Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca CEO (Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

As­traZeneca’s Pas­cal So­ri­ot says Covid-19 boost­ers may not be for every­one — re­port

As­traZeneca CEO Pas­cal So­ri­ot re­port­ed­ly thinks that Covid-19 boost­er shots for young and healthy peo­ple may not be wise.

So­ri­ot told the UK Tele­graph re­search sug­gests that vac­cines give healthy peo­ple pro­tec­tion against se­vere dis­ease for a “long time,” mean­ing most will not need a boost­er jab to avoid se­vere com­pli­ca­tions from the virus. He al­so not­ed gov­ern­ments buy­ing boost­er shots wouldn’t be a good use of tax­pay­er mon­ey.

De­spite So­ri­ot’s com­ments, the sci­en­tif­ic con­sen­sus re­mains that boost­er shots are safe and ef­fec­tive, re­gard­less of age or co­mor­bidi­ties.

“Peo­ple who are oth­er­wise healthy — es­pe­cial­ly if they are young, have been vac­ci­nat­ed, have had a boost al­ready — boost­ing them again, I’m just not sure it’s re­al­ly a good use of re­sources,” he added in the Tele­graph in­ter­view.

Over the com­ing month, the UK will pro­vide boost­er shots to peo­ple over 50, front­line work­ers, and peo­ple with the un­der­ly­ing con­di­tion who are at high risk of de­vel­op­ing se­vere symp­toms. The UK will use Pfiz­er and Mod­er­na’s bi­va­lent boost­er shots, and not As­traZeneca’s shots.

Ac­cord­ing to So­ri­ot, most of the peo­ple who have been giv­en a shot de­vel­op “foun­da­tion­al im­mu­ni­ty” against se­vere dis­ease, and he thinks it is un­clear whether “boost­ing peo­ple every year is that crit­i­cal.”

“I’m not sure it’s a re­al­ly good use of mon­ey be­cause most of the peo­ple now who catch it will just have symp­toms if they get Covid, and that’s it,” he added in the in­ter­view.

While As­traZeneca was a part of the rat race to de­vel­op vac­cines against the Covid-19 virus, prof­its were much less than Pfiz­er, whose vac­cine was based on a new, more ex­pen­sive mR­NA tech­nol­o­gy. As­traZeneca al­so faced de­vel­op­ment de­lays, with NI­AID di­rec­tor An­tho­ny Fau­ci at one point lob­bing crit­i­cism over da­ta sub­mis­sions, and saw ten­sion with sev­er­al Eu­ro­pean coun­tries who ac­cused the com­pa­ny of fail­ing to meet de­liv­ery promis­es.

Both As­traZeneca and Pfiz­er de­liv­ered sim­i­lar lev­els of vac­cines in 2021. While Pfiz­er made $37 bil­lion in rev­enues from vac­cine sales last year, at a prof­it of $22 bil­lion, As­traZeneca — which pledged to de­liv­er the vac­cines at cost dur­ing the pan­dem­ic — gen­er­at­ed $3.9 bil­lion in rev­enues from its vac­cines and made a prof­it of $115 mil­lion in 2021, ac­cord­ing to the Tele­graph.

Mean­while, So­ri­ot’s com­ments come at a time when As­traZeneca fore­casts sales of its Covid-19 an­ti­body treat­ment, Evusheld, will rise amid a de­cline in vac­cine sales. In the US, Evusheld was ap­proved in De­cem­ber 2021 for im­muno­com­pro­mised pa­tients.

As­traZeneca has re­ceived gov­ern­ment con­tracts for Evusheld in the US, EU, Cana­da, Latin Amer­i­ca, south­east Asia, Aus­tralia, and Chi­na.

The UK said that it will not pur­chase the an­ti­body com­bo, cit­ing “in­suf­fi­cient da­ta” on the du­ra­tion of pro­tec­tion it pro­vides against Omi­cron and its sub­vari­ants.

Has the mo­ment fi­nal­ly ar­rived for val­ue-based health­care?

RBC Capital Markets’ Healthcare Technology Analyst, Sean Dodge, spotlights a new breed of tech-enabled providers who are rapidly transforming the way clinicians deliver healthcare, and explores the key question: can this accelerating revolution overturn the US healthcare system?

Key points

Tech-enabled healthcare providers are poised to help the US transition to value, not volume, as the basis for reward.
The move to value-based care has policy momentum, but is risky and complex for clinicians.
Outsourced tech specialists are emerging to provide the required expertise, while healthcare and tech are also converging through M&A.
Value-based care remains in its early stages, but the transition is accelerating and represents a huge addressable market.

