💊 A Pandemic Accord draft no one can agree on; Bangladesh breaks its own record; Merck's Keytruda achieves a first
#452 | A climate declaration draft ignores fossil fuels; The EU can't escape bird flu; Pinning glioblastomas on mitochondrial proteins
Hello, and welcome back to The Kable. First things first: Gaza. The WHO has strongly condemned the attack on Al Ahli Arab Hospital in the North of the Gaza Strip – an attack which is a direct violation of international humanitarian law. The hospital, which was still operational during the attack, sheltered patients, health and caregivers, and internally displaced civilians. The attack resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives and many more injuries. Apart from this attack, at least 24 Gazan health facilities have been affected since the escalation of the violence, with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health lamenting that “Gaza’s medical infrastructure has been irreparably damaged” with limited access to medical supplies and dire conditions that do not allow healthcare providers to provide timely and quality care. With Israel even preventing the entry of essential supplies like food, water, fuel, and medicines into Gaza, the UN Special Rapporteur has stressed that after decades of military occupation of Palestine, “steps to realising the right to self-determination of Palestinians is linked to their dignity and sovereignty.”
Private equity firm LeapFrog Investments intends to raise $1 billion for a new fund targeting businesses in “global growth markets”. The European Investment Bank and the International Finance Corporation have already committed $60 million and $50 million, respectively, to the fund. LeapFrog will make initial investments of between $30 million and $70 million in 18 to 20 high-growth businesses, targeting healthcare and financial services businesses in Africa, which is set to receive about 40% of the funding allocations. The fund has already invested in Sun King, one of the largest off-grid solar energy companies in Africa. Going forward, it will also invest in South Asia and Southeast Asia.
The Government of Mauritius has a vision. A vision to establish itself as the region's medical, pharma, and biotech hub. The country wants to invest in clinical research and the domestic manufacturing of medicines and vaccines for both local and international markets.
Bangladesh has set a staggering record. Not a good one, though. With 244,000+ dengue patients being hospitalised nationwide this year, the number has crossed the total number of hospitalised patients in the past 23 years since the country has been keeping records.
In Singapore, medtech firm Leica Microsystems has revealed its new $60 million manufacturing and R&D facility meant to produce surgical and industrial microscopes for export.
In Japan, Astellas Pharma, BioLabs Global, and Mitsui Fudosan have agreed to enhance the life science ecosystem in the cities of Tsukuba and Kashiwa-no-ha. Under the agreement, the partners will advance SakuLab-Tsukuba, an open innovation hub launched by Astellas this month.
Roche Pharma India has launched its Clinical Trial Excellence project in India to strengthen the capabilities of public health institutions to conduct clinical trials and drug research. In the first phase of the programme, Roche aims to partner with 10 government hospitals. The hope is that these government hospitals will become Centres of Excellence for Clinical Research.
Meanwhile, India’s DeepTek.ai has received US FDA clearance for its chest X-ray AI solution called CXR Analyser. The technology uses deep learning algorithms to detect suspicious lesions in chest X-rays, helping clinicians to make precise interpretations. It can be used to analyse a wide range of lung, pleural and cardiac pathologies and foreign bodies in the chest area. Hundreds of thousands of people in the APAC region have already been screened for tuberculosis using the technology.
Speaking of the US FDA, the agency has published draft guidance on how it intends to use alternative tools to supplement inspections to assess drug manufacturing facilities identified in pending marketing applications. These alternative tools will help the FDA make timely application decisions. The FDA is accepting comments on the draft guidance here until 21 November.
More FDA news, as the agency has approved expanded use of Merck’s Keytruda in patients with resectable non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Keytruda is now the first PD1-blocking therapy to be approved for use both pre- and post-surgery to shrink lung tumours. Keytruda now also has 6 indications in NSCLC.
Meanwhile, Thermo Fisher Scientific is acquiring Olink, a company that provides proteomics analysis tools and services for drug discovery research, for about $3.1 billion.
Eli Lilly is acquiring yet another ADC biotech, France-based Mablink Bioscience, which is a partner of Emergence Therapeutics, the other European ADC biotech that Lilly picked up earlier in its shopping spree this year.
On the other hand, rather than going for an outright acquisition, Gilead Sciences is paying Assembly Biosciences $100 million upfront for opt-in rights on all the biotech’s current and future programmes. The opt-ins are worth at least $45 million per programme and up to $330 million in milestone payments per programme.
Roche is forging a partnership with biotech Monte Rosa for an upfront payment of $50 million and potential future payments surpassing $2 billion. This deal is for the use of Monte Rosa’s QuEEN platform to target cancer and neurological diseases which were previously considered undruggable. This is Roche’s second molecular glue deal in a month.