Press review


AstraZeneca and Oxford University to test coronavirus vaccine in Brazil

Country : Brazil, Europe, India, Sweden, U.S., UK

Keywords :
LONDON, 5 June (APM) - AstraZeneca and Oxford University will test their potential coronavirus vaccine in Brazil due to the country's higher rates of infection, The Times reports on Friday.
The paper quoted AstraZeneca's chief executive Pascal Soriot: "Probably the biggest issue that we face as vaccine developers is that the disease is declining — we are chasing the disease in many parts of the world."
He added that the partners expect to know by August whether or not the vaccine works.
The vaccine is currently being tested in a trial involving about 10,000 adult volunteers in the UK. Plans are also in place for a larger trial involving 30,000 U.S. adults, as well as a paediatric trial.

Donors pledge $8.8 billion for global vaccine programme

Several publications on Thursday covered a pledge from global donors of $8.8 billion (£7 billion) to fund vaccination programmes for children in low-income countries.
The announced was made in a virtual event, hosted in the UK by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The funds will be channeled through the UN-backed Gavi alliance, said the FT.
They will be used to vaccinate an additional 300 million children against diseases such as polio, typhoid, measles and cholera, saving around eight million lives over the next five years, said the Telegraph.
Gavi also used the summit to launch a new $2 billion initiative to counter so-called "vaccine nationalism" and ensure poorer nations can access supplies of potential Covid-19 vaccines.
This initiative will see AstraZeneca will guarantee 300 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine that it is developing in collaboration with the University of Oxford.

AstraZeneca plans to supply 2 billion doses of experimental coronavirus vaccine

AstraZeneca's donation was also covered by the Telegraph in a separate story on Thursday.
It added that the UK pharma is planning to supply 2 billion doses of its potential coronavirus vaccine as early as September, The Telegraph reported on Thursday (APMHE 67636).
This is double the number of doses the company has previously suggested.
The increase is partly due to the Gavi deal and due to an agreement with the Serum Institute of India, the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines by volume, to supply 1 billion doses of the vaccine to low and middle-income countries.

Drug stockpile worries in UK

The UK government is struggling to rebuild stockpiles of drugs use for Covid-19 care amid fears that a 'no-deal' Brexit will impact medicine supplies at the same time a second wave coronavirus wave hits the country, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.
The paper cited a senior official familiar with inner departmental deliberations, who said: "[Health Secretary Matt] Hancock has been told — and he's agreed — that a stockpiling plan needs to be fixed by the end of June, anticipating no-deal."
However, the last time stockpiling relied on industry, said the source, but this is "now in doubt".
The FT also referenced a spokesperson who said the government was in regular contact with industry and partners to ensure supplies in "all scenarios" in the coming months as it continued negotiations with the EU.

UK hospitals to trial five new drugs in search for Covid-19 treatment

UK hospitals are to trial five drugs for Covid-19, the Guardian reported on Monday.
The five drugs include two assets from AstraZeneca: Medi3506, an anti-inflammatory injection being developed for skin disorders and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; and Calquence, which is approved for mantle cell lymphoma.
The others are generic blood thinner heparin; BerGenBio's bemcentinib, which is used to treat blood disorders; and UCB's zilucoplan, which is already in trial for potential treatment of myasthenia gravis.
The studies are part of the Accord (accelerating Covid-19 research and development) programme involving doctors and scientists, industry, the NHS the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation.
Should the trials deliver positive results, they will feed into the later-phase national research programme being run by Oxford University.

Arthritis drug being investigated for Covid-19

The Telegraph on Monday reported on positive study results for anti-inflammatory drug anakinra in treating Covid-19 patients.
The drug, which is marketed by SOBI for rheumatoid arthritis under the brand name Kineret, was administered to 52 Covid-19 patients at a hospital in Paris between 24 March and 6 April. The doctors compared their progress with that observed in a group of 44 historical coronavirus patients at the hospital who were not treated with the drug.
Thirteen (25%) of the patients injected subcutaneously with anakinra either died or had to be placed on ventilators, compared with 32 patients (73%) in the historical group.
The paper quoted an article by the researchers in The Lancet: "Anakinra reduced both [the] need for invasive mechanical ventilation in the ICU and mortality among patients with severe forms of Covid-19, without serious side effects."

Waiting for coronavirus vaccine is risky, says Swedish scientist behind country's Covid-19 strategy

The Telegraph on Tuesday carried an interview with Anders Tegnell, Sweden's chief epidemiologist, who is the lead architect behind the country's controversial decision to keep its economy open and avoid lockdown, in contrast with most of the rest of Europe.
He said: "A lot of people claim that the Swedish strategy is very risky but I would say that putting so much faith in a vaccine is also quite risky."
He added: "Historically, it's not been that easy to produce vaccines for diseases - and this is a disease where the immunology seems to be quite complicated. That's usually not a good sign that the vaccine will work very well."
Instead, Tegnell said countries should embrace sustainable, long-term measures designed to reduce transmission, because the virus "will stay with us for a substantial time, probably forever".

