Blue Steens in July 2020

Catch up on Blue Steens articles and venture further

This month on Blue Steens

It’s not an immunity passport

There seems to be a perception that a Covid-19 immunity passport is the same as a vaccination passport. This is not so. The choice of words matters!

Read >>


Beyond Blue Steens

Coronavirus

⊳ Testing

  • 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 We talk about PCR testing but don’t consider the ins and outs much. Here’s a Scottish firm that makes samples safe and, in doing so, streamlines testing.

⊳ Treatment

(Hydroxy-) Chloroquine:
  • The WHO has stopped its hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir (HIV drugs) trials in hospitalised patients. See March, May & June reviews for previous news. Both trials were discontinued due to insignificant reduction in mortality. Trials in non-hospitalised patients continue. However, lopinavir/ritonavir might cause heart problems.

Remdesivir:
  • USA has bought Gilead’s global stocks for July to Sep. If generics (see also June review) don’t come out quickly and their distribution isn’t widened, the rest of the world will barely get any supplies for the time being.

  • EMA has recommended conditional approval for treatment of severe cases.

Passive immunisation:
  • South Korea approves trials of Celltrion's neutralising antibody treatment (see also June review)

  • Last month I reported on cows producing human antibodies. This month I discovered that engineered llama antibodies have been found to neutralise the virus. As bizarre as this may sound, these are not the only animals whose antibodies have captured researchers’ attention. For example Elasmogen, an Aberdeen (Scotland) company, makes use of engineered antibody-like molecules inspired by sharks. They are also looking into developing COVID-19 applications. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Anti-inflammatory treatment:
Other:
  • Inconclusive results from favipiravir (Avigan) Japan trial but promising results in India phase 3 trial (see also May review).

  • Novartis launches first-of-its-kind not-for-profit portfolio of medicines for symptomatic treatment. 15 generic and OTC medicines to be sold in up to 79 countries.

  • I try and steer clear of vague suggestions of potential treatments. However, EPO has caught my attention because it highlights something that’s fundamentally flawed in the prevailing drug development incentive system. There’s anecdotal evidence and academically founded hypotheses that EPO can improve the COVID-19 disease course. The problem is that there’s little incentive for pharma companies to get interested because there is no more patent protection.

  • FDA’s Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program (CTAP) website has some nice infographics and charts that track therapeutic developments.

⊳ Vaccination

Biotech

  • Takeda & Carmine Therapeutics join forces developing and commercialising a novel non-viral rare disease gene therapy that uses a red blood cell extracellular vesicles (RBCEV) platform. RBCEV are thought to avoid side effects seen with the traditional virus-based approach, allow repeat-dosing, can carry more genetic material and be modified to improve distribution in the body.

  • EMA approval for Bristol-Myers Squibb’s first-in-class anaemia drug Reblozyl (luspatercept) for patients dependent on blood transfusion. It is an erythroid maturation agent that supports the patient’s body in producing its own red blood cells.

Out and about

I find myself in loads of online events these days, some of which kindly release their replays. In addition to hyperlinking these below, I have started compiling my favourites and other relevant videos I come across in a blockchain playlist on YouTube.

1 July: VC Investment into Blockchain- MMC Ventures on Why Blockchain and Why Now [replay]
2 July: A Framework for Blockchain Interoperability [replay]
2 July: Enterprise DLT Live Episode 003 - Luis Macias, GrainChain [replay]
9 July: Accelerating Clinical Trials by Leveraging Blockchain Technology Solutions [replay]
15 July: Book Talk Session 1: COVID-19 and Blockchain for Medical Research [replay]
16 July: Enterprise DLT Live Episode 004 - Darrell O'Donnell, CULedger [replay]
21 July: Acceleration of Remote Clinical Trials Using BlockChain [replay]
  • There’s a nice wee video about halfway through the session that demos the blockchain solution. Overall, I preferred the recent Health Unchained podcast with Rama Rao (CEO Bloqcube) on the topic though:

22 July: Reassessing life sciences supply chains to increase pandemic resilience and governmental actions [register for replay]
22 July: Book Talk Session 2: Blockchain for Medical Research [replay]
27 July: STOP COVID-19 Hackathon: What's Next? [will hyperlink if replay becomes available]
29 July: Pandemic Impact & Future of Blockchain [replay]
30 July: Episode 005 Enterprise DLT Live - Adam Krellenstein, Symbiont [replay]

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In this newsletter I share personal views and observations only. For more information and the privacy policy visit Blue Steens.

Blue Steens in June 2020

Catch up on Blue Steens articles and venture further

This month on Blue Steens

Convalescent plasma chained

Last month I blogged about being a mentor at the Stop Covid-19 hackathon. This month's article explains the team's idea & solution. A winning idea, may I add! 🏆😁 Our international team (Brazil, France, Scotland) tackled the challenge of improving the supply of convalescent plasma using blockchain technology.

