Brazil­ian vol­un­teer in As­traZeneca Covid-19 vac­cine tri­al has died in the place­bo arm — re­ports

A vol­un­teer in As­traZeneca’s Covid-19 vac­cine tri­al in Brazil has died, Brazil­ian health au­thor­i­ties said Wednes­day, trig­ger­ing fresh alarms over the fu­ture of the Ox­ford pro­gram. But lat­er re­ports not­ed that the death was in the place­bo group and As­traZeneca is­sued word that there were no con­cerns about con­tin­u­ing the study.

The Brazil­ian health agency An­visa said it had re­ceived da­ta from an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to the is­sue, per a Reuters re­port. The re­port was then up­dat­ed cit­ing a source fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter say­ing that the tri­al would have been sus­pend­ed had the vol­un­teer been giv­en the ex­per­i­men­tal Covid-19 vac­cine, im­ply­ing that they were part of the place­bo arm.

Ox­ford Uni­ver­si­ty, which is de­vel­op­ing the vac­cine in tan­dem with As­traZeneca, told Reuters that af­ter as­sess­ing the sit­u­a­tion, “there have been no con­cerns about safe­ty of the clin­i­cal tri­al.” An­visa added that the vac­cine tri­als will con­tin­ue in the wake of the death. The agency gave no fur­ther de­tails in­to the cir­cum­stances.

As­traZeneca $AZN share prices dipped about 2% as the news broke, but since lev­eled off and closed Wednes­day down 1.19%.

A com­pa­ny spokesper­son gave the fol­low­ing com­ment to End­points News:

We can­not com­ment on in­di­vid­ual cas­es in an on­go­ing tri­al of the Ox­ford vac­cine as we ad­here strict­ly to med­ical con­fi­den­tial­i­ty and clin­i­cal tri­al reg­u­la­tions, but we can con­firm that all re­quired re­view process­es have been fol­lowed. All sig­nif­i­cant med­ical events are care­ful­ly as­sessed by tri­al in­ves­ti­ga­tors, an in­de­pen­dent safe­ty mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tee and the reg­u­la­to­ry au­thor­i­ties. These as­sess­ments have not led to any con­cerns about con­tin­u­a­tion of the on­go­ing study.

Re­ports ear­li­er Wednes­day not­ed that As­traZeneca was sched­uled to restart its Phase III study in the US some­time this week. Dos­ing came to a halt world­wide in ear­ly Sep­tem­ber af­ter a British vol­un­teer de­vel­oped a con­di­tion thought to be trans­verse myelitis, a rare spinal in­flam­ma­tion dis­or­der.

Tri­als have al­ready re­sumed in the UK, In­dia, Japan and South Africa in ad­di­tion to Brazil, and the EMA has since ini­ti­at­ed a rolling re­view of the vac­cine can­di­date.

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

Da­ta Lit­er­a­cy: The Foun­da­tion for Mod­ern Tri­al Ex­e­cu­tion

In 2016, the International Council for Harmonisation (ICH) updated their “Guidelines for Good Clinical Practice.” One key shift was a mandate to implement a risk-based quality management system throughout all stages of a clinical trial, and to take a systematic, prioritized, risk-based approach to clinical trial monitoring—on-site monitoring, remote monitoring, or any combination thereof.

Mer­ck scraps Covid-19 vac­cine pro­grams af­ter they fail to mea­sure up on ef­fi­ca­cy in an­oth­er ma­jor set­back in the glob­al fight

After turning up late to the vaccine development game in the global fight against Covid-19, Merck is now making a quick exit.

The pharma giant is reporting this morning that it’s decided to drop development of 2 vaccines — V590 and V591 — after taking a look at Phase I data that simply don’t measure up to either the natural immune response seen in people exposed to the virus or the vaccines already on or near the market.

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Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Mod­er­na dou­bles down on Covid-19 with new boost­er tri­als; Aus­tralia plans do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion of As­traZeneca vac­cine amid dis­tri­b­u­tion lag

As Merck bows out of the global race to develop vaccines for Covid-19, Moderna is doubling down to make sure they can quell new variants that have recently emerged and quickly spread.

