Press review

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German pharma complains about competitive disadvantages in drug research

BERLIN, 17 July (APM) - German pharma association vfa sees a "dangerous trend" as the country is losing ground in drug research, particularly in relation to the U.S. and Asia, says Handelsblatt on Friday (p14).
"The procedures for the development of new drugs in Germany are often too lengthy," while the approval of clinical trials take too long and regulators do not have enough qualified personnel, vfa chair Han Steutel told Handelsblatt.
The pharma association set out its expectations in a seven-point document for the government.
VFa is demanding that trade tax and corporate income tax be lowered and stronger state support for the creation of innovative start-ups in the pharmaceutical sector.
The industry also sees a disadvantage in the use of health data for research as companies will not have access to the national research data centre built from payers' billing data (APMHE 67422).
Steutel also calls for a European health technology assessment (HTA) as "each country currently does its own thing when evaluating the additional benefit of a new drug".

Merck KGaA's Belen Garijo seen as potential successor to CEO Stefan Oschmann

Merck KGaA's head of pharma Belen Garijo has the best chances of succeeding chief executive Stefan Oschmann, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) said on Thursday (p20).
Garijo's promotion to vice chairman (APMHE 68155) is a clear sign, given the words chosen by Johannes Baillou, chairman of the Board of Partners of E. Merck KG and speaker for the family shareholders.
Baillou praised Garijo's "outstanding achievements" for the healthcare business and "her strong leadership in the critical corporate functions human resources and environment, health, safety, security, quality", FAZ noted.

Covid-19 vaccine in Russian spies' sights

Secret services from UK, U.S. and Canada have accused Russian hackers of spying on research on Covid-19 vaccines, Süddeutsche Zeitung says on Friday (p9).
In an unusual move, the British National Centre for Cyber Security and the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) published statements saying that the Russian hacker group APT29, also known as 'Cozy Bear', tried to gain access to research facilities looking for a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.
The attackers scanned IP addresses of research centres found on the web for vulnerabilities and then tried to penetrate their networks.
According to the U.S. and UK services, Cozy Bear is an elite hacker troop of the Russian secret service responsible for previous cyber attacks, for example, targeting the U.S. Dermocrats in 2016.
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin denied the allegations.

BioNTech and Pfizer get U.S. fast track designation for two Covid-19 candidates

German biotech BioNTech and U.S. partner Pfizer have cleared another important hurdle on the way to developing a vaccine against Covid-19 by obtaining U.S. fast track designation for two of its candidates, said FAZ (p33) and Handelsblatt (p23) on Tuesday. (APMHE 68151)
This will accelerate the complex approval process that their messenger RNA-based vaccines have to go through, said FAZ.
The status was granted based on preliminary study data from Germany and the U.S. on the BNT162 programme. BioNTech plans to start a Phase III trial with up to 30,000 volunteers in July.

Enthusiasm over Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine Phase I results

Investors have welcomed Moderna's Phase I Covid-19 vaccine results, although many questions remain unanswered at the stage of development, reported Handelsblatt (p22) and SZ (p22) on Thursday.
The share price rose by up to 11% after the publication of the data, welcoming the fact that Moderna's vaccine candidate generated "a solid immune response" in 45 healthy Phase I volunteers, Handelsblatt said (APMHE 68176)
Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go before a vaccine is available, because the decisive hurdle of large-scale Phase III trials is still ahead, SZ said.
The detailed results largely confirm the initial statements published in mid-May on eight patients only. Moderna came under criticism at the time because it immediately used the positive stock market reaction to this for a larger funding increase, Handelsblatt noted.
Moderna's results are at the same level as those presented by the German company BioNTech and its partner Pfizer for their vaccine candidate at the beginning of July.
Both plan to start a large Phase III study with around 30,000 participants in July.

Thermo Fisher sweetens bid for Qiagen

Thermo Fisher has sweetened its offer to buy genetic testing and molecular diagnostic company Qiagen by about 10% to $11.2 billion to avoid failing in its takeover ambitions, say Handelsblatt (p23), FAZ (p21) and SZ (p26) on Friday.
Thermo Fischer is offering €43 instead of €39 a share after some Qiagen investors put pressure on Thermo Fisher, reported Handelsblatt on Monday (p19) and FAZ on Wednesday (p18).
Until the beginning of this week, only 2% of Qiagen shareholders had accepted the offer from the U.S. firm.
The initial bid was presented in March when Qiagen was under pressure from disappointing business (APMHE 66419). In the meantime, however, it is benefiting from the continuing high demand for coronavirus tests.

Packaging company Gerresheimer benefits from Covid crisis

The business of German packaging manufacturer Gerresheimer is being boosted by greater demand on injection vials for vaccines due to the coronavirus pandemic, said FAZ on Wednesday (p18).
"We are prepared for the high demand for injection vials for the forthcoming vaccination campaigns and are additionally expanding our capacities," chief executive Dietmar Siemssen said on Tuesday during the second quarter results conference call.
Gerresheimer can meet a third of the additional demand in the world market, likely to be between 2 and 2.5 billion units in the next two years for corona vaccines, he said.

Roche strengthens its position in cancer with Blueprint deal

Roche has strengthened its leading position in cancer therapy in the $1.7 billion deal agreed with Blueprint on pralsetinib, Handelsblatt said on Wednesday (p26) (APMHE 68159).
Roche has acquired the distribution rights outside the U.S. and China while the two partners intend to share the business in the U.S. Analysts believe that pralsetinib will generate annual sales of more than $1 billion.
The deal confirms the unbroken interest in new anti-cancer compounds and the trend towards precision oncology.
Roche is the world's largest supplier of cancer drugs with $28 billion sales and a pioneer in the field of targeted cancer therapies, Handelsblatt said.
It is working with BioNTech on individualised cancer vaccines and is heavily involved in gene-based cancer diagnostics through its subsidiary Foundation Medicines.

German chemical-pharma managers in good mood

The mood among the German chemical and pharmaceutical industry is holding up surprisingly well in the corona crisis, FAZ reported on Tuesday (p18)
In the annual survey conducted by their lobby VAA, middle managers and academics rated their respective employers with a better mark than that of the previous year.
The survey assessing employers' strategy, corporate culture, motivation and working conditions has proved to be a reliable indicator on the mood in the industry, often corelated to restructuring.
Among pharma companies, Boehringer Ingelheim is ranked third, after chemical supplier Covestro and Schott. Bayer has moved up four places to rank eight after falling in 2019 as a consequence of legal disputes following the acquisition of U.S. group Monsanto.
Sanofi occupies 22 position, a position that mirrors concerns about the future of its Frankfurt location, FAZ said.
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