Press review

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U.S. citizens 'will not be compelled to have Covid-19 vaccine'

LONDON, 21 Aug (APM) - Anthony Fauci, one of the leading U.S. government figures working on the Covid-19 pandemic, said on Wednesday during a talk with George Washington University that there will not be a federal mandate compelling the general public to be vaccinated, according to the Daily Mail.
He made his comments on Wednesday during a talk with George Washington University, the newspaper said.
The Mail also quoted an interview with Business Insider from Operation Warp Speed chief, Dr Moncef Slaoui, in which he said a Covid-19 vaccine could be widely available to much of the U.S. public as early as April 2021.
His programme aims to have a vaccine between then and June, which Slaoui believes will make it possible for life to return to some semblance of normality by the second half of next year.
Data on whether the six leading vaccine candidates appear to work should be available by the end of the year, he said.
Both Moderna and Pfizer are in late-stage trials, meaning they could have data on whether or not their vaccines work by October, ready to apply for U.S. approval.

Critics concerned over UK government's plans to scrap Public Health England

The Sunday Telegraph had an exclusive on the UK's plans to scrap Public Health England to be replaced by a new body designed to protect the country against a pandemic, by early September.
The paper said Health Secretary Matt Hancock will announce a merger of the pandemic response work of PHE with NHS Test and Trace into a new body, called the National Institute for Health Protection, modelled on Germany's Robert Koch Institute.
It comes weeks after Primer Minister Boris Johnson complained that the country's response to the pandemic had been "sluggish", said the Telegraph.
Other publications covered the response, including the Guardian, which quoted Sir Simon Wessely, the president of the Royal Society of Medicine and a former adviser to the government.
Wessely said: "PHE employs some of the best, brightest and most hardworking clinicians and experts we have. There are simply not enough of them, which can partly be explained by the steady reduction in funding over the last seven years.
"Perhaps we do need a more joined-up structure, but we should not scapegoat PHE for the failures in the system in which they are but one cog."
The Times on Monday quoted Duncan Selbie, the PHE's chief executive, who said: "This criticism of PHE’s response to testing is based on a misunderstanding about our role.
"The UK had no national diagnostic testing capabilities other than in the NHS at the outset of the pandemic. PHE does not do mass diagnostic testing. We operate national reference and research laboratories focused on novel and dangerous pathogens, and it was never at any stage our role to set the national testing strategy for the coronavirus pandemic. This responsibility rested with [the Department of Health and Social Care]."
The Guardian did a follow-up piece on Monday saying Dido Harding, a Conservative peer who heads up England's widely criticised test-and-trace system, has been chosen to run the new institute (APMHE 68579).

CureVac targets competitive price for Covid-19 vaccine

The FT at the weekend carried an interview with Pierre Kemula, the chief financial officer of Germany's CureVac, on their investigational Covid-19 vaccine (APMHE 68561).
He told the paper the design of the vaccine, which is developed using messenger RNA technology, means it could require lower doses. This would allow CureVac to have a competitive price for its product while preserving "some ethical margin", said Kemula.
He added that the company could not price its vaccine at cost as there should be a return for investors.

Sanofi in $3.4 billion deal for Principia Biopharma

Sanofi has agreed to buy Californian biotech Principia Biopharma for $3.4 billion, said the FT on Monday (APMHE 68559).
The paper said Principia is developing a promising treatment for multiple sclerosis.
He added that it is the second and largest acquisition by Sanofi's CEO Paul Hudson since he took over a year ago and that it reflects his strategy of focusing on speciality medicines for cancer and rare diseases.
The Times covered the story on Tuesday,

Covid-19 vaccine development is a 'marathon' - GSK and Sanofi execs

The Times on Monday carried an opinion piece from Thomas Triomphe, head of Sanofi Pasteur and Roger Connor, president of GlaxoSmithKline's global vaccines business, on the challenges of developing vaccines for Covid-19.
They said that no single effort alone will yield a vaccine that will protect everyone and that even when one is found, the "substantial challenges of scaling up supply to meet the global need become a critical obstacle".
"Rather than a sprint, think of this collection of worldwide efforts as a marathon, with many runners competing at a steady pace," they said. "Someone will cross the finish line first, but many will complete the race — private and public entities working together and aligned on a common goal."