Read >>

Let’s go & play!

Video with loads of insight and motivational advice by Neil deGrasse Tyson (as you’d expect). What absolutely resonated with me was this, “What is an adult scientist but a kid who’s never lost the curiosity.“ - This captures my sentiment precisely. 😄

Watch >>


Beyond Blue Steens

Coronavirus

⊳ Testing

For quick explanations of the difference between PCR and antibody tests, check out March’s & April’s COVID-19 Testing sections.

  • Kahala Biosciences & Rymedi introduce blockchain-tracked antibody test. Check out Robert Miller’s write-up.

  • A microfluidic test for viral antibodies has been developed for avian flu but could be adapted for COVID-19. This is an interesting piece of technology. The article doesn’t mention price. Yet, I wonder about the cost-benefit relation, especially for use in a pandemic, given that there is a plethora of possibly cheaper and increasingly accurate COVID-19 antibody kits on the market (May review).

  • Illumina received emergency use authorisation for its next-generation sequencing-based (NGS) test. NGS is sort of like PCR on steroids. In terms of routine COVID-19 testing, I gather that the main advantage of NGS would be the higher through-put. Thus, it could scale up testing capacities quickly. For lower through-put, PCR seems cheaper.

  • Accuracy of home swab tests is catching up with swabs performed by healthcare professionals. Besides the advantage of personal protection, it would be a great relief if healthcare staff was freed up for services that have been dropped or reduced during the crisis.

  • FDA warns against using antibody COVID-19 tests on ‘removed’ list.

⊳ Treatment

(Hydroxy-) Chloroquine:
Remdesivir:
Passive immunisation:
Immunosuppressants:
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs dexamethasone & tocilizumab appear to improve disease progression & survival of severely ill patients.

⊳ Vaccination

We distinguish between active and passive immunisation strategies. Active immunisation stimulates our body to mount its own immune response. This is achieved, for example, by administering weakened virus versions. Newer, supposedly safer techniques use DNA (see May review, Cytiva & Takara Bio) or mRNA (below) vaccines. I outlined the passive strategy in the May review.

  • Whilst running their Phase 2 study (300 participants), Moderna has finalised the Phase 3 protocol following FDA feedback. Controlled US trial to start July 2020 with 30,000 participants. Moderna’s vaccine is interesting, as it uses mRNA. We all have mRNA in our cells, in fact, we need it to live because it’s a crucial part of how our cells function. Moderna’s mRNA tells our body to build virus proteins, which are harmless on their own. Our immune cells will then see these and mount a defence. If we later encounter the actual virus, our immune system will already be prepared.

  • Sinovac reveals positive preliminary results from phase 1/2 trials.

  • International supply deals are being prepared, e.g.: AstraZeneca & Vaccines Alliance of Europe, Israel & Moderna

  • S.Korea's Genexine begins phase 1 trial of DNA vaccine.

  • Oxford vaccine in Brazil - first country outside UK to start testing.

⊳ Other news

Biotech

  • Memed received CE mark for test that distinguishes between bacterial and viral infections based on algorithmic analysis of the patient’s immune response. The goal is to reduce the unnecessary use of broad-spectrum antibiotics and, thus, slow the development of antibiotic resistance.

  • faCellitate originates from a BASF internal business incubator and develops polymer structures for 3D cell cultures for experimental use. They have released their first product BIOFLOAT. 3D cell culture is closer to physiological environments and, hence, supposed to yield more relevant results with the potential to reduce animal testing. [German]

Medtech

  • Ruma has developed a blockchain-facilitated way of contactless urine sampling. The original motivation stems from the desire to improve the monitoring of drug addicts on substitution therapy. The system tracks the unique code of each marker substance, which patients swallow before sampling, from manufacture to lab-validated patient sample. The system further offers secure communication and patient management with digital identities. [German]

  • Merantix Healthcare is the first company in Germany to have received the CE mark for AI-enabled cancer screening software intended for early detection & prevention. The AI has been trained on over 2M breast cancer images. [German]

Out and about

3 June: The State of the Blockchain Ecosystem [replay]
4 June: Blockchain isn't for everything [replay]
4 June: EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2020 [replay]
8 June: Dignity Preserving Healthcare: Privacy by Design [replay], CogX 2020
18 June: Enterprise DLT Live Episode 002 - Heather Flannery, ConsensysHealth [replay]
18 June: Spherity's Open Office Series, w/Guest Luigi Riva of Swisscom Blockchain
19 June: The future of drug discovery for healthy ageing [replay & notes]
22-26 June: WorkPride by mygwork
30 June: Mediledger - Contracts & Chargebacks, the GPO perspective: How to guarantee correct drug pricing for your members

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In this newsletter I share personal views and observations only. For more information and the privacy policy visit Blue Steens.

