Bay­er fires em­ploy­ee who was spot­ted break­ing quar­an­tine in Chi­na

Amid height­ened sen­si­tiv­i­ties around so­cial dis­tanc­ing and in­creas­ing­ly tough re­stric­tions on peo­ple’s move­ment in des­per­ate at­tempts to sup­press the spread of Covid-19 around the world, Bay­er’s Chi­na di­vi­sion said it has fired an em­ploy­ee af­ter she broke quar­an­tine rules in Bei­jing.

In un­der four months since it first re­port­ed cas­es of mys­te­ri­ous pneu­mo­nia to the WHO, Chi­na has swift­ly re­brand­ed it­self as a safe haven, with im­port­ed cas­es now sur­pass­ing lo­cal trans­mis­sion. So when a video emerged of a woman who ap­peared to be de­fy­ing gov­ern­ment or­ders re­gard­ing dis­ease con­trol, it went vi­ral and drew uni­ver­sal con­dem­na­tion.

Sim­i­lar back­lash was di­rect­ed against a Bio­gen em­ploy­ee who, af­ter de­vel­op­ing symp­toms and al­leged­ly get­ting re­fused test­ing three times, fled with her fam­i­ly to Chi­na, where she test­ed pos­i­tive for Covid-19. The woman, a res­i­dent of Mass­a­chu­setts, had board­ed a plane in Los An­ge­les and hid­den her health con­di­tion from the flight crew.

The woman in this new in­ci­dent had re­port­ed­ly just re­turned from over­seas and was or­dered to quar­an­tine her­self at home for 14 days. In­stead, she went for a run — with­out a mask.

When she re­turned, an un­named per­son be­hind the cam­era (pre­sum­ably a se­cu­ri­ty guard or a dis­ease con­trol of­fi­cer) con­front­ed her at her door. The Bei­jing mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment has des­ig­nat­ed her as a per­son un­der quar­an­tine, he point­ed out, and she’s not sup­posed to leave her apart­ment.

“I need to go run­ning. I need to work out. Who’s gonna take care of me if I fall sick?” the woman was filmed ar­gu­ing. “You?”

Her dis­mis­sive at­ti­tude — first ask­ing the of­fi­cer to “go get your man­ag­er” then yelling that she was be­ing ha­rassed — en­raged ne­ti­zens on Wei­bo (a Twit­ter equiv­a­lent), who quick­ly ex­posed her as an Aus­tralian Chi­nese and an em­ploy­ee of Bay­er.

The woman was filmed as she was con­front­ed about break­ing quar­an­tine (Wei­bo)

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

With­in hours, the Ger­man phar­ma and chem­i­cal gi­ant con­firmed in a Wei­bo state­ment that she did work for Bay­er — but not any­more. They have fired her, ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ate­ly.

“Bay­er ha­bit­u­al­ly fol­lows the laws and reg­u­la­tions in the coun­tries where we op­er­ate, and firm­ly sup­ports the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment and peo­ple’s ac­tions against the coro­n­avirus out­break,” they added. “All em­ploy­ees of Bay­er Chi­na should strict­ly fol­low gov­ern­ment poli­cies to com­bat Covid-19.”

Un­like the Bio­gen staffer, though, the woman does not seem to be fac­ing any crim­i­nal charges. Word on Wei­bo is that af­ter a talk with com­mu­ni­ty po­lice of­fi­cers, she’s in com­pli­ance now and hasn’t been seen out­side since then. The af­fair has been a trend­ing top­ic on Wei­bo, reach­ing as high as #7.

In a pre­vi­ous state­ment pro­vid­ed to End­points News, Bio­gen said its em­ploy­ee, iden­ti­fied by her sur­name Li, “made a per­son­al de­ci­sion to trav­el to Chi­na. We are deeply dis­mayed by the sit­u­a­tion as re­port­ed by the me­dia in Chi­na.”

So­cial im­age: Chaoyang dis­trict in Bei­jing, where the run-in re­port­ed­ly took place (Shut­ter­stock)

For a look at all End­points News coro­n­avirus sto­ries, check out our spe­cial news chan­nel.

