The end of the pandemic; India joins the International Pharmacopoeial Discussion Group
Hello and welcome back to The Friday Kable, your round-up of the most interesting life science stories this week.
We are not there yet, but the end is in sight for Covid-19, says the WHO Chief. With numbers falling globally, the opportunity exists to end the pandemic, which involves masking, testing and sequencing.
Philips Foundation partners with US-based non-profit organisation RAD-AID International in a multi-year cross-continental partnership to promote access to diagnostic ultrasound services in ten countries and offer training to health workers in real-time distance education.
The COVID Treatment Quick Start Consortium, a partnership between non-profit organisations and Pfizer bringing oral COVID-19 antiviral, Paxlovid, to high-risk populations in 10 low- and middle-income countries, has been launched. But will the supply be enough with the initial donation of 100,000 courses, or will the Consortium run pilot schemes to explore test-and-treat logistics?
The International Pharmacopoeial Discussion Group (PDG) has a new member. India joins the European Pharmacopoeia, the Japanese Pharmacopoeia and the United States Pharmacopeia in a one-year expansion pilot.
(Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission)
Another international report that India is not happy with. The Lancet report suggests 47%of antibiotic formulations are unapproved by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), the national regulatory body for pharmaceuticals. Again, India rejects the finding stating approvals come from state drug regulatory boards. Remember the WHO's Covid death estimates rejected by India?
The Indian government is seeking to reduce out-of-pocket health expenditure by adding 34 medications to the Essential Medicines List, including anti-cancer drugs, antibiotics and vaccines. The list also drops 26 drugs due to safety issues or the availability of better alternatives.
Glenmark is on a mission, cutting debt and growing its business. With the rollout of its speciality respiratory drug Ryaltris in the US, Europe and other markets, the company is looking at $120-150 million annually in the next 4-5 years. In addition, with the launch of the generic version of asthma inhalation drug Flovent in the US and licensing of a few assets in the pipeline, the company is ready to rock and roll.
Indonesia may soon be ready to mass produce what it set out to achieve in 2021, a homegrown Covid vaccine. State-owned PT Bio Farma's efficacy and safety reports of Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials of the Covid-19 vaccine, IndoVac, are at par with other Covid-19 vaccines. And it looks like Phase 3 trials and Shariah-compliant certification are on track, including talks with the country's drug regulatory authority for speedy approval.
China doesn't believe that the pandemic end is in sight. So it has shut down all media discussing the WHO chief's remarkable statement while continuing its Zero Covid policy and quarantining millions over a few hundred cases.
China is helping Central Asia get its first innovative vaccine production centre in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in a $100 million deal. The plant will produce 200 million doses of 10 different vaccines and offer high-tech products to other CIS countries. How thoughtful.
Afghanistan's already crushing healthcare is encountering rising cancer cases, with over 10,000 patients referred to cancer centres in the past five months. As a result, the health ministry is prioritising upgrading the existing ones before adding new centres.
Afghanistan is also a hotbed for measles, with almost 65,470 suspected cases and 367 measles deaths. With 1.1 million severely malnourished Afghani children at mortality risk, the need is to introduce a nationwide measles campaign to reach all children.
(Think Global Health)
Japan imports flu and other infectious diseases vaccines. But look who is negotiating to build a factory for these vaccines. Moderna is ready to say Konichiwa as it negotiates with Japanese politicians and bureaucrats for a long-term deal of at least 10 years like with other countries.
(The Asahi Shimbun)
If you get bitten by a snake in Vietnam or consume poison accidentally, be ready for a long haul at the hospital since antidotes and antivenom drugs are in short supply, and manufacturers don't find Vietnam a profitable market.
MENA & GCC
While most cities continue their struggle with Covid, Abu Dhabi emerged as the world's top pandemic-resilient city globally in a survey conducted by London's Deep Knowledge Analytics (DKA). With over 500,000 tests per day, receiving the first global shipment of AstraZeneca's Evusheld, or its strategic partnership with Roche for Covid treatment, Abu Dhabi ensured people and businesses do not suffer.
And over to another war-torn country, Syria, where a cholera outbreak is brewing and may spread through the country. Two cholera deaths were reported this week in government-held areas. But, again, blame the civil war, which damaged two-thirds of Syria's water treatment plants, pumping stations and water towers.
