💊 Mosquirix reduces child deaths in Africa; The EC fines an API cartel; BMS goes to China
#457 | Bird flu flies to Antarctica; Retired UK nurses come back to work; Humanity fails its climate response tests
Hello there. Welcome back to The Kable. Over the past 18 days, of the nearly 5,800 deaths reported due to Israeli strikes, the Gaza Strip has been witness to at least 2,360 child fatalities. But direct deaths from the attacks are only the tip of the iceberg. If people in Gaza continue to be without access to safe food, clean water, fuel for essential facilities, and medical supplies, the death toll will continue to rise. Already, doctors in Gaza say that patients arriving at hospitals are showing signs of disease caused by overcrowding and poor sanitation in temporary shelters. Stomach complaints, lung infections and rashes have been reported. Pharmacies are concerned that treatments for chronic illnesses will run out. 40 medical centres have suspended operations. At those still running, fuel for generators is running out, threatening that essential equipment like incubators will stop working. The biggest private hospital in north Gaza has already switched off everything but a few vital departments like the ICU. Elsewhere, somehow, the world keeps spinning.
In Yemen, childhood immunisation rates have dropped significantly, worsening due to economic deterioration, low incomes, displacement, overcrowded living conditions in camps, and a health system that has been stretched thin. In such circumstances, vaccine-preventable diseases and deaths are making a comeback.
Yesterday, in The Gambia, a trial against five defendants opened over 70 children’s deaths linked to the consumption of cough syrup made by India’s Maiden Pharmaceuticals. Already, proceedings have been adjourned to November 7 as all defendants, including three state defendants, failed to appear.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian Authority for Unified Purchasing is supplying Zambia with $24 million worth of pharmaceutical supplies.
South Korean CDMO Samsung Biologics has entered a strategic partnership with European healthcare and biotech VC Kurma Partners. Under the agreement, Samsung will provide its expertise in customisable chemistry, manufacturing, and control (CMC), its state-of-the-art facilities, and proprietary tech platforms to Kurma’s portfolio companies to develop and manufacture biologics. This will increase Samsung’s footprint in Europe.
Also in South Korea, the government plans to launch a nationwide vaccination campaign to tackle a lumpy skin disease outbreak in cattle. Authorities are in discussion with local and international companies to get their hands on 4 million doses by the end of the month. By early next month, the country hopes to complete inoculating all the country’s cattle. Talk about speed.
South Korean bio venture GI Innovation has inked a licensing deal for its allergy drug GI-301 with Japan’s Maruho for ₩298 billion (~$221 million). This takes GI a step closer to achieving its goalof five tech transfer deals in five years.
We’re still in South Korea with this next story. Korean pharma company Medytox Inc intends to enter the Chinese market for botulinum toxins (or Botox) with its product Newlux, developed by affiliate Numeco.
Finally moving on to other countries, Chinese vaccine maker CanSino Biologics is set to receive $2 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for R&D into its recombinant poliomyelitis vaccine. The vaccine candidate is based on virus-like particles, which the WHO recommends as the preferred type of polio vaccine compared to attenuated and inactivated vaccines.
Over in the UK, the problem of health worker shortages appears to have at least a partial solution in sight. New data reveals that 44% of nurses who retired two years ago returned to practice 12 months later. An extension to changes in pension rules, which allows retired NHS staff to return to work without affecting their pension, seems to be working.
In Big Pharma news, Bristol Myers Squibb is paying China’s LianBio $350 million upfront for the rights to develop and commercialise Mavacamten, under the brand name Camzyos, in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, and Thailand.
Moderna is partnering with precision medicine pioneer Caris Life Sciences to advance the former’s oncology and novel therapeutics initiatives. Moderna will gain access to Caris’ library of de-identified, multi-modal data solutions derived from whole exome sequencing, whole transcriptome sequencing and protein analyses, among other services.
Eli Lilly is buddying up with Elektrofi for a multi-target research collaboration and license agreement to develop next-gen meds that can be delivered subcutaneously. Lilly will benefit from Elektrofi’s proprietary ultra-high concentration microparticle suspension technology platform, paying the biopharma formulation tech company $20 million upfront for exclusive rights to three targets.
One of the largest global financers of private and public biopharmas, OrbiMed has raked in $4.3 billion for three of its funds. OrbiMed is ready to shower these funds on new healthcare and life sciences startups.
Layoffs season is back. After its $28 billion acquisition of Horizon, Amgen is bidding adieu to 350 employees. Amgen had already cut 300 jobs in January and another 450 in May. Meanwhile, Idorsia, too, is cutting jobs – 300 of them – as it looks to cut costs.
In an interesting turn of events, the European Commission (EC) is fining five pharmaceutical companies, including Boehringer Ingelheim, a total of €13.4 million (~$14.2 million) to settle claims that they agreed to fix prices and allocate business for the API N-Butylbromide Scopolamine/ Hyoscine, used to make the abdominal antispasmodic Buscopan and its generics. The 6th company in the cartel, C2 Pharma, was the whistleblower. This is the first time the EC has sanctioned a pharma cartel over an API.
So far, only a small proportion of physicians uses approved AI tools designed for specific functions like detecting lung nodules in chest CT scans. This is due to limitations in medical AI as well as an absence of trust. But emerging generalist modules might do a better job of playing physician, assessing every anomaly in scans and coming up with a diagnosis. Nature reports on the upcoming AI revolution in medicine.
Yesterday, the European Commission introduced measures to prevent medicine shortages this winter and the next. These measures are meant to be short-term, enforced until a proposed overhaul to pharmaceutical rules is crafted and brought into effect. One of the main short-term measures is a voluntary mechanism between Member States to fill medicines gaps. In early 2024, the EU will also set up a Critical Medicines Alliance.
CEPI has issued a new call for proposals for Innovations to Prepare for Future Epidemics and Pandemics. Initially, this call will support innovations in vaccine platforms, manufacturing technologies, and vaccine candidates against high-risk viruses.
H5N1 bird flu has flown all the way to Antarctica, raising concerns that it could kill many seals, whales, penguins, albatrosses and other rare animals and birds, possibly even leading to extinctions. Already, 30 dead birds have been found. There is also the risk of migratory birds giving the virus its first glimpse of New Zealand and Australia.
And finally, a total of 42 US authorities are suing Meta. The accusation? That it’s fueling a youth mental health crisis through its addictive social media platforms like Instagram. Such lawsuits aren’t new, though – Meta, ByteDance’s TikTok, and Google’s YouTube already face hundreds of them filed on behalf of children and school districts.