Press review

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Tesla working on RNA 'micro-factories' for Covid-19 vaccine developer CureVac

Country : Europe, Germany, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, U.S.

Keywords :
BERLIN, 3 July (APM) - Tesla's chief executive Elon Musk announced on Twitter that the electric-car maker is working on RNA "micro-factories" with German biotech CureVac to accelerate the manufacturing of its potential Covid-19 vaccine, Handelsblatt reports on Friday (p23).
These units, built at Tesla Grohmann Automation in Germany, would be able to produce vaccine candidates and other mRNA-based therapies. It could enable rapid on-site delivery in regions where an epidemic breaks out.
CureVac in 2019 said that it would develop mobile, automated mRNA production units, which it calls "printers" - which Musk now called "RNA mini-factories". At that time, CureVac said it would work in cooperation with several international organisations and an additional partner from the mechanical engineering sector

Cell therapy developer Immatics raised $253 million in NASDAQ listing

German biotech Immatics has collected $253 million (€224 million) in fresh capital in the course of its initial public offering on the NASDAQ, Handelsblatt reports on Friday (p19).
In the first few trading hours, Immatics was valued at around 950 million dollars on the stock exchange.
The Tübingen-based biotech went public through a merger with Arya Sciences Acquisition Company, an already listed but operationally inactive company, a so-called "special purpose acquisition company".
Arya contributed $149 million to the merger and another $104 million was raised through a capital increase.
The investment company Dievini detained by billionaire Dietmar Hopp remains the largest single shareholder with a stake of around 25% (compared to around 40% before) while the brothers Andreas and Thomas Strüngmann detained 7%.
The money will be used to expand Immatics' research in the field of cell therapies against cancer, including adoptive cell therapies and TCR-T cell therapies.

Singapur invests in Germany's BioNTech

Singapur's state funds Temasek has contributed an undisclosed amount to a successful $250 million financing round of Germany's Covid-19 vaccine developer BioNTech, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reported on Tuesday (p21&37).
"We think that [Singapur's] long-term investment approach, its global presence and its experience in biotechnology goes well with our vision of building up a world-leading biotech company," BioNTech's chief executive Ugur Sahin told FAZ.

Hospital-made CAR-T therapies could foster independency from pharma industry

Hospital-made CAR-T cell therapies could help make healthcare systems more independent from the pharma industry and save important sums, SZ reported on Monday (p16).
Switzerland's cancer research foundation Krebsforschung Schweiz estimates that these 'home-made' therapies cost about a third of the €275,000 and €282,000 for the two approved therapies, Novartis' Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) and Gilead's Yescarta (axicabtagen ciloleucel), respectively.
Swiss university hospitals and cancer centres have therefore created a platform to roll out clinical trials on hospital-made CAR-T therapies in a number of tumour types, such as melanoma, cervical cancer or head and neck tumours.
University hospitals should be able to use their research facilities to manufacture therapies to prevent supply bottlenecks, according to the German university hospitals' alliance VUD.

Concept for e-prescription presented in Germany

State-owned software provider Gematik has presented its concept for an e-prescription for Germany that will be introduced in summer 2021, FAZ reported on Tuesday (p16).
The introduction is a "precursor" of the advanced functions of the electronic health record (HER), which was conceived in 2004 and will be introduced in January 2021 with basic functions, FAZ said.

Roche Germany provides Covid-19 antibody test at low price to collect medical data

Roche has decided to provide its Covid-19 antibody test at a low price of €1.40 in Germany so it has the "power over medical information" and can base its drug development on these data, FAZ reported on Sunday (p53).
Roche has understood for a long time that the link between diagnostics and drug therapy becomes closer, FAZ said.
The price has been criticised by competitors as being a "dumping price", as it is so low it can only be sustainable via scaling effects. Also, competitors criticised Health Minister Jens Spahn and Bavarian Minister-President Markus Söder participation in Roche's press event upon approval.
Germany's laboratory diagnostics market has become an "elimination competition", where "EU-wide chains" such as Synlab or Amedes and multinational suppliers, such as Abbott, Siemens or Roche prevail.

International Covid-19 fundraising event collects €6.15 billion for vaccines, therapies and tests

A Saturday international Covid-19 fundraising event has collected €6.15 billion, consisting of €1.3 billion payments to support vaccine, drug and test development and €4.9 billion credit guarantees made by the European Investment Bank and the European Commission, FAZ (p2) and Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) (p7) reported on Monday.
Germany promised additional a contribution of €383 million after €525 in May. For the first time, the U.S. has participated in a Covid-19 fundraising event. In total, funds of €15.9 billion have been raised to battle the Covid-19 pandemic, SZ said.

