Drug Discovery Industry Roundup with Barry Bunin — May 3, 2021
“Great Malaria Vaccine News.” That’s the headline for Derek Lowe’s recent In the Pipeline blog about Oxford University’s Jenner Institute’s RTS,S/AS01 vaccine. This is exciting news. Everyone is talking about COVID. (And we wrote about the COVID Facts early in the pandemic back on 28th January 2020.) However, for humanity, malaria has taken a greater toll on life. An effective vaccine for malaria, could be a real game changer for human health. Here’s how Lowe puts it: “We have word of the most effective malaria vaccine yet discovered. A year-long trial in Burkina Faso has shown 77% efficacy, which is by far the record, and which opens the way to potentially relieving a nearly incalculable burden of disease and human suffering.” Pharmaphorum, writing about the results, published ahead of peer review by the Lancet, notes: “There is a malaria vaccine on the market—GlaxoSmithKline’s Mosquirix—but this is only around 39% effective in young children and has not been backed by the World Health Organization because of its low efficacy.” Pharmaphorum reports that the new vaccine will next be trialed in nearly 5,000 children between the ages of five months and three years and in four African countries to confirm the findings, and that “The Serum Institute of India has manufactured the malaria vaccine and says it could deliver more than 200 million doses as soon as it is approved by regulators.”
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“Biden Wants $6.5 Billion for New Health Agency to Speed Treatments.” Science Magazine carries that headline after diving into the White House spending request, which seeks to create an agency similar to the famous Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which has given birth to many discoveries that have relevance beyond defense. (Today’s internet was largely inspired by DARPA’s early ARPAnet.) The agency, called Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health, or ARPA-H, would be housed at the National Institutes of Health with the charter of speeding the development of medical treatments by funding risky, innovative projects. Science Magazine notes: “Under the DARPA model, projects would not be vetted by peer reviewers, but instead, funding decisions would be made by program managers. And instead of multiyear grants, the agency would disburse awards as milestone-driven payments; program managers could also cancel projects that they decide aren’t panning out.” The magazine quotes Harvard University chemical biologist David Walt, a former chair of DARPA’s advisory council, as saying the concept of bypassing traditional funding reviewers will be a positive for the biomedical research community. Walt said: “NIH peer reviewers tend to be pretty conservative. Leaving decisions to informed program managers will diversify the portfolio of health sciences research.”
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For Want of a Nail the Shoe Was Lost … For Want of a Pipette Tip . . . Benjamin Franklin’s “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost,” has come to mind all too often during the pandemic as we’ve faced (and usually overcome or circumvented) one shortage after another. PharmTech.com carries an article headlined “Pipette Tip Shortage Hinders Bio/Pharmaceutical Development and Testing.” The article reads, in part: “One report attributes the global shortage to a series of events that have recently plagued the pipette tip supply chain, including blackouts, fires, and pandemic-related demand. The shortage may also be putting pressure on biotech companies that are developing new therapeutics to prioritize which experiments they can conduct on new drugs being developed in their pipelines. However, thus far, biotech companies have been taking steps to conserve limited pipettes and have not had their work disrupted.” The shortage has been going on for some time, as the New York Times wrote about the problem nearly a year ago. Recently Nature reported on the continuing problem in an article headlined “‘Does anyone have any of these?’: Lab-Supply Shortages Strike Amid Global Pandemic.”
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Steady Growth Seen for CROs through 2027. Global Market Insights has released a study forecasting a compound annual growth rate of 7.8% between 2021 and 2027 for contract research organizations. The report values the North American CRO market size at $19 billion, and the global CRO market at $43.9 billion. The report notes: “Growing demand for clinical trials in emerging countries coupled with increasing prevalence of chronic diseases is escalating the market growth. Also, the market is driven by rising number of biologics and demand for CRO to conduct clinical trials. Furthermore, over past few years, market has started booming due to shifting trend of CRO’s role towards secured services. The secured services include preclinical and clinical testing, discovery as well as regulatory approval, thereby enhancing the market value.” For North America, the report adds: “Increasing focus of pharmaceutical companies to outsource clinical trials for treatment of various disease conditions is predicted to spur the regional growth. Additionally, growing investment in R&D activities will augment industry demand during the forecast timeframe.”
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“What is Needed to Develop Disease-Modifying Therapies for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s?” That’s the topic of an interesting article in Drug Discovery & Trends. The focus is on developing disease-modifying therapies for neurodegenerative diseases, and the need for diagnostic biomarkers. The article quotes Alessio Brunello, a managing pharma analyst GlobalData, as saying: “There is a great unmet need for simple, inexpensive and non-invasive tests that could be applied on a large scale to screen for AD. This could be addressed by blood tests that are more sensitive in detecting the amyloid deposition in the brain compared to the gold standard, PET brain scan. Blood tests can also be used as a widespread population screening test and replace CSF testing and brain imaging if they keep proving to be more accurate than tests that are currently used.” The current animal and predictive models for these devastating diseases have often failed in the clinic, new theories, approaches, and technologies are needed.
Barry A. Bunin, PhD, is the Founder & CEO of Collaborative Drug Discovery, which provides a modern approach to drug discovery research informatics trusted globally by thousands of leading researchers. CDD Vault® is a hosted biological and chemical database that securely manages your private and external data.