British CRO wins contract for Covid-19 challenge virus; Dutch agency aims to slash Zolgensma prices in half
Efforts are underway to develop a new challenge virus for SARS-CoV-2, and a British CRO is making its case.
Open Orphan said Monday that its subsidiary hVIVO signed a contract with Imperial College London to manufacture such a challenge virus. The contract is worth £3 million and hVIVO will develop the virus based on new emerging Covid-19 variants of concern. The company hopes to then use the virus in future challenge studies.
Open Orphan added the project will begin immediately, and manufacturing is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
The CRO feels hVIVO is well-suited to the task because of its past experience working on challenge viruses for the flu, RSV and the common cold, in addition to an earlier version of SARS-CoV-2. That original Covid-19 strain is being used in a challenge study in collaboration with the UK government.
“The availability of a variant SARS-CoV-2 virus will greatly expand the utility of the SARS-CoV-2 challenge model and allow us to answer a wider range of important scientific questions to aid control of the pandemic as well as facilitate further testing of vaccines designed against Covid-19,” — hVIVO CSO Andrew Catchpole said in a statement.
Dutch agency says Zolgensma price should be cut in half
Novartis’ Zolgensma drug for spinal muscular atrophy is notorious for being the most expensive medicine in the world at about $2.1 million. But the Dutch are trying to change that.
The Zorginstituut, the national health care institute of The Netherlands, is pushing to slash Zolgensma’s price in half, per a statement released Monday. The institute noted that the price point does not reflect the drug’s effectiveness, saying there is too little evidence the drug works to cost its current price.
It has recommended that the Dutch government not cover the costs of the medicine unless this price cut is met.
“The Zorginstituut ensures that our care is and remains good and affordable, all this to only spend our money for healthcare on valuable treatments that are known to actually work,” the agency said in a statement. “We ultimately make these complicated but necessary choices for and on behalf of 17 million Dutch people, so that everyone continues to have access to good and affordable care in the future.”