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Vaccine maker BioNTech says no need to waive patents

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BioNTech says no need to waive patents

The head of German pharmaceutical company BioNTech said Monday that there is no need to waive patents on coronavirus vaccines because manufacturers will be able to produce enough shots to supply the world over the coming year.

Ugur Sahin, the chief executive of BioNTech, rejected the U.S.-backed proposal to temporarily lift some intellectual property rights for vaccines in order to boost global supply during the ongoing pandemic.

In a call with investors announcing the company’s first-quarter net profit of 1.13 billion euros ($1.37 billion), Sahin said BioNTech and its U.S. partner Pfizer had already delivered vaccines to more than 90 countries and more than doubled its forecast production capacity for the year.

“We have now scaled the manufacturing capacity up to 3 billion doses in 2021, and more than 40% of these doses are expected to go to middle- and low-income countries,” Sahin said.

Waiving patents would not ease supply shortages in the coming months, he said, citing the complexity of producing the mRNA-based shot his company developed last year.

Sahin said his company is working to further expand its manufacturing network with its own sites, such as one now planned in Singapore, and through cooperation with other manufacturers to ensure greater supply while maintaining the quality of the vaccine. But he also noted that rival manufacturers have their own shots either on the market already or in the pipeline.

“We believe, together with the other vaccine developers, in the next 9 to 12 months, that there will be more than enough vaccine produced and there is absolutely no need for waiving patents,” he said.

BioNTech’s estimated revenues surged to over 2 billion euros for the period from January to March, compared with just 28 million euros in the same period last year, after it launched the first widely used vaccine against COVID-19 together with Pfizer, which holds the market and distribution rights in much of the world.

The Mainz-based company said its revenues included over 1.75 billion euros in gross profits from vaccine sales in Pfizer’s territories, and almost 200 million from sales to customers in its region. Based on current orders for some 1.8 billion doses, it expects full-year revenues of 12.4 billion euros in 2021.

BioNTech shares rose by more than 7% to $196.60 in early trading Monday on Nasdaq.

The results are a significant turnaround for the company, which made a net loss of 53 million euros in the first quarter of 2020.

Early last year as the pandemic began, BioNTech pivoted from researching treatments for cancer to developing a vaccine against COVID-19. Like its rival Moderna, the company’s vaccine uses mRNA technology to prime the body’s immune system to attack the virus.


BERLIN (AP) — By FRANK JORDANS Associated Press

MedTech

Vista Equity invests $300 million in telehealth software firm TigerConnect- sources

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Healthcare communications software provider TigerConnect has raised $300 million in growth investment from private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday.

The valuation of TigerConnect wasn’t known. It last raised $45 million at a valuation of $370 million in September 2020, according to PitchBook data, counting HealthQuest Capital and New Leaf Ventures as its backers. Some of the early investors have exited through Vista’s investment, one of the sources said.

Santa Monica, California-based TigerConnect delivers cloud-based clinical communication and collaboration solutions, including telehealth, to over 7,000 healthcare organizations and 700,000 caregivers.

In an interview, Brad Brooks, TigerConnect’s co-founder and chief executive confirmed the partnership with Vista, but declined to comment on the amount or valuation.

He said the company plans to use the proceeds to invest in its product to meet the growing need for clinical collaborations, as well as looking for acquisition opportunities.

The number of users on TigerConnect’s platform more than doubled during the past year as hospitals try to improve efficiency and the experience for patients during the pandemic, Brooks added.

“There had really been a dramatic lack of efforts around clinical workflow communication. We’re almost like a Slack for healthcare, putting in a common communication network so that everyone can reach everyone,” said Brooks.

The company, founded in 2010, sells subscription-based software solutions, including collaboration, communication, scheduling and patient engagement. It also plans to utilize AI and machine learning technology to provide smart solutions based on the platform data.

Vista has over $86 billion in assets under management and specializes in investing in enterprise software, data and technology companies. Last week, it invested an undisclosed amount in BlueConic, a Boston-based customer data platform.

