Press review

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Covid-19 epidemic highlights need for drug production to relocate to Europe, says French press

PARIS, 17 July (APM) - The Covid-19 epidemic has highlighted the need for Europe to be less dependent on active drug ingredients manufactured in Asia, reported Le Figaro on Thursday (pp.24-25).
While supply problems from this issue were a problem beforehand, the epidemic has forced authorities to act, with French President Emmanuel Macron announcing funds of €200 million to ''finance production infrastructures such as research and development''. More funding could follow in the autumn.
While salary increases and the set up of environmental regulations mean China is not as attractive financially for manufacturers as it once was - there is no longer a 10-20% price difference in the cost of manufacturing drugs - it will not be easy to re-locate drug manufacturing.
Building a factory requires several hundreds of millions of euros and takes three to five years. Hence the need for targeted investment, it is noted in the paper.
However, instead of building new factories, this investment would most likely go to modernising existing sites and investing in new technology.

Moderna to launch Phase III for Covid-19 vaccine

Moderna has announced it will start Phase III testing of its Covid-19 vaccine on 27 July, reported Les Echos on Thursday (p.20).
The test will include 30,000 volunteers - half of whom will receive the vaccine and half a placebo - who will be monitored for two years. As such, the results will not be available before October 2022 (APMHE 68176).
However, this does not mean the vaccine will not be available earlier. If it is approved under an urgent authorisation procedure, it could be launched at the end of this year or the beginning of 2021, with the U.S. investment bank Jefferies believing that 50 million people could be vaccinated in 2021.
With an estimated price of $50 per dose, it could generate sales of $5 billion for Moderna in 2021. Le Parisien also covers the story on Friday (p.3).

Gilead's Biktarvy off to flying start

Gilead's Biktarvy is off to an impressive start, reported Les Echos on Wednesday (p.20).
The triple-therapy for HIV-AIDS had $1.69 billion in sales in the first quarter, over double the sales in the same period in 2019 and is set to reach $5.5 billion in sales by the end of the year, making it the number one drug in Gilead's portfolio for HIV-AIDS.
The drug's success, with sales set to reach $7.5 billion by 2024, is thanks to a good product and a clever marketing strategy, added the paper.
However, it faces competition from ViiV Healthcare, whose dual therapies are also effective but have fewer adverse events.
Gilead is hoping that not only will new patients take Biktarvy, but also patients who were taking its previous HIV drugs, whose patents are about to expire. The pharma is also hoping that Biktarvy will compensate for its hepatitis C drugs, whose market is shrinking due to cures and price competition.

ViiV hopes to challenge Gilead's domination of HIV market

ViiV Healthcare is hoping to challenge Gilead's domination of the HIV market, reported Les Echos on Wednesday (p.20) with two new drugs.
The first - Rukobia (fostemsavir) - is intended to treat patients with multi-drug resistant HIV and was recently approved in the U.S (APMHE 68019). The second - Vocabria (cabotegravir) - was presented at the recent international AIDS conference as a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) regime that is as effective as Gilead's Truvada, but is administered as a once every two months injection rather than a daily tablet.
ViiV's strategy for taking part of the 75% market share held by Gilead is to point out that the dual therapies it specialises in are as effective as triple therapies, but potentially have fewer side effects.

Pharma companies unite to create antibiotics R&D fund

Over 20 large pharmaceutical companies have come together to create an R&D fund to develop new antibiotics, reported Les Echos on Monday (p.14).
The fund has been given $1 billion with the aim of launching two to four new antibiotics by the end of the decade (APMHE 68110).
The fund is planning to invest in biotechs researching new antibiotics by given them the support and resources of big companies.
Big pharma are unwilling to invest in antimicrobe resistance (AMR) noted the paper, because as a sector it is not very profitable.

Biotech Da Voltera looking to adsorbent to counter AMR

French biotech Da Voltera is hoping to benefit from the newly announced antimicrobe resistance (AMR) fund (APMHE 68110) to develop DAV132 - an adsorbent designed to stop bacteria developing resistance, reported Les Echos on Monday (p.14).
The adsorbent will sit in the colon and "mop up" residual antibiotics which have not passed into the bloodstream. Studies have shown that these antibiotics can destabilise the microbiome, lead to AMR and weaken patient immune systems.
A Phase II has shown the efficacy of DAV132 in patients taking antibiotics at significant risk of Clostridium difficile and it is hoping to start a Phase III by the end of the year.

Pierre Fabre sells Argentina factory

Pierre Fabre has sold its factory in Argentina, Les Echos reports in a brief on Friday (p.18).
The site - which employs 75 people and manufactures an active ingredient for arthritis drugs - will be taken over by local pharma Sidus by the end of summer.
Pierre Fabre has already sold a drug packaging site in Vietnam after deciding to strengthen its industrial presence in France.

Russia denies hacking UK pharma for Covid-19 vaccine information

Russia denied on Thursday that it was behind any attempts to steal information from ongoing research on Covid-19 vaccines, reports Les Echos in a brief on Friday (p.13).
Dmitri Peskov, spokesperson for the Russian President, said that the country had no information on who could have hacked pharma companies or research centres in the UK and that it rejected the accusations made.
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