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The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

A VC signs on to fight antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance is finally becoming a priority of the biopharmaceutical industry. Last year, the AMR Action Fund was launched with nearly $1 billion from nearly two dozen drug makers to invest in or acquire small companies that might develop novel antibiotics by 2030. Now, this effort has a chief executive — Henry Skinner, a venture capitalist who used to lead Novartis Venture Funds. With his hire, the AMR Action Fund is getting another $140 million in funding. 

“This is the right thing at the right time and gives us four to five years for policy makers to make their own adjustments to reinvigorate the market,” Skinner told STAT. “Although $1 billion seems like a lot of money — and it is — moving drugs forward is not inexpensive. And in the absence of this [fund], a lot of drugs won’t get developed at all. I look at this as a bridge investment in the infrastructure of antibiotics.”

Read more.

In related news: STAT held a virtual event yesterday on the crisis of drug-resistant germs. You can watch the session here.  

Novavax pledges 1.1 billion Covid-19 vaccines globally

Novavax has signed a joint commitment with Gavi and the Serum Institute of India to provide 1.1 billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to the COVAX facility — a global initiative meant to provide equitable access to Covid vaccines across the globe. The Novavax vaccine, NVX-CoV2373, is being studied in two late-stage trials in the U.S., Mexico, and the United Kingdom. 

Notably, Bill Gates told CNBC that the vaccines from both Johnson & Johnson and Novavax still have a major role to play in tamping down the spread of Covid-19 — despite their somewhat muted efficacy against some of the newer variants of the disease. Gates also said that getting these vaccines to developing nations is the “only way to bring the pandemic to an end.” 

How safe is gene therapy?

Is there anything “unique” about venture capital? And who’s going to run the FDA? 

We discuss all that and more this week on “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. First, we break down a significant setback for Bluebird Bio’s gene therapy program with some help from Akshay Sharma, a bone marrow transplant expert at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Then, STAT’s Kate Sheridan joins us to discuss her deep dive into Flagship Pioneering, the superlatively successful and frequently grandiose venture firm behind Moderna. Finally, we dig into what the future might hold for a post-Trump FDA, which remains without a permanent commissioner. 

Listen here.

Why some monoclonals work against Covid-19

Scientists are studying which Covid-19 antibodies have the lasting power to resist evolving forms of the virus — and using that insight to determine which monoclonal antibody drugs might also have lasting power.

Some regions of the virus seem to be less willing to evolve than others, which may ultimately be better targets for monoclonal antibody drugs, STAT’s Eric Boodman writes. But the first waves of Covid-19 antibody drugs seemed to target “very plastic” regions of the virus, as one GSK researcher puts it. Further study into the immutable portions of the virus could hold the key to a more lasting treatment. 

Read more.

More reads

  • A U.S. vaccine surge is coming, with millions of doses promised. (Bloomberg)
  • Clinical trials are moving out of the lab and into people’s homes. (New York Times)
  • A safer Alzheimer’s drug than Biogen’s aducanumab? Denali-WashU drug shows better profile in mice. (FierceBiotech)

Thanks for reading! More next week,

Damian

Friday, February 19, 2021

STAT

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