💊 Ginkgo partners with Merck; Nektar Therapeutics sues Eli Lilly; WHO issues a cold syrup alert
#401 | Predicting Alzheimer's risk; Throw away your sleep trackers; Breeding special mosquitoes
Hello, and welcome back to your favourite weekday life sciences newsletter. Today, we have updates about another lawsuit, another cost-cutting programme, another Covid variant, and another health worker strike. Shall we get straight to it then?
First, all roads seem to be leading back to China. Even for the pharmacy of the world, where dependence on China for bulk drug imports is over 65% and will likely remain high for the next couple of years, despite production-linked incentives.
With its expertise in cell engineering, protein characterization and process optimization, Ginkgo Bioworks has secured a biologic manufacturing deal worth up to $490 million with Merck. This is the second collab between the companies, which announced a project to improve Merck’s API manufacturing in October last year.
In 2017, Nektar Therapeutics and Eli Lilly partnered up to develop and potentially commercialise the drug Rezpegaldesleukin for various autoimmune diseases. After the deal was terminated, Nektar regained all rights to the drug earlier this year. Yesterday, Nektar sued Lilly, accusing the latter of breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, unfair competition and other wrongdoing. It said that its former partner had incorrectly reported early-stage data in eczema and psoriasis studies and also purchased another company, Dermira, with a competing drug candidate.
Meanwhile, the fall in pandemic-related demand is hurting BioNTech’s revenue terribly. From €3.2 billion a year ago, Q2 revenue has dropped to €167.7 million. The company has cut its projected R&D budget for the year to between €2 billion and 2.2 billion.
After the EG.5.1 Covid variant was first flagged last month, it is spreading rapidly in the UK. Latest data indicates that the variant accounts for 14.6% of all Covid cases in the country, but there is no indication that it is any more severe than previous ones. Either way, this variant is not just a UK problem; it’s a global problem. And it has some new tricks up its sleeve.
In England, senior doctors plan to strike again in September if the government doesn’t agree to more pay negotiations. The health department, meanwhile, has reiterated that its last pay offer was final.
In Cyprus, unused Covid medication for humans is being repurposed to treat cats with feline Covid, which has claimed thousands of cat lives.
And finally, if you’re looking to up your understanding of all things biotech, Labiotech has a list of the top biotech books of all time.