💊 Korea's IVI, KAIST collaborate on vaccine research; Boehringer Ingelheim acquires Swiss biotech; Malaria shots arrive in Cameroon
#478 | A diet to kill cancer; An oxygen-copper scissor to make drugs; A need to take on the health impacts of climate change
Hello, and welcome back to The Kable. Before we get to the usual updates of investments, dealmaking, and research, a reminder that over 5,300 Palestinian children have been killed in Gaza in just 46 days. Over 1,200 children are either still buried under rubble or unaccounted for. As highlighted by the UNICEF Executive Director, “today, the Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child.”
The African Healthcare Network (AHN) has secured $20 million in equity and debt funding to boost its expansion across Africa and address gaps in the availability of high-quality, affordable renal care. The consortium of investors is led by the continent’s Africa50 and AfricInvest and the Tokyo-based Ohara Pharmaceutical Co.
In Ghana, the FDA has introduced guidelines on pharmaceutical traceability to secure the country’s drug supply chain. A track-and-trace system enables the identification of products’ supply chain journeys and provides the visibility needed to track suspected defective products, facilitate recalls, and identify genuine, registered pharma products. Overall, these guidelines are in line with the National Pharmaceutical Traceability Strategy.
In Kenya, President Ruto has said that the government will work with the private sector to make universal health coverage (UHC) a reality. The government will prioritise the purchase of medical supplies from local manufacturers while reviewing the tax regime and cost of doing business in the health sector.
In Uganda, health authorities are investigating a mysterious disease outbreak which has claimed the lives of at least a dozen people over the past two weeks. Patients exhibited symptoms like skin rashes which rapidly expanded; some also reported swollen limbs.
Meanwhile, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is shedding light on the worst diphtheria outbreak ever recorded in Africa, which is currently raging across Nigeria, Algeria, Guinea, Mauritania, and Niger. Protection against the disease is usually offered through routine vaccination, but underfunding and deprioritisation means that vaccination at the required scale has not been achieved. The sudden surge in cases has also created a global shortage of the vaccine. MSF is calling for an urgent and significant increase in the production of diphtheria vaccines; it is also urging authorities to prioritise outbreak response and take necessary support from international stakeholders and donors to stem the tide of cases.
In today’s brief stop in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia’s homegrown Avalon Pharma is aiming to increase its exports from 10% to 30% as part of its global expansion drive.
The South Korea-based International Vaccine Institute (IVI) and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have inked an MoU to collaborate on innovative vaccine research. Specifically, the partners will collaborate on vaccine immune response analysis projects, collaborative research with global health partners, strengthening research and education in the medical and life sciences fields, and improving access to healthcare and vaccines in developing countries. Their collaborative work will begin with immune response analysis of IVI’s under-development shots like SFTS, hantavirus, and adenovirus vaccines.
For the first time, Indonesian court documents have revealed the chain of events that led to toxic ingredients being used to make one of the cough syrups that led to the deaths of 200 children last year. It all goes back to 2021, which saw a global shortage of pharma-grade propylene glycol and some creativity by an Indonesian soap ingredient supplier.
On 13 November, Chinese authorities from the National Health Commission reported an increase in the incidence of respiratory diseases in China, pointing fingers at the lifting of Covid restrictions (isn’t it a bit too late for that?) and the circulation of known pathogens like mycoplasma pneumoniae and the ones that cause the flu, RSV, and Covid. On the 21st, media and the surveillance system ProMED reported clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children in northern China, though it is unclear if these are linked to the overall increase previously reported. Yesterday, the WHO requested additional info, including epidemiological and clinical data, through the International Health Regulations mechanism. Until more info is available, it’s back to mask-wearing and hand-washing for people in China.
Speaking of respiratory illnesses. Since a global pandemic was severely affecting people’s lungs already, humans thought, “why not add to the mix?” For the first time in 12 years, global progress in policies to cut tobacco use slowed following the Covid pandemic.
In an update that will please our resident oldies, the WHO and UN partners have launched the first UN Decade of Healthy Ageing progress report. The report charts efforts to improve the lives of older people since 2020, especially capturing the impact of challenges like Covid which disproportionately affected older people. Further, the report highlights activities to support healthy ageing in close to 50 countries.
Time for Big Pharma. Boehringer Ingelheim yesterday announced its acquisition of the privately-held University of Basel spinout T3 Pharma, a clinical stage Swiss biotech, for up to 450 million CHF (~$507.4 million). The acquisition will “significantly expand” Boehringer’s immuno-oncology pipeline. T3’s lead candidate, T3P-Y058-739, is currently in a phase 1 trial for patients with advanced solid tumors. It was developed using T3’s protein delivery platform which harnesses live bacteria for targeted delivery of immune-modulating proteins.
About a year after its full market launch, Masimo’s W1 smartwatch has been granted FDA clearance for medical applications.
The French President is set to inaugurate a €2.1 billion ($2.3 billion) investment by Danish Novo Nordisk in France. The investment will be based in Chartres, where Novo already employs about 2,000 people.
Today, it’s Germany’s chance to report a bird flu outbreak on a poultry farm in the north of the country.
And finally, over 330,000 doses of the RTS,S malaria vaccine have arrived in Cameroon and will soon also arrive in other African countries! Big yay!