💊 Ginkgo, Pfizer's new RNA collab; The cost of clean air; Throwing DARTS at resistant bacteria
#438 | India becomes older; Birds become well travelled; Scientists become inspired by octopi
Hello there. Welcome back to The Kable. Diphtheria has been raging across Nigeria all year now, with 7000 confirmed cases and 453 deaths making this the most severe diphtheria outbreak in recent global history. With 2.2 million children in Nigeria not having received even a single vaccine dose, it’s no surprise that most cases are being reported in unvaccinated children between the ages of 4 and 15 years. UNICEF is hoping to press the brakes on this surge in cases. Thus far, UNICEF Nigeria has deployed 9.3 million doses of diphtheria vaccines on behalf of the government. Still, the agency needs to raise another $3.3 million by the year's end to effectively respond to the outbreak. We have all our fingers and toes crossed 🤞🏽.
In a milestone for African manufacturing, Kenya’s medical device maker Revital Healthcare has announced that on July 11 this year, it became the first in Africa to be granted pre-qualification (PQ) status by the WHO for its early activation auto-disable syringe. Preferred by UNICEF, this early-activation feature is the gold standard for safety in immunisation programmes. Historically, introducing these devices has resulted in substantial declines in blood-borne infection rates, including HIV, across Africa.
As part of its 2023 cohort, the Google for Startups Growth Academy: AI for Health has selected five African ventures. Rwanda’s Eden Care, Kenya’s iZola Limited and Zuri Health, and Nigeria’s mDoc and Phamarun are the companies that will benefit from this accelerator aimed at supporting startups to use AI to tackle local challenges.
In a much-needed victory over mosquitoes, a trial for a dengue vaccine has been carried out successfully in Bangladesh for the first time. The vaccine TV-005 was shown to be effective against all four serotypes of the dengue vaccine. A single dose of this vaccine does the job. More research is needed before this shot can be widely used, but we’re going to celebrate this win!
Glovax Lifescience, a partnership between the local firm Glovax Biotech and Korea’s Eubiologics, has begun construction of the first vaccine manufacturing facility in the Philippines.
The UK Health Security Agency has provided new essential genomics sequencing equipment to the Caribbean Public Health Agency. While their current focus is on Covid, the sequencing capabilities can also be applied to address other regional public health threats.
Over in Israel, in the first cases of bird flu in over five months, 250 birds – peacocks, ducks, doves, and domesticated chickens - have been infected.
Auro Vaccines, India’s Aurobindo Pharma’s wholly-owned subsidiary, has inked a license agreement with Hilleman Laboratories Singapore to develop, manufacture, and commercialise a pentavalent vaccine candidate for children.
In a quality control crisis that persists, Indian drug regulatory authorities have ordered 17 more drug firms and 7 drug-testing labs in the state of Himachal Pradesh to stop operations.
The UN Population Fund’s India Ageing Report 2023 is here, and it highlights the challenges of the “feminisation and ruralisation” of the elderly population. The population percentage of older (and wiser?) people is on a steep upward trajectory. By 2046, India will likely have more old people than children. By 2050, the percentage of elderly population in India will likely double to 20% of the total population. And if the fact of ageing wasn’t depressing enough in itself, it turns out that over 40% of the elderly in India are in the poorest wealth quintile; 18.7% don’t have any income at all. By 2050, very old and widowed women will make up a large part of the staggering 279% growth in the 80+ years population. And they’re likely to be widowed, income-less, living alone, and with fewer assets of their own. If you thought death was depressing, maybe all these figures will remind you that living might just be worse
And finally, because the world can’t have enough RNA drug discovery deals, Ginkgo Bioworks is teaming up with Pfizer on “priority research areas”. Worth $331 million, the deal will focus on three RNA programmes. The companies haven’t been very open about the breakdown between upfront and milestone payments or the exact subject of their research. Of course, there is speculation, but we’ll just have to wait and see what emerges from this collaboration.