Covid-19 roundup: US buys more of the only antibody that works against Omicron; BioNTech taps AI to detect new variants faster
GlaxoSmithKline and Vir’s monoclonal antibody sotrovimab is still the only mAb treatment that works against the Omicron variant, and the US on Tuesday boosted its supply again.
This latest deal, the financial details of which were not immediately disclosed, will bring 600,000 additional doses to the US, ready for distribution this quarter. GSK and Vir previously landed two prior procurement deals that amounted to about $1 billion in sotrovimab sold. GSK said it’s now signed agreements for shipping 1.7 million doses of sotrovimab worldwide.
So far, the US has distributed about 385,000 doses of sotrovimab, which is less than half of the number of doses of Regeneron and Eli Lilly mAbs distributed so far. And while the US has paused and then restarted its distribution of the Regeneron and Lilly products, neither of those work against Omicron.
BioNTech partners with London AI developer to hunt Covid variants
BioNTech said Tuesday it’s working with London-based AI developer InstaDeep to come up with a new computational method that analyzes sequencing data and predicts high-risk variants of SARS-CoV-2.
The early warning system combines structural modeling of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and AI algorithms to flag potentially high-risk variants entered into SARS-CoV-2 sequence data repositories “within less than a day,” based on metrics scoring their fitness (e.g. ACE2 and variant Spike protein interaction) as well as their immune escape properties, the companies said.
During a trial period of the system, it identified >90% of WHO-designated variants two months faster than other international experts, the partners claimed.
“More than 10,000 novel variant sequences are currently discovered every week and human experts simply cannot cope with complex data at this scale,” Karim Beguir, co-founder and CEO of InstaDeep, said in a statement.
Moderna vaccine performs better than Pfizer against infection, hospitalization, new VA real-world data study shows
A new real-world study funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs reveals that compared to those who received Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, Moderna vaccine recipients had a significantly lower risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and related hospitalizations across all age groups, comorbidity-burden categories and race.
Authors of the study, published as a pre-print last week, noted differences between Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine and Pfizer’s BNT162b2 “in risk of infection or hospitalization were progressively greater when the follow-up period was longer.”
The study evaluated more than 900,000 vaccine recipients, followed for a mean of 192 days, during which there were almost 17,000 infections, more than 3,500 hospitalizations and 381 deaths.
While fewer patients who received Moderna’s vaccine died compared with Pfizer (168 versus 213), the researchers said this difference was not statistically significant (aHR 0.808, 95% CI 0.592-1.103).
Pfizer preps to launch Omicron-targeted vaccine in March
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC yesterday his company is readying the launch of an Omicron-specific vaccine in March, and ramping up manufacturing now.
“The hope is that we will achieve something that will have way, way better protection particularly against infections, because the protection against the hospitalizations and the severe disease — it is reasonable right now, with the current vaccines as long as you are having let’s say the third dose,” Bourla said.
In addition, the company is planning for human trials of the Omicron-targeted vaccine to begin by the end of the month, according to Business Insider.