June 28, 2020

WHO identifies AstraZeneca and Moderna Inc as frontrunners

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While multiple pharmaceutical companies across the globe are working towards a coronavirus vaccine, there are only a handful which have managed to reach advanced stages of trials. Moderna, which is entering Phase III of its trials in July for its mRNA-based vaccine, is optimistic of receiving FDA approval.

Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified the candidates developed by Oxford University – AstraZeneca and Moderna Inc as front-runners. Moderna has also signed a deal with Catalent for large-scale manufacturing of its vaccine candidate. Catalent will provide vial filling and packaging capacity as well as additional workforce required for 24X7 manufacturing operations. Catalent is already in partnership with Johnson and Johnson as well as AstraZeneca.

While the general opinion of most experts and pharmaceutical companies is that a corona vaccine would be ready by mid-2021, researchers are still hoping for a 2020 breakthrough. The WHO, however, said that they are expecting a COVID vaccine by no sooner than a year.

Johnson and Johnson, Sanofi, Inovio, Sinovac, CanSino are some of the other companies to have made significant progress.

Here’s the list of COVID-19 vaccine update from across the world:

Europe

Zurich’s health authority said it had ordered a 10-day quarantine for almost 300 guests and staff of a nightclub after a reveller tested positive for the coronavirus and had been proven to have infected others during his outing.

A growing number of COVID-19 cases among people under 35 years of age is a “worrying trend,” Ireland’s chief medical officer Tony Holohan said on Saturday as the country reported the highest number of new infections for two weeks.

Spain is to uphold a ban on cruise liners from docking at its ports to stop the coronavirus spread, according to a ministerial order published on Saturday.

America

Five states hit record daily highs for coronavirus cases on Saturday, and Vice President Mike Pence cancelled planned campaign events in hard-hit areas as the virus surged in the US South and West, halting economic reopening plans.

Workers at California’s Disneyland Resort protested from their cars on Saturday, arguing the Walt Disney Co DIS.N has not agreed to adequate protections for employees when the destination reopens to the public.

Asia-Pacific

Australia’s Victoria state will implement mandatory coronavirus tests for returning travellers after a sharp spike in infections over the past two weeks, the state’s premier said on Sunday.

India reported over 17,000 new coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours, pushing the country’s total above 500,000, federal health ministry data showed on Saturday, with infections surging in major cities including the capital New Delhi.

Middle East and Africa

Iran launched a campaign on Saturday to motivate a reluctant public to use face masks as the country faces a sharp increase in coronavirus infections and deaths.

Tunisia reopened its land, sea and air borders for the first time in more than three months on Saturday after it announced it had brought the coronavirus outbreak under control.

Medical Developments

Brazil announced on Saturday it had signed a $127 million agreement to start producing locally an experimental vaccine developed by AstraZeneca that has shown promise to fight the pandemic.

Brazilian Health Ministry authorities said in a press conference that the country will pay $127 million and receive material to produce 30.4 million doses in two batches in December and January. The deal is for a total of 100 million vaccines for a country of about 210 million residents. It will be produced by local vaccine maker Fiocruz.

Additionally, China is also experimenting with six candidates on humans and more than a dozen are in different stages of the trial. One of the vaccine candidates is developed by Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products. The candidate has been co-developed by Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical and the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It has received approval from the National Medical Products Administration for clinical trials.

A COVID vaccine developed in Canada’s Alberta is moving forward with human trials this summer. Led by University of Alberta researcher Dr John Lewis, Entos Pharmaceuticals has selected two vaccine prototypes for testing in people. “We have two really excellent candidates that produce a very strong neutralising antibody immune response,” said Lewis. The Government of Canada has granted Lewis $4.2 million for the project.

Coronavirus Drug in India

In India, Hyderabad-based Hetero has shipped its first batch of Remdesivir drug to five states including Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Telangana. The drug named COVIFOR has been priced at Rs 5,400. The following batch of the drug, which is a generic version of Remdesivir will be sent to Kolkata, Lucknow, Patna, Indore, Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Ranchi, Kochi, Trivandrum, Vijayawada and Goa.

Glenmark Pharmaceuticals has also announced the launch of antiviral drug Favipiravir for the treatment of mild to moderate coronavirus patients. “The antiviral offers broad-spectrum RNA virus coverage with clinical improvement noted across age groups 20 to 90 years. Favipiravir can be used in COVID-19 patients with co-morbid conditions such as diabetes and heart disease with mild to moderate COVID 19 symptoms,” the company said.

Meanwhile, corticosteroid Dexamethasone, believed to be effective in coronavirus treatment, is likely to be the next repurposed drug that may set Indian drug makers like Zydus Cadila, Wockhardt, Cadila Pharmaceuticals, GLS Pharma and Wyeth Ltd to work. The drug is low-cost and is priced at less than Rs 3 for a strip of 10 tablets.

(With agency inputs)

Also Read: Coronavirus update: India crosses 5 lakh mark; reports highest single-day spike of 18,552

Also Read: India’s coronavirus recovery rate rises to 58.56%; these states are leading the race





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