Press review


UK accuses Russia of trying to steal Covid-19 vaccine research

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LONDON, 17 July (APM) - The government has accused Russia of trying to steal the UK's research into a Covid-19 vaccine in a state-sponsored cyber attack, the press reported widely on Thursday.
The government has accused Russia of trying to steal the UK's research into a Covid-19 vaccine in a state-sponsored cyber attack, the press reported widely on Thursday.
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) told Prime Minister Boris Johnson it had the "highest level of confidence" the Kremlin was behind the "ongoing" attack, which was also verified by the U.S. and Canada, the Telegraph reported on Thursday.
Both Oxford University and Imperial College London, the two UK teams trying to develop a vaccine, are understood to have been targeted. Security sources refused to say whether any attempts to steal information had been successful.
The NCSC said the hack was part of an ongoing campaign of "malicious activity" that began in around February or March when coronavirus became an international pandemic.
Intelligence sources said knowledge of the attacks "is at the highest levels" in Russia, directly implicating President Vladimir Putin in the plot.
It named the hackers as a group called APT-29, better known by the nicknames Cozy Bear and The Dukes, and said for the first time that the group was part of the Russian intelligence service.

UK builds medicines' stockpile in case of second Covid wave

The Financial Times on Thursday reported that the UK government is building a medicines' stockpile worth almost £100 million to boost supplies of vital drugs ahead of a potential second wave of coronavirus.
The paper said it has seen a tender notice listing 46 different medicines, spanning drugs used in intensive care and for end-of-life patients, as well as antibiotics, with a total value of £96 million. NHS England's annual medicines bill is £16 billion and covers 12,000 different medicines.
The initial contract, expected in August, will be for 12 months "with the option to extend annually for a further two years", the document says.
The FT said industry insiders told it that at the peak of the UK's pandemic, it was at times touch and go as to whether sufficient supplies of medicines would arrive in time, although in the event, demand was always met. The NHS was able to draw on a stockpile of medicines compiled in anticipation of a potential no-deal Brexit, to ease the strain on supplies. (APMHE 66450)

J&J Q2 profits slump 35% from pandemic

Also on Thursday, the FT reported Johnson & Johnson's second-quarter results, showing a 35% drop in second-quarter earnings as the pandemic delayed elective procedures and hit sales of medical devices and beauty products. (APMHE 68191)
It said J&J reported that the worst impact of the pandemic was behind it.

Scientists question lasting immunity from Covid-19 vaccine

Scientists are questioning whether waning immunity to Covid-19 could affect how useful a vaccine will be in tackling the pandemic, even as investors welcomed new positive early trial data, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.
A study from King's College London, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, showed recovered patients' antibodies declined significantly within months of infection, raising the critical issue of how long a vaccine could prevent people catching the disease, it said. 
The concerns come as shares in Moderna rose 6% Wednesday after the U.S. biotech company shared positive data from its phase one trial showing all 45 participants had produced antibodies after taking its vaccine candidate. 
Herb Sewell, emeritus professor in immunology at the University of Nottingham and a consultant immunologist, said the King's College study appeared to show that antibodies to the virus disappeared more quickly than other coronaviruses, such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which had an immune response that lasted at least a couple of years. 
"If the vaccine response drops off like the natural response does, it does mean we'd have to give repeat ones, he said. 

Positive results for Moderna and Oxford University's vaccines

The FT report was published two days after Moderna posted positive results for its experimental coronavirus vaccine (APMHE 68176), which were reported in both the Telegraph and the FT on Tuesday.
The vaccine induced antibody responses against the coronavirus in all 45 participants in the first cohort of a Phase I human trial run by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. A Phase III study of the vaccine is expected to begin this month.
And on Thursday, the Telegraph reported in an 'exclusive' that University of Oxford scientists believe they have made a breakthrough in their quest for a Covid-19 vaccine after discovering that their candidate triggers a response that may offer a "double defence" against the virus. (APMHE 68186)
Phase I trials of the Oxford vaccine have shown that it generates an immune response against the disease, the Telegraph says it has learned.
It quoted a "senior" source as saying: "I can tell you that we now know the Oxford vaccine covers both bases - it produces both a T cell and an antibody response."

Pharmacists will be able to give out vaccine in UK

Pharmacists will be able to give out Covid-19 jabs to speed up a nation-wide roll out, the Mail on Thursday quoted UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock as saying.
He claimed pharmacists in the UK would play a "massive role" when the government has a Covid-19 vaccination programme.
High street pharmacies are already able to give out jabs for the flu, chickenpox, HPV, and meningitis, as well as injections needed for overseas travel.

