Press review

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GSK's CEO says world needs more than one Covid-19 vaccine

LONDON, 17 Apr (APM) - GlaxoSmithKline's chief executive believes more than one Covid-19 vaccine will be needed, the Independent on Wednesday reported.
Emma Walmsley's comments come as GSK joins forces with Sanofi to produce a vaccine against the pandemic virus. She said the aim was to start trials later this year and make it available "for the second half of 2021". (APMHE 66935)
"This would be a significantly faster time than for normal vaccine development and teams for both companies are starting work on it urgently," she added.
"We believe that if successful we will be able to make hundreds of millions of doses available annually by the end of next year."
Walmsley said they were also collaborating on other projects because they believe "more than one vaccine will be needed" to stop Covid-19.
Paul Hudson, the chief executive of Sanofi, said: "As the world faces this unprecedented global health crisis, it is clear that no one company can go it alone.
"That is why Sanofi is continuing to complement its expertise and resources with our peers, such as GSK, with the goal to create and supply sufficient quantities of vaccines that will help stop this virus."

Gilead drug shows promise

A report has suggested a potential coronavirus treatment developed by Gilead - remdesivir - had shown positive results in a clinical trial, giving investors hope that a treatment could ease the pandemic and open up the global economy, the Financial Times reports on Friday.
Early impressions from a study at the University of Chicago Medicine were reported by Stat news, a healthcare industry publication, showing rapid recoveries in almost all of the more than a hundred severely ill patients.
Shares in Gilead, which have risen 17% already this year, jumped a further 14% in after-hours trading, the FT adds.
In a presentation to her academic colleagues, a video of which was leaked to Stat, Kathleen Mullane, an infectious disease specialist who is leading the trials at the university hospital, said: "The best news is that most of our patients have already been discharged, which is great. We've only had two patients perish."

CIA warned against taking hydroxychloroquine because of alleged 'sudden death' risk

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employees have been privately warned against taking an anti-malaria drug hailed by President Donald Trump as a "game changer" in the war on coronavirus, the Mail online reported on Tuesday.
Sudden death is one of the suspected side effects of hydroxychloroquine, according to the intelligence agency in a memo to its workforce posted online.
Despite a lack of medical evidence, the President has heavily promoted the drug as a possible treatment for Covid-19.
But amid positive noises surrounding the drug emerging from the daily White House press briefings, the CIA "made its concern clear," the Mail added.
Hydroxychloroquine is "not recommended to be used by patients except by medical professionals prescribing it as part of ongoing investigation studies," according to the advice seen by the Washington Post, the Mail said.
The advice, posted on March 27 in response to CIA staff queries, noted that possible side effects include 'sudden cardiac death'.
The CIA did not respond to the newspaper's request for a comment.
Trump has been a major cheerleader of taking hydroxychloroquine in concert with an antibiotic for those infected with the virus, pointing to a study in France which scientists have treated with scepticism.
He has tweeted that the drug could be "one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine" and should "be put in use immediately".
And when grilled by reporters over his advocacy of the drug, he said: "What do I know, I'm not a doctor. But I have common sense."

A dangerous gamble

Meanwhile, some experts have marked Trump's promotion of hydroxychloroquine a 'dangerous gamble' given the lack of proof on efficacy and the danger of side effects, the FT reported on Tuesday.
Rather than a calculated risk, the President's salesmanship has fostered a view that the rush to hydroxychloroquine is the result of desperation to find a way out of the pandemic. Advertising the drug's potential from the White House podium, the U.S. president himself said: "What do you have to lose?"
Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said the promotion was "reckless, feckless and deplorable". 

Disappointment over hydroxychloroquine

The Mail reported on Wednesday that hydroxychloroquine did not speed up coronavirus patients' recovery in a trial in China, scientists have revealed.
Patients who were taking it suffered fewer symptoms than others who were treated alongside them without the medication but their recovery time was the same, and the drug did not work as a cure, the researchers said.
It is the second setback in a week for the medication, after a clinical trial in Brazil had to be stopped because patients developed heart problems.