Kodak shares fall after pharmaceuticals deal halted

The Telegraph on Monday had a feature on the challenges Kodak is facing after U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans to loan the company $765 million to shift from photograph to pharmaceuticals.
The paper said the deal has been put on hold (APMHE 68506), with the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation citing "serious concerns" over "recent allegations of wrongdoing".
Shares have fallen from a peak above $33 towards the end of July to closing last week at $8.43, said the article.
The paper noted that stock options handed to Kodak's CEO Jim Continenza the day before Trump’s announcement made him a "tidy sum almost instantly after the company’s share price rocketed, sparking questions over insider trading".

Merck & Co invests $1 billion in London R&D hub

Merck & Co has confirmed plans to build a £1 billion research hub in London, nearly three years after an initial announcement about investing in the UK, the FT said on Tuesday (APMHE 68577).
Merck said in late 2017 that it was planning to establish an R&D hub in London as part of the UK's Life Sciences Sector deal - a government scheme aimed at strengthening UK life sciences industry following Brexit.
The U.S. pharma giant previously said the aim was to build the London hub by 2020. However, the plan has taken longer than expected because few suitable sites were available, Merck told the FT.
The Times and the Telegraph covered the story on Wednesday.

Plasma could help treat Covid-19 patients

Plasma from recovered Covid-19 patients could improve survival chances, The Times said on Tuesday.
The paper covered the results of a study of thousands of U.S. patients who were given convalescent plasma. It found that the higher the antibody levels in the plasma they received, the better their odds of recovery.
It noted that the study was not a randomised controlled trial, meaning that there was no control group of similar patients who did not receive the treatment, so its findings cannot be considered conclusive. However, experts described the news as "promising".

China administering Covid-19 vaccines before conclusion of trials

China has begun administering Covid-19 vaccines early to volunteers before clinical trials have concluded, The Telegraph said on Monday.
The paper referenced state media reports that vaccines would be offered to employees of China’s state-owned companies preparing to go abroad to countries where transmission rates were higher, such as Brazil.

Germany and UK leading Covid-19 vaccine race

The Telegraph on Tuesday had a story on efforts in the UK and Germany to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
It referenced an interview Sky News with Kate Bingham, chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, in which she said that two groups - one in Oxford and one in Mainz, Germany - were running head to head and may see a product approved before the end of the year.
"I think we have a shot of getting a vaccine this year," she said. "There's two potential candidates, one would be the Oxford candidate and the other one is the German vaccine from BioNTech."
These candidates are among six the UK has already ordered in various supply deals. Bingham said she was "very optimistic" about all six vaccines, which use four different technologies to fight Sars-Cov-2.

J&J plans to launch biggest Covid-19 vaccine trial

Johnson & Johnson is planning to start a late-stage clinical trial of its experimental coronavirus vaccine in up to 60,000 people worldwide in late September, the Mail said on Thursday.
If the company achieves its enrolment aim, which was reported on a U.S. government database, it would be the largest-ever study looking at a possible immunisation for the virus, the paper said.
Rival companies, such as Moderna Inc and Pfizer are only recruiting half as many volunteers, about 30,000 each for their respective late-stage studies.

Australia in vaccine supply deal with AstraZeneca

Australia has reached an agreement with AstraZeneca to supply the coronavirus vaccine it is developing with Oxford University, said the Guardian on Tuesday.
The paper reported comments from Prime Minister Scott Morrison that the vaccine is "one of the most advanced and promising in the world".
He added: "There is no guarantee that this, or any other, vaccine will be successful, which is why we are continuing our discussions with many parties around the world while backing our own researches at the same time to find a vaccine."
The Guardian followed this on Wednesday with a story that Morrison clarified a Covid-19 vaccine would not be compulsory after experts expressed concern that earlier talk of "mandatory" vaccination might drive hesitant Australians away.
This followed earlier comments that he "would expect it to be as mandatory as you can possibly make", with exemptions on medical grounds.
The government’s language had concerned leading experts on vaccine hesitancy and refusal, who feared such a discussion was dangerous and could drive some Australians away, given the vaccine was not yet proven effective and safe, said the Guardian.