German vial manufacturer ramps up production for Covid-19 vaccines

Germany's Schott, the world leader in glass vial manufacturing for drugs and vaccines, is ramping up its production for Covid-19 vaccines, FAZ reported on Tuesday (p22).
The chief executives of the three top glass vial manufacturers, Germany's Schott and Gerresheimer and Italy's Stavanato, are confident they can supply the quantities needed of 780 million glass vials à ten vaccine doses.
The three companies manufacture 50 billion or 90% of global supplies of glass containers for pharmaceuticals, FAZ said.

U.S. deal on Gilead's remdesivir does not jeopardise Europe's supply

The deal made between Gilead and the U.S. Department of Health (HHS) to secure treatment courses of Covid-19 drug remdesivir for U.S. hospitals through September does not jeopardise Europe's supply, said Handelsblatt on Thursday (p19).
U.S. Health Minister Alex Azar has said that the agreement struck by President Donald Trump, which could secure more than 500,000 treatment courses through September, is an "amazing deal", FAZ (p2&22) and SZ (p2) said on Thursday (APMHE 67943).
The immediate need for a Covid-19 treatment in Europe is currently lower than in the U.S. as new infection rates in Europe are significantly lower
Also, the German Ministry of Health said that there are still enough reserves as the government had stockpiled remdesivir at an early stage. (APMHE 68008)
The EU approval under the brand name Veklury is expected before the en,d of the week, said Handelsblatt.

Gilead sets a lower than expected price for remdesivir

Gilead has set a lower than expected price for its Covid-19 drug remdesivir at $2,340 for a six-day therapy in industrialized countries, Handelsblatt said on Wednesday (p27).
Gilead has "surprised experts in a positive way" by deciding "a reasonable compromise", below the estimates of several analysts and at a level that some U.S. institutes regard as cost-effective.
Nevertheless, remdesivir's price should still be high enough to enable Gilead to achieve a solid return on investment despite its complex manufacturing process. But it is also low enough to avoid an outcry from health politicians.

Hopes in antibody-based therapy against Covid-19

Therapies based on antibodies isolated from recovered Covid-19 patients' blood are seen as a great hope, Der Spiegel said on Saturday (p102).
At least four monoclonal antibody therapies are already being tested in humans. They are developed by the Chinese start-up Shanghai Junshi Bioscience (APMHE 67205), Singapore's Tychan, AbCellera Biologicals in partnership with Lilly (APMHE 67575) and Regeneron, working on an antibody cocktail therapeutic (APMHE 67724).
"We think that antibodies could be a crucial bridging technology until a vaccine is available," Regeneron said.
Having several therapies under development is good as "no single manufacturer can meet all the requirements", Dennis Burton from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California told Der Spiegel.
"It is one of our goals to develop broadly effective therapies," that could also help in case of a new pandemic with another coronavirus, Burton added

Novartis pays $729 and $ 345 million fines for bribery

Novartis has agreed to pay fines of $729 million and $345 million to U.S. authorities so that litigation will be suspended, which was based on allegations of bribery of U.S., Greek and Vietnamese physicians, FAZ reported on Saturday (p22) and Friday (p19) (APMHE 67907, APMHE 67993).
The Swiss pharma and its former eyecare business Alcon said they will pay $345 million to resolve U.S. criminal charges that they bribed doctors, hospitals and clinics in Greece and Vietnam to prescribe their drugs and use their surgical products.
Also, between 2002 and 2014, Novartis spent hundreds of dollars each year for so-called 'speaker programmes' for U.S. physicians, including speaking fees, expensive meals and spirits, according to the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss.
Novartis has agreed to organise information events for physicians only via webcast in the next five years, while past events have taken place in luxury hotels, vineyards and golf clubs, with only a few minutes of product presentation, FAZ said.

Gilead develops new promising HIV drug

Capsid inhibitor GS-6207 developed Gilead against HIV 1 has shown "very impressive" results, reports Die Welt on Friday (p20)
Phase I data published in Nature demonstrate the potential of GS-6207 as a long-acting agent to treat or prevent infection with HIV.
These data establish GS-6207 as a first-in-class HIV-1 capsid inhibitor with potent antiviral activity against both wild-type virus and variants that are resistant to current antiretroviral agents, authors said.
Data showed that it remains active in the body for more than six months after a single injection.
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