Dana-Far­ber, MD An­der­son, MIT im­pose trav­el re­stric­tions amid broad­er ef­forts to con­tain coro­n­avirus dam­age in US

As the new coro­n­avirus spreads to more states in the US out­side Wash­ing­ton, so have the re­ac­tions.

MIT is ban­ning all in­ter­na­tion­al busi­ness trav­els for stu­dents, fac­ul­ty, post­doc and staff for two months, while urg­ing them to weigh whether do­mes­tic trips are es­sen­tial. All in-per­son uni­ver­si­ty-af­fil­i­at­ed events with more than 150 at­ten­dees that will take place be­tween now and May 15 must be post­poned, can­celed or vir­tu­al­ized.

MD An­der­son in Hous­ton and Dana-Far­ber in Boston have both sus­pend­ed all pro­fes­sion­al trav­el and cau­tioned against per­son­al trav­el.

“Our can­cer pa­tients are unique­ly vul­ner­a­ble to coro­n­avirus. For this rea­son, we are com­mit­ting to in­creased work­force pre­cau­tions,” Pe­ter Pis­ters, pres­i­dent of MD An­der­son, said in state­ment, in which the in­sti­tute al­so en­cour­aged use of re­mote meet­ings.

Con­firm­ing the new pol­i­cy to End­points News, a Dana-Far­ber spokesper­son added, “While we rec­og­nize this is a sig­nif­i­cant in­con­ve­nience, our pri­or­i­ty re­mains the health and safe­ty of our work­force, and the health and safe­ty of our pa­tients.”

Such moves could put pres­sure on con­fer­ence hosts such as the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion for Can­cer Re­search.

“We were re­cent­ly made aware that sev­er­al stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing can­cer cen­ters, aca­d­e­m­ic in­sti­tu­tions, and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies, are con­sid­er­ing or have in­sti­tut­ed tem­po­rary trav­el re­stric­tions that, if un­changed, would pre­vent their em­ploy­ees from at­tend­ing or pre­sent­ing at the An­nu­al Meet­ing,” the AACR not­ed in a state­ment Thurs­day.

The cur­rent plan is to go ahead with the gath­er­ing, sched­uled to take place in San Diego April 24-29. The Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Clin­i­cal On­col­o­gy, which hosts an­oth­er high-pro­file can­cer meet­ing planned for late May, has adopt­ed a sim­i­lar wait-and-see ap­proach.

Oth­er or­ga­niz­ers have can­celed their gath­er­ings sched­uled for this month. The Health­care In­for­ma­tion and Man­age­ment Sys­tems So­ci­ety was the lat­est to can­cel its an­nu­al con­fab, which would have drawn up­wards of 40,000 at­ten­dees to Or­lan­do on March 9. The Na­tion­al Com­pre­hen­sive Can­cer Net­work, which had a con­fer­ence planned for 10 days lat­er in the same city, is post­pon­ing.

Mean­while in Eu­rope, the British ex­hi­bi­tions group In­for­ma has an­nounced that its up­com­ing BIO-Eu­rope Spring is go­ing all on­line.

“A sit­u­a­tion out of our con­trol is pre­vent­ing us from do­ing busi­ness in a face-to-face en­vi­ron­ment, so we’ve come to­geth­er to of­fer an al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tion,” a state­ment read. “We will now be de­liv­er­ing BIO-Eu­rope Spring as a ful­ly dig­i­tal event, of­fer­ing vir­tu­al part­ner­ing, on­line com­pa­ny pre­sen­ta­tions, pre-record­ed pan­els and a vir­tu­al ex­hib­it. The dig­i­tal event will take place March 23–27, 2020.”

The BIO Asia con­fer­ence — or­ga­nized by the US trade group and orig­i­nal­ly slat­ed for March 10-11 in Tokyo — has been can­celled; BIO has yet to make a de­ci­sion about its main San Diego con­ven­tion in June.

Back state­side, MIT is call­ing off its “sig­na­ture se­mes­ter con­fer­ences and cel­e­bra­tions,” in­clud­ing the MIT Ex­cel­lence Awards. It’s al­so de­vel­op­ing op­tions for on­line in­struc­tion should that be­come need­ed.

