Press review

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UK has 'ample stock' of remdesivir hoarded by U.S.

LONDON, 3 July (APM) - The UK government has insisted that the country has ample supplies of Gilead's remdesivir, which might quicken the recovery of Covid-19 patients, The Times reported on Thursday.
The UK's press on Wednesday widely reported that the U.S. is being accused. of "undermining" the global effort to fight the coronavirus pandemic by buying up almost the whole supply of remdesivir, leaving hardly any for other countries.
The Times reported the UK's Department of Health as saying that it had enough doses to treat every National Health Service patient who might need it.
It also quoted Gilead as saying that the UK already had sufficient supplies of the drug, and that the need in the U.S. was greater.
The Telegraph quoted UK business minister Nadhim Zahawi as saying that in buying all supplies of remdesivir, the U.S. was not helping the global effort, saying the UK was working "responsibility so we actually deal with pandemic in a way that helps all of the world".
He added: "By attempting to compete we ultimately undermine all our strategies."
The U.S. has secured more than 500,000 treatment courses of Gilead's antiviral remdesivir, an antiviral drug, through September, the paper said.That represents 100% of Gilead's projected production for July, and 90% for each of the next two months.
It quoted Alex Azar, the U.S. health secretary, as saying: "President Trump has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorised therapeutic for Covid-19. To the extent possible, we want to ensure that any American patient who needs remdesivir can get it."
Oxford University's professor Peter Horby, who chairs the new and emerging respiratory virus threats advisory group (Nervtag) said manufacturer Gilead would be under "certain political pressure’s s locally" as a U.S. company.
The story was also covered by The Guardian on Tuesday and by The Times on Wednesday.

Brussels in talks with Gilead

The FT on Wednesday said The European Commission is in talks with Gilead to reserve doses of remdesivir.
Stella Kyriakides, health commissioner for the 27-country EU, has held a series of negotiations with the company, including over its production capacity, Brussels said, the paper added.
"Commissioner Kyriakides has been in multiple discussions with the manufacturer, Gilead, including on their production capacity," the commission said.
"The commission is also currently in negotiations with Gilead to reserve doses of remdesivir for EU member states."

Imperial 'confident' on vaccine

The Guardian carried an interview on Friday with professor Robin Shattock who is leading a team at Imperial College London into a Covid-19 vaccine.
His team at Imperial College were working on Ebola and Lassa fever vaccines using new technology but had not got as far as human trials when a novel coronavirus started to kill thousands of people in Wuhan, China, the paper said.
Animal data told them they were on the right track, but it is now Covid-19 that will prove or disprove whether the approach, using what they call self-amplifying RNA, is a breakthrough.
The Guardian said he is careful not to over-promise, but it is clear he backs his "own horse" over 120 other contenders in the effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine. "Of course, or I wouldn't be doing it," Shattock told the Guardian.
"I'm cautiously optimistic that it will work as well as anything else that is being developed because it induces good immune responses in animal models, and we predict it will be the same in humans and it will be very safe because we are using such low doses.
"What we don't know is what level of immunity is required to prevent infection. If we only need a tiny bit, the majority of vaccines out there will probably work. That will be fantastic for the world.
"If we need a certain level of immune response that is high then we may see some vaccines are more successful than others. I would hope ours will be one of the successful ones, but there is no guarantee until we get the data that shows it works."

Remdesivir priced

The Times on Tuesday said that Gilead has priced remdesivir for hospitalised Covid-19 patients at £318 a dose. (APMHE 67943)
It means that a typical six-dose, five-day course of the treatment will cost £1,907, it added. The story was also covered in the Financial Times on Monday.

Experts differ on likely vaccine protection

Experts on Wednesday gave differing views about the likely protection offered by a Covid-19 vaccine.
The chairman of the UK vaccine Taskforce warned that even if a Covid-19 vaccine is developed, it may not be one that provides full protection against the virus, The Times said on Thursday.
Kate Bingham said we may have to be content with a vaccine that merely blunts the severity of the disease.
She told the House of Commons science and technology committee: "I'm relatively optimistic we have a vaccine. But in the near term we may just have to satisfy ourselves with a vaccine that reduces the severity of the disease."
However, professor Sarah Gilbert who runs the Oxford University-backed study told MPs a jab against the virus should last for several years at least, The Mail reported on Thursday.

BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine 'promising'

The Times on Thursday covered briefly promising results of an early stage trial of a Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Pfizer and German biotech BioNTech.
It said two doses of the vaccine were given to 24 healthy people aged between 18 and 55, all of who had "significantly" elevated levels of "virus-fighting antibodies" within a month of receiving their first injection.