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MedTech

AstraZeneca booster shot is effective against Omicron variant

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A study from an Oxford University lab published on Thursday revealed that a three-dose course of AstraZeneca booster shot is efficient in controlling the fast spread of the Omicron variant.

The Pharmaceutical company said in its statement that the results – while they have yet to be released in a peer-reviewed medical journal – are relatively identical to those of its rivals, including Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. They also uncovered that their booster vaccines effectively fight the latest Coronavirus variant.

After receiving the third dose of AstraZeneca, the study highlighted that the shot had a neutralizing effect against the virus, which had an almost identical result to the two shots against its previous variant, Delta.

“As we better understand Omicron, we believe we will find T-cell response provides durable protection against severe disease and hospitalizations,” the head of AstraZeneca’s biopharmaceutical R&D, Mene Pangalos, said when referring to a significant element of the immune system that fights infection.

After taking the Vaxzervria – the third booster shot – antibody levels marked a much higher rate than antibodies in patients who had already caught the virus and naturally regained health, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said.

On Tuesday, the pharmaceutical firm announced that it is already working with its partner, Oxford University, to develop a vaccine exclusively directed towards fighting the Omicron variant, mirroring other MedTech companies’ attempts.

The university’s study incorporated 41 samples from individuals who had already taken the first two shots of AstraZeneca and others who took the booster one. The lab examined and analyzed blood samples from people infected with the virus and others vaccinated with the two dozes, the third booster shot, and finally, those who had already caught one of the coronavirus variants.

It is worth mentioning that AstraZeneca stated that while the Oxford University lab results support its booster shot, the study was completely independent of researchers who had previously joint efforts with the London-based firm on the vaccine.

The world is looking to halt back from the detrimental effect the pandemic is spreading, with governments and scientists seeking to heighten fortifications in their health sectors against the Omicron.

Even since its emergence on the scene, the latest COVID-19 variant proved to be one of the most dominant variants to date. Governments are worried it might become globally spread after the holidays if they fail to curb the infections rate.

Earlier this month, the UK endorsed third shots after discovering that boosters have a vital role in restoring protection against other diseases triggered by the Omicron. 

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MedTech

Moderna, unfazed by Omicron, prepares for 2022 vaccination campaign

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Moderna, unfazed by Omicron, prepares for the 2022 vaccination campaign

Covid-19 vaccine-making veteran Moderna seems unfazed by the emergence of the Omicron variant, saying that they can begin work on developing a booster short within a couple of weeks, according to Chief Executive Stephane Bancel.

“It only needs minor adjustments for Omicron, I don’t expect any problems,” said Bancel in an interview with the Swiss newspaper TagesAnzeiger.

Though hoping to begin clinical trials in early 2022, for the time being, they will be relying on the booster dose of their mRNA-1273 vaccine to counter the fast-spreading coronavirus variant. 

The company is now awaiting vital information on the new variant to begin vaccine development, which could take up to one or two weeks.

Bancel says that it will take another few months to produce 500 million doses after all the regulatory requirements have been met, citing that their capabilities and experience as a company today have increased compared to one year ago.

In 2021, Moderna managed to create around 700 million to 800 million vaccine doses. In 2022, they expect to escalate production capacity from 100 million doses per month to 150 million per month. 

Deals were also made with Swiss-based drug manufacturer Lonza to boost production further and plan to fire up their factory lines in the first quarter of 2022.

The company is currently discussing a future ‘vaccine subscription’ service with Switzerland that works to ensure a steady supply. This move helps improve ties with the country, which Moderna is keen to proceed with after signing parliamentary agreements with Canada and Australia.

“We have a number of new vaccines in development, for example against influenza or against the RS virus, which causes a respiratory disease that is fatal in the elderly and young children,” Bancel added.

“We can combine these three mRNA vaccines into one dose and propose to governments to secure supplies for a certain amount for several years and then invest in a production facility in that country,” he added.

With this, the company can designate certain countries as having priority should another pandemic occur in the future.

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