“For our cam­pus com­mu­ni­ty, the cur­rent risk lev­el as­so­ci­at­ed with COVID-19 is low,” MIT pres­i­dent Rafael Reif wrote in his let­ter to the uni­ver­si­ty. “How­ev­er, glob­al hotspots shift, and the con­ta­gion pat­tern is not well un­der­stood. With that un­cer­tain­ty, we need to make pru­dent choic­es to pro­tect the health of our own com­mu­ni­ty and the broad­er com­mu­ni­ties we be­long to, with­out cre­at­ing un­nec­es­sary dis­rup­tions to the nor­mal pur­suit of our ed­u­ca­tion­al and re­search mis­sion.”

While Mass­a­chu­setts has on­ly re­port­ed two covid-19 cas­es, Bio­gen dis­closed late Thurs­day that three of its em­ploy­ees (re­sid­ing in the US and oth­er parts of the US) test­ed pos­i­tive for SARS-CoV-2 af­ter at­tend­ing a meet­ing in Boston.

A host of or­ga­ni­za­tions across the coun­try are tak­ing pre­cau­tions against a brew­ing epi­dem­ic of covid-19. The most dras­tic mea­sures, though, ap­pear to be con­cen­trat­ed in the state of Wash­ing­ton, which has seen the largest clus­ter of cas­es at 44. Fred Hutchin­son Can­cer Cen­ter, home to the re­searcher who warned of pos­si­bly hun­dreds of un­re­port­ed ac­tive in­fec­tions in the state, adopt­ed a manda­to­ry work-from-home pol­i­cy ear­li­er this week along­side Seat­tle-based tech gi­ants.

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

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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Sanofi, GSK tout 72% Omi­cron ef­fi­ca­cy in PhI­II tri­al of next-gen, bi­va­lent shot — with an eye to year-end roll­out

Sometimes, being late can give you an advantage.

That’s what Sanofi and GSK are trying to say as the Big Pharma partners report positive results from a late-stage trial of their next-gen bivalent Covid-19 vaccine, which was designed to protect against both the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Beta variant. Specifically, against Omicron, they note, the vaccine delivered 72% efficacy in all adults and 93.2% in those previously infected.

Rwanda president Paul Kagame and BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin (via BioNTech)

BioN­Tech breaks ground on first mR­NA vac­cine man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty in Africa

Covid vaccine access to lower- and middle-income nations has been a concern during the length of the pandemic, but BioNTech is now pushing forward with plans to increase vaccine access for Africa.

Construction work has kicked off for an mRNA manufacturing facility in Kigali, Rwanda. According to BioNTech, the facility, dubbed the African modular mRNA manufacturing facility, has a target for the first set of manufacturing tools to be delivered to the site by the end of this year.

De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

Joe Wiley, Amryt Pharma CEO

Am­ryt Phar­ma sub­mits a for­mal dis­pute res­o­lu­tion to the FDA over re­ject­ed skin dis­ease drug

The story of Amryt Pharma’s candidate for the genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, will soon enter another chapter.

After the Irish drugmaker’s candidate, dubbed Oleogel-S10 and marketed as Filsuvez, was handed a CRL earlier this year, the company announced in a press release that it plans to submit a formal dispute resolution request for the company’s NDA for Oleogel-S10.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Images)

Phar­ma-friend­ly sen­a­tor calls on FDA for a third time to show patent pro­tec­tions should­n't be blamed for high drug prices

North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis made a name for himself in the 2020 election cycle as the darling of the pharma industry, accepting hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions, even from the likes of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

Those contributions have led Tillis to attempt to re-write patent laws in pharma’s favor, a move which failed to gain steam in 2019, and request for a third time since January that the FDA should help stop “the false narrative that patent protections are to blame for high drug prices.”

EMA signs off on 3 drugs re­cent­ly re­ject­ed by FDA, in­clud­ing Bio­Mar­in's new he­mo­phil­ia gene ther­a­py

The EMA’s human medicines committee on Friday recommended three new drugs for approval or conditional approval, even as their US counterparts have rejected these three for various reasons.

In a major move, CHMP offered a thumbs-up to a conditional marketing authorization for the first gene therapy to treat severe hemophilia A, although the agency cautioned that it’s so far unknown how long the effects of infusion will last.

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