New strain of swine flu discovered

The Mail online on Monday reported that new strain of swine flu virus identified in pigs in China has the potential to spread to humans and cause another pandemic like Covid-19, it quotes researchers as saying.
Experts from the Chinese Academy of Sciences say pigs are a "key intermediate host" or "mixing vessel" for viruses spreading from wild animals into humans.
The Chinese research team has been studying outbreaks of swine flu in pig farms across the country since 2011, and says the latest strain can pass to humans. Only two people are confirmed to have caught the virus, dubbed G4 EA H1N1, since the first outbreak in 2016, but researchers say it is "highly adapted" to infect humans.

Scotland approves trial of Covid-19 T-cell therapy

The FT on Tuesday said a Scottish biotech company has won approval to begin trials of an innovative T-cell therapy which its backers say could transform the treatment of Covid-19 patients by boosting their immune systems before they require intensive care.
It said the trials in Edinburgh highlight growing international interest in the role in fighting viral infections played by T-cells, a key part of the body's defences that target infected or cancerous cells.
TC BioPharm, a privately-owned biotech, has developed a method for cultivating large numbers of T-cells from healthy donors and will give them to hospitalised coronavirus patients, who studies suggest often have low levels of T-cells.
TC BioPharm said the trial had been approved this month by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and Edinburgh university.

Hedge fund backs Covid-19 pill

A U.S. hedge fund is backing an experimental drug for Covid-19 being developed by a tiny biotech, the FT said on Monday. It is a twice daily pill that could be prescribed to someone as soon as they test positive for coronavirus, attacking the disease before they become seriously sick.
If the medicine, codenamed EIDD-2801, does work, it would be a crowning achievement for Wayne and Wendy Holman, the husband and wife team behind Miami-based Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, the FT added.
In January, when the coronavirus outbreak was in its infancy, the FT said the Holmans spotted a medicine that others in the biotech industry had missed. Discovered by researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, EIDD-2801 had been intended as a drug for rare encephalitic viruses, but has also shown promise at tackling coronaviruses such as Sars and Mers.

Indivior's Thaxter pleads guilty in U.S.

The FT on Wednesday reported that the long-serving chief executive of Indivior has pleaded guilty to a criminal charge in the US in connection with the marketing of opioid Suboxone. (APMHE 67968)
Shaun Thaxter, who led Indivior from 2009 until his abrupt departure on Monday, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a misdemeanour charge that he caused the company in 2012 to share false and misleading information about the safety of Suboxone with a state regulator, the FT added.

Chi-Med profiled

The Times on Saturday featured Chi-Med, which it describes as one of China's most successful biotechnology companies.
It interviewed its chief executive Christian Hogg, who, the paper said, is in the unprecedented position of running the £2.7 billion UK-listed drugs company, whose commercial operations are largely in mainland China, from outside the country.
He has been prevented from returning first by China's coronavirus lockdown and more recently by his own refusal to face the inefficiencies of a 14-day quarantine. He now expects not to be able to return to China from his home in Hong Kong potentially until next year, The Times added.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted fruquintinib fast-track designation earlier this month and in April the regulator issued the same designation to surufatinib, another of Chi-Med’s lead assets, this time for the treatment of patients with advanced neuroendocrine tumours, a rare cancer of the hormone system.

Novartis settles doctor bribing case in U.S.

The FT on Thursday covered Novartis agreeing to pay $729 million 'kickback' charges. (APMHE 67993)
The deal settles civil allegations against its U.S. arm, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation and is the company's third big resolution with U.S. authorities in recent months.

South Korean biotech float stokes fears of a bubble

South Korean biotech SK Biopharmaceuticals soared on its stock market debut, raising concerns among some investors that a bubble is forming in the country's healthcare sector, the FT said on Thursday.
Shares in SK Biopharm, a unit of the SK Group conglomerate, rose 30% in Seoul trading on Thursday, or the maximum permitted under exchange regulations. That boosted the market value of the company, which makes drugs for epilepsy and neurological disorders, to $8.2 billion.
SK Biopharm's initial public offering was South Korea's biggest in three years and it heralds a rebound in corporate fundraising, some of which had been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. More companies are expected to go public following a 50% bounce in the local Kospi index since March, with South Korea's Covid-19 outbreak now under control.
The FT said biopharmaceutical stocks have surged since regulators temporarily banned short selling in March. Shares in Samsung Biologics, Celltrion and Celltrion Healthcare have double or tripled.
But it said some investors have cautioned stocks in the healthcare sector could be heading for a sharp correction.
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