💊 Novartis expands gene therapy pipeline with Avrobio buy; Thermo Fisher expands into Singapore; Ironwood spends $1 billion on short bowel syndrome
WHO’s 2024-25 Programme Budget; Gavi’s roadmap to meeting cholera vaccine demand; Oncology trials’ shifting goalposts
Hello there, and welcome back to The Kable. Yesterday, biotech company Avrobio announced that it is selling its clinical-stage treatment for the rare genetic disease cystinosis. Novartis is shelling out $87.5 million for the experimental gene therapy, helping Avrobio extend its operating runway in a challenging market. And while Novartis has been scaling back its R&D pipeline, this deal will enhance the company’s work in the cell and gene therapy market.
Boston-based Ironwood Pharmaceuticals has agreed to acquire the Swiss clinical-stage biotech company, VectivBio, for about $1 billion. This deal gives Ironwood access to the latter’s phase 3 asset, Apraglutide, for the treatment of the rare short bowel syndrome with intestinal failure.
Meanwhile, Thermo Fisher wants in on biopharma’s Singapore expansion. Following in the footsteps of Merck & Co., Sanofi, GSK, and WuXi Biologics, Thermo Fisher Scientific has opened a new sterile drug plant in the country to strengthen the supply chain and enhance future health emergency response in the Asia-Pacific region. The facility is home to a fully automated, high-speed aseptic fill-finish line for small and large molecules, including vaccines.
Third time’s the charm. At least, that’s what junior doctors in England are hoping. After two rounds of walkouts over better pay this year, junior doctors are planning to strike again from June 13 to 17.
And then there’s always bird flu to talk about. Where to start? Worst news first: 25 types of mammals have lost their lives during this latest outbreak we’re seeing. This number is greater than in any previous bird flu outbreak, and indicates the increasing risk this will turn into a full-blown pandemic, according to the WOAH. Bears, bobcats, dolphins, and tigers haven’t been spared; are we puny humans next in line?
In South West France, an “out of control” situation has resulted in close to a million birds being culled since just the beginning of May. No foie gras for the holidays!
Brazil, meanwhile, has declared a 180-day animal health emergency after wild birds tested positive for H5N1 – 7 in Espirito Santo and one in Rio de Janeiro. The government is on high alert as it fears transmission to commercial flocks, as has happened in some countries. The Secretary of Health of Espirito Santo announced that 24 people who had contact with an infected animal are being monitored.
We also can't avoid speaking of climate change, can we? In Brazil, apparently, President Lula plans to right Bolsonaro’s wrongs. Anonymous sources have indicated that he intends to commit the country to a more ambitious climate change goal this year, fixing the higher baseline Bolsonaro had previously used to make achieving emission targets easier.
In Kenya, an anthrax outbreak has resulted in three deaths from a total of 15 confirmed cases.
In Pakistan, another case of MERS-CoV has been confirmed in a 19-year-old woman who recently travelled from Saudi Arabia. This brings the total number of confirmed cases to four. There is currently no evidence of community transmission.
In China, the current Covid wave is likely to peak at 65 million infections a week toward the end of June. Nothing compared to the potentially 37 million people infected every day during the previous wave. In line with WHO recommendations, the country is also planning to roll out new vaccines which specifically target the currently circulating XBB variant.
And finally, researchers in Zambia have built a unique facility to test how and from how far away mosquitos can smell their human prey. They hope to use their findings to create new ways to fight against mosquito-borne diseases like malaria. What’s it called? The “scent arena.”