WHO calls on wealthier counties to support global coronavirus vaccine programme

The FT on Tuesday reported on comments by the World Health Organization (WHO) that wealthier member states should join its Covid-19 vaccine facility by the end of August to ensure there is enough money for a global immunisation programme.
The WHO's programme, which is known as Covax and co-led by Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), aims to ensure the equitable global distribution of 2 billion doses of vaccines by the end of 2021, said the FT. However, it has "failed to build momentum", added the paper.
WHO said in July that Gavi had raised close to $600 million form participating countries and the private sector against its initial target of $2 billion.
The FT quoted Manuel Martin, policy adviser at Medecins Sans Frontieres: "The deadline is fast approaching and we're quite concerned that [Covax] might not plug the funding gap."

Sinopharm chair says Covid-19 vaccine may be on market by end of 2020

The Daily Mail Tuesday reported that Sinopharm's Covid-19 vaccine may be on the market by December and cost just £100 for two doses.
The paper quoted Liu Jingzhen, chairman of the state-backed Chinese firm, who said it may be able to make 220 million doses of the vaccine a year.
The vaccine is still under investigation after showing it can trigger antibodies in volunteers in early studies. It has also been found to be safe.
The article quoted Jinzhen: "I have personally received two shots of the vaccine, there were no side effects.
"After the inactivated vaccine enters the market, its price will not be too high, it will be around several hundred yuan. Two shots will cost about 1,000 yuan (about $144/£100)."

J&J snaps up Momenta

The FT on Wednesday covered Johnson & Johnson's agreed $6.5 billion deal for autoimmune specialist Momenta Therapeutics. (APMHE 68591)
The paper said the deal will give J&J access to Momenta's pipeline of products, including nipocalimab, which it describes as a promising treatment for the rare muscular disease myasthenia gravis that is also being tested against other autoimmune disorders.

Purdue Pharma 'escaped serious charges over opioid in 2006'

The Guardian on Wednesday reported that it has obtained a Department of Justice internal memorandum showing that government prosecutors found evidence executives at Purdue Pharma may have committed multiple crimes, including wire fraud and money laundering, to boost sales of its billion-dollar OxyContin opioid.
The document comes to light as a new claim by U.S. states for $2.2 trillion for harm from the drugmaker's alleged role in the U.S. opioid epidemic was disclosed on Monday as part of Purdue's bankruptcy proceedings.
U.S. states accuse Purdue of pushing prescription painkillers on U.S. doctors and patients while playing down the risks of abuse and overdose. The filings cite more than 200,000 deaths in the U.S. tied directly to prescription opioids between 1999 and 2016.
The six-page document, dated 6 October 2006, which has been sought by two separate Senate committees, comes as U.S. state attorneys general apply increasing pressure on Purdue for the full disclosure of its practices ahead of a Purdue-proposed deal to place the company into a public trust.
The document confirms that a $654 million settlement between Purdue Frederick - a company affiliated with Purdue Pharma at the time - and the government over deceptive marketing claims in mid-2007, fell far short of what prosecutors had actually sought just six months earlier, the Guardian said.
The memo suggests that had the government accepted prosecutors' recommendations and brought a criminal prosecution, Purdue - which the DoJ then estimated to be making $100 million a month - might have been put out of business, senior executives jailed and perhaps tens of thousands of opioid-related deaths avoided, the paper reported.
Instead, the government agreed to limit Purdue's exposure to claims of deceptive marketing to six years, from 1996, when the drug was introduced with first-year sales of $48 million, to 2001, when sales had already reached $1.1 billion. Over that period, the government estimated, Purdue's revenue from OxyContin sales of $2.8 billion.
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