The Cambridge, MA-based biotech put out word on Monday that in vivo studies indicate their mRNA vaccine works well enough against two strains first detected in the UK and South Africa. But with a six-fold reduction in neutralizing titers observed against the latter strain, the company is launching a new study of a booster version to make sure it can do the job.

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Can strug­gling Iterum turn the cor­ner to an an­tibi­ot­ic suc­cess sto­ry? They will know in six months

More than five years after Corey Fishman and Michael Dunne dusted sulopenem off Pfizer’s shelves — the second castoff antibiotic they’ve brought out of the pharma giant — and founded Iterum Therapeutics around that single drug, they have lined up a quick shot at approval with priority review from the FDA.

The decision, six months from now, will mark a make-or-break moment for a struggling biotech that has just enough cash to keep the lights on until the third quarter.

Bahija Jallal, Immunocore

Buried in Im­muno­core's IPO fil­ings? A kick­back scheme from a now for­mer em­ploy­ee

Immunocore spent much of 2019 dealing with the fallout of the Neil Woodford scandal, as the former star investor’s fall crashed the biotech’s valuation out of unicorn range. Now it turns out that the company spent 2020 dealing with another internal scandal.

The longtime UK biotech darling disclosed in their IPO filing last week that they had fallen victim to an alleged kickback scheme involving one of their employees. After a whistleblower came forward, they said in their F-1, they spent the summer and spring investigating, finding fraud on the part of an employee and two outside vendors.

Jean-Christophe-Hyvert, Lonza

Lon­za look­ing to build on 'd­if­fer­en­ti­at­ed ad­van­tage' in Covid-19, CD­MO mar­ket­place in 2021

It’s not new for Lonza, the Swiss CDMO nearing its quasquicentennial anniversary, to be in the upper echelon of the biotech manufacturing industry.

But 2020 — as it was for many CDMOs — was a special year even by Lonza’s standards. The company inked a deal to produce 1 billion worldwide doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine and tapped pharma vet Pierre-Alain Ruffieux to lead its operations, moves which have allowed Lonza to make a myriad of other deals that will continue to ramp up its global production capacity.

Matt Gline (L) and Vivek Ramaswamy

Scoop: Vivek Ra­maswamy is hand­ing the CEO job to a top lieu­tenant at Roivant — but he’s not ex­act­ly leav­ing the biotech scene

Over the past 7 years since founding Roivant, Vivek Ramaswamy has been a constant blur of biotech building motion.

He launched his first biotech with an Alzheimer’s drug he picked up cheap, and watched the experiment implode in one of the highest profile pivotal disasters seen in the last decade. But it didn’t slow the 30-something exec down; if anything, he hit the accelerator. Ramaswamy blazed global paths and went on to raise billions to spur the creation of a large lineup of little Vants promising big things at a fast pace. He sold off a section of the Vant brigade to Sumitomo Dainippon for $3 billion. And more recently the relentless dealmaker has been building a computational discovery arm to add an AI-driven approach to kicking up new programs and companies, supplementing the in-licensing drive while pursuing advances that have created more than 700 jobs at Roivant, with $2 billion in reserves.

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News brief­ing: Jef­frey Lei­den to chair Tmu­ni­ty board of di­rec­tors; Op­di­vo wins new ap­proval in ad­vanced RCC

Longtime Vertex CEO Jeffrey Leiden is taking on a new role.

Leiden has been appointed chairman of Tmunity’s board of directors, the company announced Monday. The move comes about a year and a half after Leiden announced he’d be stepping down from his position at Vertex.

Vertex saw immense growth under Leiden, leading the company from its exit out of hepatitis C, when cures were moving in, and into cystic fibrosis. The company’s cystic fibrosis triple combo therapy Trikafta is already its best-seller, reaching the distinction just six weeks after launch and recording the strongest first quarter of sales for any drug, per some estimates.

IPO track­er: 2021 gets start­ed with a flur­ry of new of­fer­ings

A global pandemic couldn’t slow down what turned out to be a record year for biotech IPOs. With the calendar turning toward 2021, the Endpoints News team is prepped to track each new filing this year, and the outcome. We’re off to another hot start at least.

Below, you’ll find the companies that have filed to go public, in addition to those that have already priced. Through the first two business weeks of January, there have already been 9 biotechs that have filed or priced, and the number is only expected to grow. We’ll keep the tracker updated as it does.