Clay Siegall, Morphimmune CEO

Up­dat­ed: Ex-Seagen chief Clay Sie­gall emerges as CEO of pri­vate biotech

Clay Siegall will be back in the CEO seat, taking the helm of a private startup working on targeted cancer therapies.

It’s been almost a year since Siegall resigned from Seagen, the biotech he co-founded and led for more than 20 years, in the wake of domestic violence allegations by his then-wife. His eventual successor, David Epstein, sold the company to Pfizer in a $43 billion deal unveiled last week.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Zhi Hong, Brii Biosciences CEO

Brii Bio­sciences stops man­u­fac­tur­ing Covid-19 an­ti­body com­bo, plans to with­draw EUA re­quest

Brii Biosciences said it will stop manufacturing its Covid-19 antibody combination, sold in China, and is working to withdraw its emergency use authorization request in the US, which it started in October 2021.

The Beijing and North Carolina biotech commercially launched the treatment in China last July but is now axing the work and reverting resources to other “high-priority programs,” per a Friday update. The focus now is namely hepatitis B viral infection, postpartum depression and major depressive disorders.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

FDA ad­vi­sors unan­i­mous­ly rec­om­mend ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval for Bio­gen's ALS drug

A panel of outside advisors to the FDA unanimously recommended that the agency grant accelerated approval to Biogen’s ALS drug tofersen despite the drug failing the primary goal of its Phase III study, an endorsement that could pave a path forward for the treatment.

By a 9-0 vote, members of the Peripheral and Central Nervous System Drugs Advisory Committee said there was sufficient evidence that tofersen’s effect on a certain protein associated with ALS is reasonably likely to predict a benefit for patients. But panelists stopped short of advocating for a full approval, voting 3-5 against (with one abstention) and largely citing the failed pivotal study.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Sergio Traversa, Relmada Therapeutics CEO

Rel­ma­da makes 'crit­i­cal changes' to PhI­II tri­al to try and save de­pres­sion drug

Relmada Therapeutics is making changes to its Phase III study of its lead drug for major depressive disorder, in an attempt to avoid problems with a prior trial that showed little difference between the drug and a placebo.

That failure in October wiped 80% from Relmada’s stock price, and was followed by another negative readout a few months later. In both cases, the company said that there had been trial sites that were associated with what it called surprising placebo effects that skewed the results compared with the drug, REL-1017.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Paul Song, NKGen Biotech CEO

NK cell ther­a­py-fo­cused biotech eyes SPAC deal

A small, Santa Ana-based biotech created in 2017 is looking to enter a SPAC deal as it lays out plans to begin trials in its lead cell therapy candidates and bring on new executives.

Graf Acquisition Corp. IV and NKGen Biotech announced Thursday, with few other details, that the two companies signed a non-binding letter of intent to “pursue a business combination.” Graf Acquisition II and III withdrew their IPOs last year.

In­cyte hit by CRL on ex­tend­ed-re­lease JAK tablets, mud­dy­ing plans for Jakafi fran­chise ex­pan­sion

The FDA has rejected Incyte’s extended-release formulation of ruxolitinib tablets, in a surprise setback for the company’s plans to build on its blockbuster Jakafi franchise.

The ruxolitinib XR tablets are designed to be taken once a day, whereas Jakafi is indicated for twice daily dosage (although some patients can take it once daily).

According to Incyte, the FDA acknowledged in its complete response letter that the study submitted in the NDA “met its objective of bioequivalence based on area under the curve (AUC) parameters but identified additional requirements for approval.”

Peter Hecht, Cyclerion Therapeutics CEO

Hard pressed for cash, Cy­cle­ri­on looks for help fund­ing rare dis­ease drug

Cyclerion Therapeutics may have the design of a Phase IIb study ready to go, but it’s scrambling for a way to fund it.

The company said in a press release that it’s “actively evaluating the best combination of capital, capabilities, and transactions available to it to advance the development of zagociguat,” its lead candidate for a rare, genetic mitochondrial disease known as MELAS.

In a separate SEC filing, Cyclerion once again flagged “substantial doubt about (its) ability to continue as a going concern.” As of the end of 2022, it had cash and cash equivalents of only $13.4 million.

Senate health committee chair Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Mod­er­na CEO de­fends Covid-19 vac­cine price change at Sen­ate com­mit­tee grilling

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel faced a barrage of questions from the Senate health committee on Wednesday but emerged mostly unscathed as he defended the quadrupling of the price of the company’s blockbuster Covid-19 vaccine in the US, from about $26 per dose to $130 per dose.

What’s behind that rise in price, many senators on both sides of the aisle questioned, and Bancel offered a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the company is expecting a 90% reduction in demand for its vaccine next fall, when the FDA is likely to roll out another booster campaign to fight Covid-19.