Press review

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Scientists consider gene therapies as potential cure for AIDS

PARIS, 13 Sep (APM) - The rise of gene therapies is changing the prognosis for patients with previously incurable diseases, and now scientists are looking at them as a potential cure for AIDS, French magazine L’Express reported on Wednesday (pp.23-36).
In its 13-page feature on gene therapies, L’Express discussed treatments already on the market, including Novartis’ Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvove) for spinal muscular atrophy and bluebird’s Zyntelgo (lentiglobin) for beta thalassemia, as well as the effects these drugs have had on patients’ lives.
The feature also looked at the potential future uses of gene therapies, noting that, beside AIDS, these treatments hold promise for Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s disease.
However, the weekly magazine also focused on some of the issues that surround gene therapies.
The main issue is pricing, with Professor Alain Fischer - the first scientist to use gene therapies in 1999 to treat children with 'bubble baby' syndrome - arguing in an interview that the prices pharma companies are seeking for their drugs are "unsustainable and unjustified".
He pointed out that the high prices meant countries, such as Belgium, are refusing to treat patients and that pharma companies forgot that early-stage research into these therapies came from public research centres when they cited high R&D costs.
Elsewhere, the feature highlighted the issue of trying to manufacture gene therapies on an industrial scale. L’Express noted that the U.S. health authorities have made solving this issue a priority, and that the French government has launched a sector contract with stakeholders to develop bioproduction in France.

Bayer report reveals extent of glyphosate defence operations

A report published by Bayer has revealed the extent Monsanto went to in defending glyphosate, Le Monde reported on Monday (p.6) (APMHE 64253).
In total, Monsanto spent $16 million on contracts, hired half a dozen public relation agencies and more than 60 full-time consultants, employed almost 1500 people across seven countries and paid out $7 million to recruit ''third parties'', people not associated with Monsanto who acted as the firm's spokesperson in public debates in the scientific sector.
The report was authored by the company Sidley Austin in May, after Le Monde newspaper and TV chain France 2 reported on the existence of a file naming 200 French leading figures, who had been recruited by lobby firm FleishmanHillard on behalf of Monsanto.
Bayer is currently facing numerous lawsuits involving Monsanto and its weed killer glyphosate after the former bought the latter for $63 billion last year.

Sanofi ends external research partnership to concentrate on internal research

Sanofi has ended its research partnership with U.S. biotech Lexicon on diabetes treatment Zynquista (sotagliflozin), reported Le Figaro on Thursday (p.25) (APMHE 64315).
Terminating the agreement will see Sanofi pay out €235 million to Lexicon, which will continue to develop and market Zynquista by itself.
Zynquista, once expected to have a promising future as a blockbuster drug generating sales of $1 billion, has undergone several setbacks recently, with failures in three Phase III trials evaluating it as a type 2 diabetes treatment for adults and being rejected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March as an add-one for type 1 diabetes patients.
Sanofi was hoping when it signed an agreement with Lexicon in 2015 that Zynquista would replace the pharma's success with key drug Lantus, which dominated the market for a long time generating 30% of Sanofi's net results in 2014.
Sanofi is now going to focus on haematological rare diseases and oncology in house. This follows the arrival of new R&D head John Reed a year ago and new chief executive Paul Hudson on 2 September.

Purdue Pharma to potential pay out almost $12 billion to plaintiffs

Purdue Pharma is reportedly set to agree to a settlement which would see it pay out almost $12 billion to lawyers representing over 2,000 towns, counties, First Nation tribes, residents from 23 U.S. states and three territories, reports Le Figaro (p.23) on Friday (APMHE 64331).
The settlement would see the Sackler family leave the company, which would be turned into a trust. The profits made by the company during the opioid crisis, which continues to see 130 people die every day from addictions caused by prescription drugs, would be paid out to plaintiffs under the supervision of a board of administrators.
This would be a massive turning point in the opioid crisis and for the pharma industry, however it would not put an end to Purdue’s lawsuits. A dozen U.S. have rejected all compromises to date.

New French HR head for AstraZeneca

Eric Chevalier has been appointed head of human resources for AstraZeneca France, Les Echos reported in a brief on Thursday (p.31).
Chevalier started his career at Coca-Cola before spending four years at Biogen as head of human resources. Before moving to AstraZeneca, he worked as head of human resources for several matrix organisations at General Electric Healthcare.
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