high, Navina's AI-based platform comes as an assistant to doctors, offering the correct patient information along with actionable insights. Navina has now raised $22 million in fresh funding to accelerate adoption among US physician groups and the healthcare market.


A new Lassa fever therapy, Arevirumab-3, may be on the horizon after scientists successfully neutralized the deadly Lassa virus (LSV) and blocked viral infection using a trio of rare antibodies from survivors. It has proved 100% effective in animals with advanced disease.
(Science Translational Medicine)

Nota Bene

One of the largest greenhouse gas emitters, Saudi oil and gas company Aramco unveiled a $1.5 billion sustainability fund. The fund plans to invest in breakthrough technologies and startups globally to support the company's net-zero operational emission goal by 2050. However, the announcement comes with controversies. For example, one area of the fund will focus on carbon capture from the factory and storing underground, a technology still unproven, expensive and risky. Also, the net-zero emission commitment does not include the carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels the company produces.
(Aramco, Economic Times)

A UNICEF report says by 2050, all of the world's 2.02 billion children will be exposed to more frequent heatwaves, leading to a greater chance of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Calling the climate crisis a child rights crisis is not wrong, and governments must prioritise children and young people in climate mitigation plans.

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