Covid-19 drugs essential as vaccine could be years away

The Daily Mail on Tuesday reported on comments by Dr Nick Cammack, head of the Wellcome Trust's Covid-19 Therapeutic Accelerator project into promising therapies, that a vaccine for coronavirus could be years away and that drugs are necessary.
He said it would take several years to scale up manufacturing capacity, even if a vaccine is developed and proven safe in 2020.

WHO resumes Covid-19 trial for hydroxychloroquine

The World Health Organization (WHO) will resume a clinical trial of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in Covid-19 after a study was halted on safety concerns, the Guardian and the FT said on Thursday (APMHE 67619).
The study, which was published in The Lancet, suggested that the drug was associated with higher mortality rates and higher rates of heart problems in Covid-19 patients, said the Guardian.
However, an investigation by the paper revealed serious flaws in the database used in the study, which is managed by a company called Surgisphere.
The Guardian added that the Lancet published an "expression of concern" about the paper and that the co-authors of the study who were not from Surgisphere had commissioned an independent audit into the data.
The FT said in a follow-up story that WHO's chief scientist has said it did not see data collected by Surgisphere.

UK investigating ibuprofen in Covid-19

Researchers from London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London in the UK are investigating a new formulation of ibuprofen to see if it can help treat Covid-19, the Daily Mail said on Tuesday (APMHE 67610).
The LIBERATE trial, which started at the end of May, is being conducted with the pharmaceutical organisation the SEEK Group, said the paper.
Animal studies have shown promising results, said Mitul Mehta, professor of neuroimaging and psychopharmacology at Kings College London.

Leading U.S. expert optimistic for coronavirus vaccine

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the U.S., has said he is "cautiously optimistic" that one of several coronavirus vaccines being developed in the U.S. will be ready in "a reasonable period of time", the Dail Mail reported on Wednesday (APMHE 66588).
He highlighted NIAID's work with U.S. biotech Moderna on a vaccine, which has shown promise in Phase II.
However, the paper noted that medical experts have questioned whether the data from the study - which reported antibody levels in just eight patients - was really significant.
Other vaccines are in development though, said Fauci.
"There will be a vaccine that is protective," he said, according to the paper. "I think there will be several candidates that will arrive at that goal at approximately the same time."

New antiviral drug needed for Covid-19 rather than repurposed older products - study

The Daily Mail on Tuesday reported on a study that suggests a new antiviral drug should be created to stop the novel coronavirus rather than repurposing old medication.
Researchers compared older flu drug oseltamivir with Roche's Xofluza (baloxavir), the first new type of flu drug in 20 years.
The newer treatment cut the amount of time people were sick with the flu, which limited the spread of the virus, said the paper.
The researchers, from the University of Texas at Austin, said that creating a drug that does the same for the coronavirus in early-stage patients would be more beneficial that trying to get existing drugs to treat late-stage patients.

Jakafi/Jakavi being investigated in Covid-19 patients

Researchers are investigating whether ruxolitinib can help Covid-19 patients who are deteriorating, said The Times at the weekend.
The drug is marketed by Novartis as Jakafi/Jakavi for myelofibrosis, a type of bone marrow cancer.
However, the paper said researchers the drug could reduce the need for intensive care treatment in Covid-19 patients due to its ability to block the signals required to produce more cytokines, reducing inflammation.

Promising results for antibiotic

The Times on Thursday reported on research by Princeton University in the U.S. on an antibiotic that they claim can wipe out some of the most dangerous bacteria without them developing resistance.
The paper said that the compounds, known as irresistins, have shown they can they kill off a strain of gonorrhoea resistant to all other antibiotics
They were also effective against gram-negative bacteria. No new classes of gram-negative-killing drugs have come to the market in nearly three decades, said The Times
More research is needed; the original irresistin compound, SCH-79797, killed human cells and bacterial cells at roughly similar levels, limiting its usefulness. However, a derivative called irresistin-16 was nearly 1,000 times more potent against bacteria than human cells, said the paper.

Former UCB CEO Roch Doliveux named chairman of Oxford Biomedica

Oxford Biomedica has named former UCB chief executive Roch Doliveux as its new chairman.
The company is a gene and cell therapy specialist that is the manufacturer of the lentiviral vector used in Novartis' CAR-T cancer therapy Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel).
It also recently signed a supply agreement with AstraZeneca for the manufacture of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine.

Former pharma boss disqualified as director after price fixing scandal

The former owner of Auden McKenzie has been disqualified as a director for breaking competition law, The Times said on Thursday.
Amit Patel admitted that he struck illegal deals with other firms over drugs, which saw price rises of up to 1,900%, said the paper.
The price rises meant the two drugs cost the NHS an extra £48 million during the period the agreements were in effect.

AstraZeneca's Lynparza backed for new EU approval

The Times on Tuesday reported on the recommendation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA)'s advisory committee CHMP that AstraZeneca's Lynparza should be approved in Europe as a maintenance treatment for a form of pancreatic cancer.
The paper said in the same article that AstraZeneca's Brilinta (ticagrelor) has been approved in the U.S. to reduce the risk of a first heart attack or stroke in high-risk patients with coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease.



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