Trump suspends WHO funding

President Trump announced that the United States will stop funding the World Health Organization, (APMHE 66943) accusing it of covering up the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak in China before it spread around the world, The Telegraph reported on Wednesday.
According to Trump, WHO prevented transparency over the outbreak and the U.S. - the UN body's biggest funder which provided $400 million last year - will now "discuss what to do with all that money that goes to the WHO".
He said that the WHO had not sent experts into China quickly enough when the outbreak first emerged and took the assurances from that country's leaders "at face value".
The President said if the WHO had "done its job" by getting experts into China swiftly then "the outbreak could have been contained at its sources with very little death". He suggested thousands of lives could have been saved by such action.

Vaccine ready by September?

A vaccine against coronavirus could be ready as soon as September, the British scientist leading one of the world’s most advanced efforts has said, The Times reported on Saturday.
Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, told The Times she was "80% confident" that the vaccine being developed by her team would work, with human trials due to begin in the next fortnight.
The government signalled that it would be willing to fund the manufacture of millions of doses in advance if results looked promising. This would allow it to be available immediately to the public if it were proven to work.
With ministers struggling to find a strategy to exit the lockdown, long-term hopes of a return to normality rely on a vaccine.
Even if measures to stop the spread of coronavirus are eased in the coming weeks, officials are expecting that without a vaccine some element of social distancing, such as shielding of the vulnerable or working from home, would remain in place for a long time.
Professor Gilbert's team is one of dozens around the world trying to find a vaccine and is the most advanced in Britain. She has been working seven days a week to rush through the development stages.
"I think there’s a high chance that it will work based on other things that we have done with this type of vaccine," she said. "It’s not just a hunch and as every week goes by we have more data to look at . . . I would go for 80%, that’s my personal view."
Initial safety trials are due to begin soon, with further studies following around the world to see if the vaccine reduces the risk of catching coronavirus.
Lockdown makes it harder to test a vaccine when the virus is not spreading, Gilbert said. However, if one of the countries in which it is trialled "turns out to have a high rate of virus transmission then we will get our efficacy results very quickly, so that is the strategy for reducing the time".
Asked if the most optimistic scenario for a working vaccine was September, she said: "Yes and we have to go for that." Success by the autumn was "just about possible if everything goes perfectly", The Times quoted her as saying.

Human Covid-19 vaccine trials to begin in UK 'within days'

Researchers based at the Jenner Institute in Oxford, UK, plan to start human trials for a Covid-19 vaccine within days, The Times reports on Thursday.
Working in laboratories and from home offices, these medics and scientists are part of an extraordinary race, the newspaper noted.
Many of the researchers are on the frontline of the NHS. Andrew Pollard, one of the leaders of the project, said: "I’m a paediatrician. And we've got many adult physicians as well, including those who are working on the wards, looking after some of these patients with coronavirus who are very sick. I think that helps focus everyone's mind."
The pace of progress has already been unprecedented, enabled by a quiet biotech revolution which has smouldered for years, fanned by previous efforts to fast-track vaccines for ebola and sars. "We are at a point in history where we all are able to respond in the most remarkable way," Pollard said.
There are at least 78 Covid-19 vaccines in development, four of which have reached human trials — two each from the United States and China.

