LONDON – A second phase III trial of Johnson & Johnson’s adenoviral-vectored COVID-19 vaccine is starting in the U.K. this week, amid concerns the positive news from the Pfizer Inc./Biontech SE vaccine study will deter volunteers from coming forward to take part.
Spurred by reports of biopharma executives exercising stock options in conjunction with announcements about COVID-19 vaccine developments and government contracts, U.S. lawmakers want to close the loopholes that make such actions legal.
With strong results in hand from the phase I stage of its phase I/II study testing a would-be COVID-19 subunit vaccine, Novavax Inc.’s president of R&D, Gregory Glenn, said “it’s possible we could go down in the dose” as work proceeds and get similar efficacy.
While biopharmaceutical research is currently concentrating on the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the disease has provided a sharp reminder that our focus should not be lost on infectious diseases as a whole, along with the growing global problem of antibiotic resistance (AMR), which has the potential to dwarf COVID-19 in terms of deaths and economic costs, according to the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA).
The devastating societal and economic effects caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic should sound a warning bell on how ill-prepared we are in our ability to fight lethal infectious diseases for which no effective therapies or vaccines currently exist. Indirectly, the intense public attention on companies that are engaged in developing COVID-19 cures is also spilling over to companies researching to uncover new anti-infectives that will be needed to replace the diminishing arsenal of effective therapies to combat drug-resistant bacteria and fungi. This is certainly evident among public companies in the space, with the BioWorld Infectious Diseases index showing an increasing upward trend since the beginning of the year. At market close on May 11, the index had, in fact, grown in value by a whopping 47%.
Novavax Inc., one of the first biopharma companies to reveal its efforts to develop a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in January, has identified a prefusion protein for testing in an Australian phase I trial, slated to start in mid-May.