More Global Health Business News (No. 6)

Auritec Pharmaceuticals is a very-low-profile drug delivery company in Pasadena, CA, and is part of a group of academic institutions that recently received a $20 million NIH grant to develop a vaginal ring for microbicide and anti-viral drug delivery (FierceDrugDelivery article). Auritec did not issue a press release on the grant, to be given over five years, but it is co-located with the grant’s lead institution, the Oak Crest Institute of Science, whose press release noted the program will test the delivery of up to five drugs in combination, an important goal for achieving compliance-independent HIV control and treatment (Oak Crest press release).

As I noted in a previous newsletter, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is leading a crash program to develop an Ebola vaccine.   Earlier this month, GSK published the results of a study in primates that showed the candidate vaccine was effective in preventing infection but that a booster shot was needed for longer (greater than ten months) protection (FierceVaccines article). It is expected that the NIH will start trials of the experimental vaccine, acquired by GSK when it purchased the biotech company, Okairos, for $325 million, this month.

Also on the Ebola front, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is putting $50 million into immediate efforts to control the outbreak and into grants for drug, vaccine, and diagnostic development. The Foundation’s press release noted that $12 million was being distributed to the WHO, CDC, and UNICEF and the remainder was to-be-granted.

In the “still-not-getting-any-good-press” category, Gilead Sciences, Inc., reported completion of the licensing of rights to manufacture and sell its blockbuster anti-hepatitis C drug, Solvadi (sofosbuvir), to seven Indian generic drug manufacturers (Gilead press release in FiercePharma).   Gilead anticipates these agreements will bring low-cost sofosbuvir to 100 million patients (54% of the world’s total) in 91 countries (Gilead HCV Fact Sheet). As I noted in my blog posts, Gilead’s generic licensing program could be an effective model for other pharma companies wanting (needing) to increase access to their products.

I first wrote about Vaxxas, a Cambridge, MA-based vaccine delivery company, when it started back in November 2012 (“Vax Patch”) and have occasionally checked for progress, of which there has been none, at least made public. That changed last week when the company announced it had received funding from WHO for a pre-clinical and pre-manufacturing project aimed at applying its Nanopatch delivery technology to the polio vaccine (Vaxxas press release). Vaxxas has one commercial partner, Merck, and I expect/hope its BD team’s efforts pay off soon.

Also, I wrote about the Japanese Global Health Innovative Technology Fund in May 2013 (“GHIT Ready”) and posited that its award criteria were biased against smaller, more innovative companies, its awards were too small to have a real impact, and its bureaucracy extensive and inexperienced in product development. The Fund announced its second round of grants last week; $15+ million will go to seven preclinical or early clinical projects for drugs or vaccines for dengue, malaria, or Chagas. The recipients were the usual suspects- established academic and research groups with the occasional corporate partner- but no innovative, low-overhead, and hungry start-ups.



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