Blue Steens in May 2020

Catch up on Blue Steens articles and venture further

This month on Blue Steens

Stop COVID-19 hackathon

Hackathons aren’t necessarily just for coders. I’d encourage anyone to contribute to such events. You can be sure to walk away enriched at the end. Read about my most recent experience at a global COVID-19-themed hackathon.

Read >>


Beyond Blue Steens

Coronavirus

⊳ Testing

For quick explanations of the difference between genetic (PCR) and antibody (serological) tests, check out March’s & April’s COVID-19 Testing sections.

⊳ Treatment

  • Remdesivir:

  • (Hydroxy-) Chloroquine:

  • Passive immunisation:

    Passive immunisation involves administering protective antibodies to the patient (essentially what breast milk does for a baby). Plasma therapy is one option (more details in April newsletter), purified or lab-produced antibodies are other ways. In principle, this approach can be applied prophylactically (vaccination) or as treatment.

  • Abivax phase 2b/3 trial approved in Germany. First-in-class small molecule treatment with anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects. > 1000 elderly & high-risk patients, trial start late May. (Other trials for treatment of HIV and some inflammatory diseases.) [German]

  • Triple therapy with interferon beta-1b, lopinavir-ritonavir and ribavirin (phase 2 trial) may reduce period of viral shedding and, thus, reduce viral load in patient and contagiousness.

  • Glenmark Pharmaceuticals’ anti-viral favipiravir (Avigan) to be trialled in India & Japan to ship Avigan to 43 countries for further trials. Phase 2 & 3 trials already ongoing in some countries.

  • Synairgen’s Interferon beta to prevent harmful lung damage trialled in UK

  • 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Scottish Pneumagen’s drug works by preventing the entry of viruses into lung cells. Hence, it may be of benefit against an array of airway viruses.

⊳ Vaccination

⊳ Other news

Biotech

Out and about


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In this newsletter I share personal views and observations only. For more information and the privacy policy visit Blue Steens.

Blue Steens in April 2020

Catch up on Blue Steens articles and venture further

This month on Blue Steens

Federated learning in healthcare

Federated learning is a machine learning paradigm that allows to train algorithms collaboratively without the need for source data exchange between the parties.

Read >>

The winding path from lab to patient

Despite potential short-cuts, drug development is a lengthy and risky process that culminates in marketing approval. However, just because a drug achieves regulatory approval, does not mean that it will be instantly available to those in need.

Read >>


Beyond Blue Steens

Coronavirus

⊳ Testing

For a quick explanation of the difference between genetic (PCR) and antibody (serological) tests, check out last month’s COVID-19 Testing section. Note that a newly-infected person does not yet have antibodies but will have genetic virus material. In contrast, a person who has overcome the infection, may not have detectable genetic material anymore but will have antibodies. Hence, timing of these tests is important.

⊳ Treatment

⊳ Vaccination

⊳ Other news

Biotech

  • Scientists have created a new type of robot that is literally alive - The so-called xenobots are part living cells, part machine. They are programmable to take on different forms, self-heal and complete tasks. Their life span is about 1 week. Let’s hope bioethics catch up quickly with the tech evolution.

  • Flagship raises $1.1B to create biotechs for post-pandemic world - Whilst loads of funding is currently pouring into finding solutions for the COVID-19 crisis, Flagship Pioneering is thinking about opportunities in the 3 years after this crisis and is ready to fund a “new generation of companies”. A significant focus area is disease prevention.

Medtech

Out and about

More like ‘in and about’ these days…


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In this newsletter I share personal views and observations only. For more information and the privacy policy visit Blue Steens.

Blue Steens in March 2020

Catch up on Blue Steens articles and venture further

This month on Blue Steens

Glimpse at the complexity of drug pricing

When we talk about drug prices, what do we actually mean? Is there ONE price? Why do prices differ between countries?

Read >>

Mindset – Circle of Influence

In the present tumultuous times with things happening beyond our control, reality can weigh heavily on our shoulders. This reminded me of Stephen Covey’s simple framework - the circle of influence.

Read >>


Next month on Blue Steens

We will explore

... the complex journey of a drug from lab to patient.


Beyond Blue Steens

Coronavirus

*** Note that I add references throughout the course of the month. Whilst I try to keep up and replace ‘old news’, the situation is developing so rapidly just now that some articles might be outdated by the time this newsletter is published. ***

Biotech

Healthtech

  • Seed-Financing for iATROS [German] - Effectively, the company aims to create a virtual cardiovascular clinic by leveraging manufacturer-independent data analysis from smart wearables. Physicians’ advice will be supported by AI.

  • ConsenSys Announces Healthcare Spin-Off—ConsenSys Health - The healthcare-focused spin-off will maintain access to ConsenSys’ core products to develop blockchain- and machine learning-based solutions that aim to introduce increased efficiency into healthcare research and administration.

Out and about


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In this newsletter I share personal views and observations only. For more information and the privacy policy visit Blue Steens.

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