💊 Vaxxas’ novel vaccination tech; India makes more cheap drugs; South Korea encourages biopharma investments
#480 | Bird flu flies to Japan; Opportunities for pharma CDMOs shift to India; Anaesthetic gets second job as cancer killer
Hello, and welcome back to The Kable where we begin the week with two important questions. Is it a new pandemic? Are lockdowns making a comeback? We don’t know... yet. Hopefully, it isn’t a new pandemic, or a continuation of an ongoing one. But China's health ministry is urging an increase in fever clinics due to a surge in respiratory illnesses, especially among children in northern areas like Beijing. This surge follows the country's first full winter since lifting Covid restrictions, with the WHO seeking more information amid concerns about transparency and the risk of a Covid rebound. You know what the first line of defence is against respiratory illnesses? Masks. They work.
Speaking of restrictions, Zimbabwe is imposing those on public gatherings and food vending outlets, and monitoring burials in areas hit by a cholera outbreak, which has seen cases spike to 1,259 this week, marking the largest increase since February. In response to the outbreak, which has caused 155 deaths from 8,787 cases, a state of emergency has been declared in Harare, where issues like erratic water supply, uncollected garbage, and sewage problems are exacerbating the situation.
At the recent World Bio Summit in Seoul, Korea, Kenya reaffirmed its commitment to local vaccine manufacturing, highlighting the establishment of the Kenya BioVax Institute. This initiative, part of a broader strategy to enhance Africa's pharmaceutical sector, includes partnerships for technology transfer and manufacturing support aimed at improving preparedness and response to vaccine-preventable diseases and pandemics.
Vaxxas has reported positive results from a human clinical trial of its novel skin patch vaccination technology, showing significant antibody responses to a measles and rubella vaccine. This technology, potentially self-administered and not requiring refrigeration, could revolutionise vaccine delivery, particularly in hard-to-reach communities and lower-income countries, and is moving towards further clinical trials in the Gambia with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Indian pharmaceutical companies are now producing medicines for four rare diseases and sickle cell anaemia at significantly reduced costs, reducing dependence on expensive imported drugs. This initiative is part of the country’s Health Ministry's focus on 13 rare diseases.
India's regulator, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), is contemplating a ban on over-the-counter sales of the pain relievers Tapentadol and Pregabalin to prevent their misuse.
South Korea's health ministry plans to allocate 261.6 billion won ($200.2 million) over four years to establish two funds, in collaboration with venture capital firms, to encourage private sector investment in biopharmaceutical ventures. The funds, aimed at revitalising Korea’s biopharmaceutical industry, will focus on developing new drugs in phase 2 or 3 clinical trials, drug discovery platforms, and vaccine technologies.
Japan has reported its first case of the highly pathogenic H5-type bird flu this season at a poultry farm in the south of the country, leading to the planned culling of about 40,000 birds.
Chulalongkorn University in Thailand and the University of Sheffield in England have signed an agreement to collaborate on the UK-South East Asia Vaccine Manufacturing Research Hub, funded with £7.6 million. This hub aims to develop accessible vaccines for diseases like dengue fever and tuberculosis in Southeast Asia, focusing on protein subunit, mRNA, and viral vector vaccines. It involves collaboration with universities and organisations across the UK and five Southeast Asian countries.
Sosei is bidding to regain full ownership of the oral inflammatory bowel disease drug GSK4381406 from GSK, following the latter’s decision to discontinue its development due to changes in its immunology research strategy. Under a 2020 agreement, Sosei Heptares can reclaim the drug and its associated intellectual properties without an upfront cost, although GSK would receive single-digit royalties on net sales if the drug is commercialised. Sosei Heptares plans to seek partnerships for further development and commercialisation, focusing on its strengths in the Japan and Asia Pacific regions.
And finally, the World Bank and the Global Fund are joining superhero forces, cape and all, to shield health systems in the Global South from the supervillain that is climate change. The two signed a memorandum last week, vowing to wage war against climate-induced health risks that could push 132 million people into extreme poverty by 2030, with a third of these unfortunate souls due to health issues. Their master plan? Fortify the fight against the trio of troublemakers - AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria - by bolstering health systems and advocating for Scrooge McDuck-levels of financing, all while localising health supply chains to make supply disruptions a thing of the past.