Coronavirus pharma news round-up 21/08/20

New insights into smell and taste loss symptoms, artificial intelligence and further encouraging data from a vaccine candidate hit the headlines this week as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues.

Here we highlight the biggest R&D, market access and digital coronavirus news of the past week.

  • Pfizer and BioNTech have said their COVID-19 vaccine could be ready for regulators to review by October and approved by the end of the year after releasing more favourable data from an early-stage trial. There are no vaccines approved for COVID-19 and governments across the world are striking deals with various manufacturers to get early access once regulators give them the rubber stamp.
  • Could AI prevent future pandemics by developing an armoury of drugs that work against all coronaviruses? This is a question that a consortium of European pharma companies hopes to answer as it aims to rapidly develop new therapies to combat the pandemic.
  • Roche has agreed to help Regeneron manufacture its COVID-19 antibody cocktail REGN-COV2, which started late-stage clinical testing a few weeks ago, in a deal that could more than triple supplies of the drug if it gets approved.
  • Smell and taste loss associated with COVID-19 differs from that experienced by patients with common colds or flu, according to researchers who said the symptom could be used to quickly identify coronavirus infections in settings such as airports or emergency departments.
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock is planning to dissolve Public Health England and replace it with a new agency dedicated to responding to pandemics, according to reports. The plan is to implement a new body modelled on the independent Robert Koch Institute in Germany, which has been held up as having done well in weathering COVID-19, in part at least because of a well-organised and large-scale testing programme early on.
  • Shares in Netherlands biotech Kiadis rose sharply on the news that it would start developing a natural killer (NK) cell therapy for COVID-19, but later lost most of the gains on what looks like profit-taking.
  • The European Commission has placed its first advance order for a coronavirus vaccine, snapping up 300 million doses of AstraZeneca’s ChAdOx1 candidate developed by the University of Oxford, with an option on another 100 million.