Sage expert blasts 'chaotic' and politicised Covid drug trials

The research community needs "to take a harsh look at ourselves" as more than a third of trials have been too small to provide conclusive answers, infectious diseases expert Sir Jeremy Farrar, said, the Telegraph reported on Thursday.
Farrar, a member of the UK's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and director of the Wellcome Trust, told a virtual briefing on Thursday that clinical research into potential coronavirus treatments has at times been "chaotic" and politicised.
He flagged the success of the UK's Recovery trial, the world's largest randomised clinical trial of potential Covid-19 treatments and the World Health Organization's Solidarity study, which has recruited nearly 5,500 patients in more than 20 countries across the globe.
But Farrar added that four in 10 trials have been too small to provide definitive answers, while a lack of international coordination may have hampered progress, the paper reported.
He also accused President Donald Trump's enthusiasm for hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus wonder drug has slowed down global efforts to beat the disease, a UK Government scientist suggested today.
Sir Jeremy Farrar implied the U.S. President's enthusiasm about the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which has since been proven not to have any effect on Covid-19 patients, "delayed and slowed down our progress in developing treatments", the Mail reported on Tuesday.

Covid-19 offers pharma 'shot at redemption'

The Financial Times on Sunday featured an opinion piece saying the Covid-19 pandemic has given the pharma industry a "shot at redemption".
The article suggested that the industry has taken reputation hit after media reports of price gouging and fuelling the opioid abuse epidemic in the U.S.
However, this is changing as the public realise the importance of industry in finding a vaccine and treatments for Covid-19.

AstraZeneca investigating antibody for coronavirus

The Times on Monday covered research by AstraZeneca on an antibody treatment that could be used to protect older people from the coronavirus.
The paper said researchers are investigating a three-minute infusion of antibodies that could ward off infection for up to six months.
The article quoted Sir Mene Pangalos, who leads pharmaceutical discovery research at Astrazeneca. "There’s a population who are elderly that [may not] get a particularly good immune response to the vaccine. In those instances you might want to prophylactically treat those patients with an antibody to give them additional protection."

EU rejects UK proposals on mutual regulatory recognition

The Telegraph at the weekend said that Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, has rejected UK calls for mutual regulatory recognition on medicines and medical devices during negotiations on the post-Brexit free trade agreement.
The paper said the EU has agreements on batch testing of medicines with the U.S., Switzerland, Japan, Canada, Israel, Australia and New Zealand on public health grounds but has refused to grant the UK similar terms.

GSK CEO calls for rethink on development reward of new antibiotics

The FT on Monday carried a piece written by GlaxoSmithKline's chief executive Emma Walmsley on how industry can take learnings from Covid-19 to tackle antimicrobial resistance.
She discussed the need for new incentives to encourage research in the area, saying the current pipeline of antibiotics is "insufficient to treat future resistant infections".
Walmsley noted the launch last week of the industry's $1 billion AMR Action fund, which she described as an important effort to bridge the R&D gap.
Wider changes are needed, however, she said, highlighting the UK's pilot to develop a subscription model for purchasing new antibiotics.
"Done right, this could create financial rewards that reflect the value of new antibiotics to society and share the uncertainty of future resistance rates between company and payer," she said.

Coronavirus vaccine trial roundup

The Telegraph on Tuesday featured a report on the development of vaccines for coronavirus, noting that around 170 vaccine candidates are now in development, with 15 already in human trials.
The paper looked at UK trials, including a candidate being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca and at Imperial College London.
Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, said "several hundred" Britons have now been given the experimental jab, with hopes that "signals" about whether it works could emerge by mid-June.
It added Imperial College London is "making good progress" and would look to move into clinical trials for a vaccine by mid-June, with larger scale trials in October.
U.S. trials include an RNA-based candidate from Moderna. Interim Phase I data has suggested it can elicit an immune response and a second phase of trials with around 600 people will begin soon.
Other candidates mentioned in the article include programmes from GSK and Sanofi, CureVac, China National Biotec Group and Sinovac

FDA fast track for Pfizer/BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine candidates

Pfizer and BioNTech's experimental coronavirus vaccine candidates received 'fast track' status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Daily Mail said on Tuesday.
The U.S.-listed shares of the German firm climbed about 15%, while Pfizer's stock rose about 5%, said the paper.

Aspen offers to cut prices of cancer drugs as part of EU settlement

South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare has offered to cut the price of six cancer drugs by nearly 75% as part of a deal to settle a three-year European Commission investigation into alleged price gouging, The Times said on Wednesday.
The paper said the company bought several old medicines form GlaxoSmithKline and subsequently imposed large price increases in many European countries including the UK.
The EC then launched an investigation into these practices in 2017

GSK's blood cancer drug set to be given go-ahead

The Times on Thursday reported that GlaxoSmithKline's belantamab mafodotin looks set to be approved in the U.S. after advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave their backing to the drug for multiple myeloma. (APMHE 68170)

Thermo Fisher sweetens bid for Qiagen

Thermo Fisher sweetened its offer to buy Qiagen by nearly €1 billion, following a surge in demand for its coronavirus-testing equipment that led investors to push the diagnostics-maker to secure a higher takeover price, the FT said on Thursday.
However, the new agreement immediately came under fresh attack from hedge fund Davidson Kempner, which owns a 3.6%stake, saying it would not tender its shares, the paper added.



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