Obesity is not just a rich world problem. In fact, half of the adult South Africans are overweight (23%) or obese (27%), costing the country $1.8 billion every year. Hopefully, these quantifiable numbers give policymakers ways to reduce future spending and make the planned National Health Insurance scheme a success.
The Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) invests $100m to expand healthcare in three states and five medical centres. Hopefully, this investment cuts medical tourism costs by offering international standard treatments and stems the health professional brain drain.
Do not expect HIV vaccines anytime soon, warns the former AIDS Society head and director of Desmond Tutu Health Foundation. The wait could be more than five years, with five HIV vaccines currently in early human trials. Only if the 40-year-old disease got attention like the newcomer Covid.
Get in line if you want to get diagnostic tests done in Canary island's public hospital. Almost 22,955 people have been waiting for their ultrasound tests for four months. Oh, and if it's for endoscopies, the waiting period is 228 days. The list is too long, and so is the wait.
The Gambia has banned sales of all brands of paracetamol syrup after a dozen deaths of young children linked to these syrups. While the samples have been sent abroad for further investigation, the WHO blamed infectious origins such as polluted water for the deaths but maintained caution.
Cameroon's local startup E-santé is bringing the hospital home, and patients from Douala and Yaoundé can access this virtual hospital. The company is looking at further expansion into Cameroon and other African countries.
(Business In Cameroon)
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria offers $33 million to collaborate with The Children's Investment Fund (CIFF) to accelerate HIV prevention programmes in five priority African countries and for every $1 committed by CIFF, match it with $1.5.
(The Global Fund)
Rest of the world
Japanese pharma giant Takeda continues its manufacturing expansion plan by investing nearly $300 million in a plasma-derived production facility in Lessines, Belgium. The new warehouse will itself have net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Last year Takeda invested $126 million to double its rare disease treatment site in California and $14 million in its Singapore plant.
Cyprus plans to establish a WHO regional office to develop policies on infectious diseases and create a network alliance between Mediterranean Basin countries and South Eastern Europe. The government is optimistic about the office becoming operational by the end of 2022.
The Sabin Vaccine Institute gets an additional boost of $21.8 million from Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to advance the Marburg vaccine in Phase 2 trials in the US after starting the same-stage trial in Africa scheduled in 2023.
(Sabin Vaccine Institute)
Nimbus Therapeutics raises $125 million to advance its lead research program in autoimmune diseases and cancer. The highlight of the funding is a TYK2 inhibitor pill that it believes could become a treatment for psoriasis, lupus and bowel diseases. The funding comes when rival company Bristol Myers' new psoriasis drug, Sotyktu, gets FDA approval.
Google's life sciences company, Verily, will continue its acquisitions and partnerships through $1 billion raised in fresh funding from parent company Alphabet to expand its precision health businesses.
Nigeria-based Helpmum receives a $250,000 grant from the US-based Patrik J McGovern Foundation to deploy ADVISER, an AI-driven vaccination uptake program to improve Nigeria's infant immunisation coverage rate and better maternal and infant health across Africa. This grant is not the first for Helpmum, which previously won a 2021 Waislitz Global Citizen Award and the 2018 Google Impact Challenge.
R & D
If the child has asthma and the grandfather smoked, you now know whom to blame. The father for being a secondhand smoker. Non-allergic asthma in children increases by 59% if the fathers are exposed to secondary smoke and 72% if the fathers smoke too. Oh, and also blame the damaged genes that are passed on. Now, are policymakers listening?
(European Respiratory Journal)
Chocolate may heal a broken heart but not improve intellectual functioning and delay cognitive decline in older people; only multivitamins can do that, says a study partly funded by a chocolate company. However, don't buy those vitamins just yet since more research is needed to know the magic behind these pills.
One research does not suggest prescribing Vitamin D3 and omega-3 fatty acids to otherwise healthy people, older people with no Vitamin D deficiency, to slow the ageing process. Instead, go to a Mediterranean restaurant to feel young again.
(JAMA Network Open)
Not all bacteria are harmless. Some, like Neisseria, earlier thought to be peacefully living in our body, is becoming a cause of worry in the lungs affecting patients with respiratory illnesses. Looks like the bacteria thrives in tropical climates of Asia.
(Cell Host & Microbe)
If you have diabetes, climate change is bad news. And especially during hot days, keep yourself hydrated since the higher the temperature rises, the higher your odds of being hospitalised. Hope policymakers consider these subtle health effects while driving environmental or healthcare policies.