💊 Pfizer’s Nona-nsense ADC game; Fake Wegovys’ exit from IndiaMART; The Naprod Life Sciences story
#495 | A new NTD to contend with; Liquid biopsies for AKI; Firefighters’ occupational hazards
Hello, and welcome back to the last week of Kables this year. In good news from Africa to kick off with, Biovac, one of the key vaccine manufacturers in Africa, is set to significantly expand its production capacity from 150 million to around 560 million doses annually, thanks to a $7 million funding and support package from the International Finance Corporation (IFC). This investment aligns with IFC's broader goal to boost vaccine production in Africa and strengthen the continent's healthcare sector, emphasizing the development of both traditional bacterial-based and mRNA-based vaccines.
In not-so-good news from Africa to follow up with, sickle cell disease might be making news in the UK and the US for revolutionary new drug approvals. However, the disease is disproportionately represented in Africa and here, the news about the drug approvals also comes with the knowledge that the approved drugs are ridiculously expensive. Zambia and Uganda believe increased testing and screening is one way forward.
In even more bad news from Africa, the death toll in Nigeria from lassa fever this year has reached 200.
Over to the MENA region where all the updates are manufacturing updates. First, Saudi Arabia continues on its recent drive to make more locally in a new deal with South Korea spanning vaccines and biotech products.
And Egypt's APEX Pharma has announced a major investment to up its manufacturing capabilities in both Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Indonesia may not be too keen just yet on infesting the local air with genetically modified mosquitoes. But Google's Verily has partnered with Barbados-based Orbit to release dengue-fighting mosquitoes in the Caribbeans.
The weekend also saw some pockets getting lighter. First, German medical technology company Carl Zeiss Meditec acquired the Dutch Ophthalmic Research Center, a developer of eye surgery devices, for a little over $1 billion to bolster its global leadership in ophthalmic medical devices.
Elsewhere, Pfizer, fresh off sealing its Seagen buy, signed an exclusive license agreement with Nona Biosciences for the development and commercialisation of its MSLN-targeted antibody-drug conjugate, HBM9033, with potential payments up to $1.1 billion, including upfront and milestone payments, plus royalties on sales. The drug candidate targets a tumour-associated antigen in various solid tumours and is positioned as a potentially best-in-class therapeutic option.
One of the big challenges facing Novo Nordisk in the wake of its Wegovy success is illegal sales around the world. In India, at least, the company seems to have found a workaround. It has been talking to online marketplace IndiaMART to remove unauthorised listings of Wegovy, with a framework established to regularly identify and eliminate counterfeit listings.
Moderna might have become an instant phenomenon, thanks to its Covid vaccines. But multibillion-dollar sales alone aren't enough to guarantee that a company will have squeaky-clean manufacturing processes. In September, the US FDA found quality control issues at Moderna's main factory in Norwood, Massachusetts, including lapses in equipment cleaning used for Covid vaccine production. The agency's inspection noted concerns such as the release of vaccine batches produced with inadequately cleaned equipment and the presence of over 2,000 expired items in storage, although there is no evidence of harm from these lapses and no recall of Moderna vaccines has been issued.
Speaking of the US FDA, one can hardly avoid mention of Indian drug manufacturers. And yes, two of them - Sun Pharma and Lupin - are recalling drugs in the US, says the agency.
In "good" news mainly for sub-Saharan Africa, the WHO has officially recognized noma, a severe gangrenous disease affecting the mouth and face of malnourished young children in poverty-stricken regions, as a neglected tropical disease (NTD). This inclusion, recommended by the Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Neglected Tropical Diseases, aims to increase global awareness, research, and funding for noma and marks a significant effort to address the health needs of the world's most vulnerable populations.
Elsewhere, CEPI and PATH have renewed their partnership to expedite the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases, supporting CEPI’s ambitious goal of creating effective vaccines within 100 days of identifying pandemic or epidemic pathogens. PATH will assist CEPI in project management, coordination, and operational oversight, including strategic support for clinical and manufacturing processes, technological innovation, and capacity building to enhance local response capabilities for future outbreaks.
And finally, in a little bit of Christmas cheer, an unseasonably warm autumn meant that wild birds migrated to Europe later than normal. Meaning, bird flu began in Europe later than expected. However, bringing the Grinchiness to the season, bird flu is making up for lost time by spreading faster than usual. Yay.