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

President Donald Trump (left) and Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed (Alex Brandon, AP Images)

White House names fi­nal­ists for Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed — with 5 ex­pect­ed names and one no­table omis­sion

A month after word first broke of the Trump Administration’s plan to rapidly accelerate the development and production of a Covid-19 vaccine, the White House has selected the five vaccine candidates they consider most likely to succeed, The New York Times reported.

Most of the names in the plan, known as Operation Warp Speed, will come as little surprise to those who have watched the last four months of vaccine developments: Moderna, which was the first vaccine to reach humans and is now the furthest along of any US effort; J&J, which has not gone into trials but received around $500 million in funding from BARDA earlier this year; the joint AstraZeneca-Oxford venture which was granted $1.2 billion from BARDA two weeks ago; Pfizer, which has been working with the mRNA biotech BioNTech; and Merck, which just entered the race and expects to put their two vaccine candidates into humans later this year.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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UP­DAT­ED: Es­ti­mat­ing a US price tag of $5K per course, remde­sivir is set to make bil­lions for Gilead, says key an­a­lyst

Data on remdesivir — the first drug shown to benefit Covid-19 patients in a randomized, controlled trial setting — may be murky, but its maker Gilead could reap billions from the sales of the failed Ebola therapy, according to an estimate by a prominent Wall Street analyst. However, the forecast, which is based on a $5,000-per-course US price tag, triggered the ire of one top drug price expert.

Credit: AP Images

Covid-19 roundup: BAR­DA sup­ports Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed with big $628M con­tract to ser­vice Amer­i­ca's vac­cine pro­duc­tion needs

Another BARDA contract designed to service America’s Covid-19 vaccine needs has been deployed.

The White House-led initiative designed to bankroll development to bring a vaccine to the American public by this fall — Operation Warp Speed — has via BARDA handed a meaty contract to the maker of an FDA-licensed anthrax vaccine to open up its manufacturing apparatus to shore up production of Covid-19 vaccines.

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A low-pro­file biotech bests Re­gen­eron in high-pro­file patent suit

For nearly a decade now, the low-profile Cambridge biotech Kymab has been battling in US, UK, Japanese and Australian courts with the biotech behemoth Regeneron.

Regeneron has turned itself into a $70 billion company off of a platform of transgenically humanized mice they can use to make antibodies for anything from Ebola to colorectal cancer. The technology took decades and billions to build, 20 years from the company’s founding to the first approved drug. And the company guards and touts it zealously, breaking their production process down into various branded components — Velocimmune, Velocigene, Velocimouse and four other Velocis — and sometimes suing would-be copycats. In 2014, most notably, they sued two Pfizer-backed entities for patent infringement.

Cameron Durrant, Humanigen CEO (Columbia University Technology Ventures via YouTube)

Cameron Dur­rant hus­tled his way from the OTC side­lines right in­to the Covid-19 drug race. Death or glo­ry lies straight ahead

Over the past few months, Covid-19 has gone from being a monolithic threat to one of the biggest overnight boons the biopharma industry has ever seen. And amid all the furor over Moderna’s swelling stock price, plenty of chatter over what new drugs and vaccines will cost and investors’ uninhibited zeal for all things related to pandemic products, it’s been one little biotech’s golden ticket back from the land of the living dead.

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Fangliang Zhang (Imaginechina via AP Images)

The big mon­ey: Poised to make drug R&D his­to­ry, a Chi­na biotech un­veils uni­corn rac­ing am­bi­tions in a bid to raise $350M-plus on Nas­daq

Almost exactly three years after Shanghai-based Legend came out of nowhere to steal the show at ASCO with jaw-dropping data on their BCMA-targeted CAR-T for multiple myeloma, the little player with Big Pharma connections is taking a giant step toward making it big on Wall Street. And this time they want to seal the deal on a global rep after staking out a unicorn valuation in what’s turned out to be a bull market for biotech IPOs — in the middle of a pandemic.

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