The Next Public Health Emergency?; Plus, Moderna’s Omicron Booster
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A World Health Organization committee will meet on Thursday to discuss the growing global monkeypox outbreak and if it rises to the level of a public health emergency of international concern. This high alert designation from the U.N. body means there is a “serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected” public health risk that crosses international borders. There are currently two ongoing international public health emergencies: the Covid-19 pandemic declared in 2020 and poliovirus declared in 2014. The monkeypox virus, which is characterized by a blister-like rash, is usually found in Western and Central Africa, but the WHO has confirmed more than 2,100 cases and one death across 42 different countries as of June 15. The U.K. has seen the highest number of confirmed cases at 524, followed by Spain with 313 cases and Germany with 263 cases. The majority of cases have been among people who self-identify as men who have sex with men, but the agency also warned against stigmatizing certain populations. Countries have started to stockpile vaccines though the WHO is only recommending target vaccination for people who may have had direct exposure at this time.
While the U.K. is contending with the highest monkeypox case numbers, there are also reports of poliovirus detected in London sewage for the first time in decades. British health officials declared a national incident on Wednesday though they cautioned the risk of contracting polio was low. The virus was found through wastewater surveillance and is thought to come from a person from overseas who was vaccinated with a weakened live form of the virus. Since 2004, residents of the U.K. have received an inactivated form of the virus in polio vaccines, but other countries use a weakened live form.
Gene Genies: Inside the Revolutionary Biotech That Can Edit DNA Inside Living Humans
John Leonard built Intellia Therapeutics with Jennifer Doudna, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who pioneered gene editing technology. The company has figured out how to alter disease-causing genes inside patients, but before any breakthrough treatments come, it must first cure itself of its legal and financial ills. Read more here.
Deals Of The Week
Gene Therapy: Carbon Biosciences, which is developing a parvovirus-based delivery system for gene therapy, announced Tuesday it has raised a $38 million series A round. The financing will be geared to developing its drug candidate to treat cystic fibrosis, among other things.
Diagnostics: Digital pathology company Proscia announced it has raised a $37 million series C round, bringing its total financing to $72 million. The Philadelphia-based startup plans to use the capital to expand its computational pathology software, which is used to help diagnose diseases such as melanoma.
Synthetic Bio: Antheia, a synthetic biology company developing plant-based active pharmaceutical ingredients, has raised $40 million in debt financing from Oxford Finance LLC and Silicon Valley Bank, which will go towards building a 14,700 square-foot plant to scale up biomanufacturing next to its headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
The Biden Administration will import 23 million eight-ounce bottles worth of baby formula from Mexico, Germany and Australia to combat nationwide shortage.
Four out of five Americans with diabetes have gone into debt to cover the cost of insulin, with the average credit card debt reaching $9,000, according to a survey.
Walgreens is launching a clinical trial business, hoping to increase racial and ethnic diversity for patients in drug research.
Moderna released new data on Wednesday regarding the efficacy of its omicron-specific booster shot, as the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech is gearing up for a possible increase in Covid cases come fall. The bivalent booster shot, which targets both the original coronavirus strain and the omicron variant, also produced a strong antibody response against two omicron subvariants, known as BA.4 and BA.5. The 50 microgram booster increased neutralizing antibodies by 5.4 times in the two subvariants, which was lower than the 8-fold jump for the original omicron strain. “We will submit these data to regulators urgently and are preparing to supply our next generation bivalent booster starting in August, ahead of a potential rise in SARS-CoV-2 infections due to Omicron subvariants in the early fall,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement.
Thanks to our Forbes summer fellow Ariyana Griffin for her help with this newsletter!
Covid, Conflict And Climate Are Fueling A Global Food Crisis — Leaders Must Act Fast
“If you think we’ve got hell on earth now, you just get ready,” the executive director of the World Food Programme David Beasley warned recently. Read more here.
Other Coronavirus News
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky OKed Covid-19 vaccines for young children over the weekend, the final large segment of the U.S. population that had remained ineligible.
Broadway theaters will be ending mask mandates in July, instead adopting a “mask optional” policy.
Dutch research on long Covid shows 50% of study participants have one or more symptoms three months after becoming infected with coronavirus.
There’s growing demand for business and engineering talent in Australia, India and Singapore, as companies look to set up multiple regional hubs in the Asia-Pacific market in the wake of the Covid pandemic.
Australian Mining Billionaire Touts A Green Revolution In U.S. Coal Country — With Skepticism Trailing Close Behind
California Couple Gets Mega Rich Off Clif Bars
They Inherited Billions Upon Billions: Meet America’s Richest Heirs
What Else We are Reading
FDA to Order Juul E-Cigarettes Off U.S. Market (The Wall Street Journal)
Medicare could save more than $3B annually by using Mark Cuban’s new online generic drug company — study (Endpoints News)
Facebook is receiving sensitive medical information from hospital websites (The Markup/STAT)