AstraZeneca rushes its blood cancer drug Calquence into coronavirus trials

AstraZeneca has revealed plans to trial a blood cancer drug on severely ill coronavirus patients after it showed promise in the U.S., the Mail online reported on Tuesday.
The UK pharma said there was anecdotal evidence of Calquence improving the condition of ventilated and intensive care patients.
The leukaemia drug, said to work by suppressing the virus and preventing it from scarring the lungs, will now be rushed into a large clinical trial of 400 patients.
Calquence, which is available on prescription on the NHS, was given to a small number of Covid-19 patients at the Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington.
AstraZeneca said "clinical benefit was observed in select patients with advanced lung disease".
Covid-19 can kill when it sparks an aggressive immune response that inflames and scars the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.
Calquence, generic name acalabrutinib, is known as a Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor which block the BTK protein which triggers immune responses.
By suppressing the exaggerated defense mechanism, it may prevent the virus from damaging the lungs.
Jose Baselga, head of oncology research and development at AstraZeneca, told Forbes: "The science of acalabrutinib and, I think more than that, of Bruton's tyrosine kinase situation, is pretty strong. The mechanism is very clear.
"The cytokine storm [immune response] that occurs in the pneumonia of these patients is heavily mediated by Bruton's kinase and, unlike approaches that are trying to deal with one cytokine at a time, I see this more as a truncal intervention, in which you are basically hitting the central key pathway that regulates many of these cytokines so the rationale is incredibly strong... it gives us the opportunity to address the whole problem."
Basegla said that AstraZeneca received early data about coronavirus patients recovering after taking the drugs last week.
Within 72 hours the drugs giant had drafted a Covid-19 clinical trial and submitted it to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a process which normally takes more than three months, the Mail added.

J&J cuts guidance for 2020

Johnson & Johnson has increased its quarterly dividend even as the U.S. drug and consumer products group cut its guidance for 2020 because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic (APMHE 66936), the FT reported on Tuesday.
The New Jersey-based company on Tuesday said it expected sales for the year of between $77.5 billion and $80.5 billion, down from a previous estimate of $85.4 billion to $86.2 billion.
It predicted adjusted earnings per share for the year would be in the $7.50 to $7.90 range, down from a previous estimate of $8.95 to $9.10.
The cut in guidance, which is inclusive of the related investments the company is making to combat the virus, comes as the disease wreaks havoc on companies in all sectors and corners of the world.
However, J&J lifted its quarterly dividend by 6.3% to $1.01 a share — or $4.04 for the year after a strong first quarter, the FT added.

Gates Foundation donates extra $150 million to coronavirus fight

As U.S. President Donald Trump declared he was withdrawing the country's support for the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invested a further $150 million in the global response to Covid-19, The Telegraph reported on Thursday.
The latest donation brings the total the philanthropic organisation has given to $250 million.
No small sum considering the Gates Foundation is also the second biggest supporter of the WHO, following the United States.
"We have a responsibility to meet this global crisis with global solidarity." said Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates ahead of the announcement.
"In addition to contributing to the development of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines, these funds will support efforts against Covid-19 in low-and-middle-income countries, where local leaders and healthcare workers are doing heroic work to protect vulnerable communities and slow the spread of the disease," she said.
Four areas are included in the Gates Foundation's latest pledge, but perhaps the most pressing is the need to develop products, such as vaccines and reliable treatments.
"It's very clear that this is a global pandemic and the only solutions will work if they are globally applied," Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation told The Telegraph.
"In the end game, we need everyone on the planet to be vaccinated. But that is more than a year away. So in the meantime we’re looking at what we can do to minimise the loss of life and socio-economic destruction."

Aspirin cancer defence

Taking aspirin just once or twice a week could lower the risk of getting several deadly cancers, scientists have claimed, the Mail said on Thursday.
The cheap over-the-counter painkiller is believed to block an enzyme which helps tumours to form.
Researchers looked at a range of studies which compared people taking aspirin with those who did not.
The team found regular use of the drug appeared to reduce the risk of getting stomach and oesophagus cancers by around a third.
It also cut the chances of bowel cancer by 27 per cent - based on 45 studies including more than 150,000 people.
A daily low-dose or 'baby' aspirin appeared to lower the bowel risk by 10% while a 325 mg tablet each day was linked to a 35% fall.
One in eight patients diagnosed with cancer in the UK get bowel tumours - more than 42,000 people a year.
The scientific review, by Milan University in Italy, found regular aspirin also appeared to reduce risk of stomach cancer by 36 % while oesophagus cancer was cut by a third.
The review showed people taking aspirin once or twice a week had a 22% lower risk of pancreatic cancer.

Roche to launch antibody test

The FT on Friday reports that Roche is launching an antibody test for coronavirus that it hopes will be available next month — potentially enabling health professionals to check whether millions have already had the virus or not. (APMHE 66975)
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