We are back with another biotech highlights of the week. The majority of the news covered the newest developments on the Covid-19 front and the new controversies with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that has temporarily been paused in several countries after rare cases of severe blood clots have been reported. Having said that, we also have many non-Covid-19 related stories that show the great development in MedTech and the biotech world. We will talk about the global robotic surgery market, Google Cloud with another AI MedTech partnership, an anemia screening app that does not require drawing blood, Mayo Clinics launching new joint ventures to develop AI diagnostics, SciNeuro and Eli Lilly working on antibody therapies, and more.
This week, several countries including the U.S, South Africa, and the member states of the EU announced they will temporarily pause the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson after the FDA reported on some rare blood clotting.
In 6.8 million doses administered, 6 women aged between 18-48 were hospitalized with blood clotting, after symptoms have appeared between 6 to 13 days after the jab. One of the women has died and another is in critical condition.
Now, the vaccine is temporarily stopped in many places in the world as the side effect is being investigated. The American main Covid-19 adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said it was too early to decide whether the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could get the authorization revoked.
Report On The Global Robotic Surgery Market Forecast Released
This week, the Global Robotic Surgery Market Forecast report has been released, reporting that this sector of the market is expected to reach $6.84 billion by 2024, which means a 14.79% CAGR in the next years.
While the report highlights that the risks of robotic surgery will be challenging the growth of the industry, given the other factors such as “rising cancer patients, increasing geriatric population, growing personal healthcare expenditures, shortage of surgeons, improving consumer confidence, accelerating personal disposable income, favorable reimbursement policies and rising incidence of chronic and infectious diseases” are still expected to hugely drive the dynamic growth of this market segment.
The report covers a full analysis of the global robotic surgery market, with a detailed analysis of the biggest regional markets such as the U.S which is currently the global leader in the robotic surgery. The report focuses on market trends, growth drivers, and challenges, as well as the competitive environment and the company profiles of some of the biggest players in the industry, including Intuitive Surgical, Inc., Medtronic Plc, Johnson & Johnson (Auris Health, Inc.), TransEnterix, Inc., Stryker Corporation and Siemens AG (Siemens Healthineers AG). The report also includes a chapter on Covid-19 and how it impacts the industry, including the decline in global GDP growth, change in organic traffic, disruption of the supply chain, and the growth in spending on healthcare.
The report gives an in-depth insight into some of the most interesting trends such as
e the adoption of micro-and nano-robots in urology surgical procedure or focus on the development of low-cost robotic surgical systems.
The US is pointed out as the global leader due to “e in awareness among the population regarding robotic surgeries, increase in med-tech R&D expenditures, the surge in aging population, rising colorectal & pancreatic surgeries, shortage of physicians, increasing number of approvals granted by the FDA to surgical robotic companies for R&D and growing launch of advanced medical systems.”
On Friday, Vaccitech Plc, a biotech startup that is behind the technology used in the Oxford/Astrazeneca Covid-19 vaccine, filed for a U.S. initial public offering.
The British biotech startup will list their shares on Nasdaq under “VACC”
Morgan Stanley, Jefferies, and Barclays are among the offering’s underwriters.
The European Commission is in talks with the member states to gain approval to purchase up to 1.8 billion doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.
The vaccine would be delivered in 2022 and 2023.
“If provided the opportunity Pfizer and BioNTech are prepared to supply Europe with hundreds of millions of doses of COVID vaccines in 2022 and 2023 produced in our manufacturing facilities in Europe,” a Pfizer spokesman said.
He added that Pfizer/BioNTech had the capacity to produce more than 3 billion doses of the vaccine in 2022.
AstraZeneca and Sanguina are developing a smartphone app that can monitor anemia via analyzing the beds of fingernails instead of regular blood draws.
A single photo of nailbeds can be enough to analyze hemoglobin level.
The two companies started a study to check the accuracy of Sanguina’s existing AnemoCheckMobile app. The newest version will update the algorithms that are used to measure hemoglobin levels through the close-up nailbed photo.
“In these times, when patients with chronic illness are faced with more challenges than ever, AnemoCheck offers a personalized solution and increased access for patients,” Tarek Rabah, vice president of AstraZeneca’s renal-cardio business in the U.S., said in a release.
Google Cloud has been increasingly keen on expanding the AI in the healthcare industry and this shows by their latest partnerships.
Their latest partnership is with Varian Medical Systems, a company developing a number of cancer-fighting technology from radiotherapy and radiosurgery hardware to analytics software.
Through the use of Google Cloud AI Platform, Neural Architecture Search, Varian will input its repository of imaging data and create and “train” models that can perform organ segmentation on diagnostic images. Automating the process with the help of AI will speed up the treatment and increase availability of certain treatment that now lack resources and expertise.
Corey Zankowski, senior vice president of the company’s office of technology and innovation at Varian said, “To that end, we have committed ourselves to Intelligent Cancer Care, which seeks to automate routine or repetitive tasks in the radiation oncology workflow through the use of smart algorithms, machine learning and AI.”
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On Wednesday, Mayo Clinic announced it has started two new tech venture companies with the goal of harnessing AI and medical algorithms to improve the treatment of several diseases.
The two new companies – Anumana Inc. and Lucem Health Inc. – were launched with a $30 million investment from the Mayo Clinic and its venture capital partners.
Anumana completed a $25.7 million Series A financing round, led by founding organizations inference and Mayo Clinic and in conjunction with Matrix Capital Management, Matrix Partners and NTTVC.
Lucem Health completed a $6 million Series A financing round prior to launch, led by founders Commute and Mayo Clinic.
“The dramatically increased use of remote patient telemetry devices coupled with the rapidly accelerating development of AI and machine learning algorithms has the potential to revolutionize diagnostic medicine,” said John Halamka, MD, President of the Mayo Clinic Platform. “With RDMP, clinicians will have access to best-in-class algorithms and care protocols and will be able to serve more patients effectively in remote care settings. The platform will also enable patients to take more control of their health and make better decisions based on insights delivered directly to them.”
“For many conditions, such as a weak or thickened heart pump, or silent arrhythmias, effective evidence-based treatments exist that can prevent heart failure, stroke, or death,” said Paul Friedman, M.D., chair of Mayo Clinic’s Department of Cardiovascular Medicine. “The key is to detect the disease before symptoms develop to prevent these events from happening. The addition of AI to the ECG, a ubiquitous and inexpensive point-of-care test that is already integrated into medical workflows, makes this approach good for patients, convenient for clinicians, and massively scalable.”
The Chinese SciNeuro Pharmaceuticals has partnered with the U.S. Eli Lilly to develop
And commercialize alpha-synuclein-targeted antibody treatments in Greater China, including mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. SciNeuro picked up an exclusive license to the antibodies developed by Lilly.
According to the deal, SciNeuro pays Lilly cash upfront, as well as various milestone payments and royalties. The financial details were not disclosed.
Outside of the Greater China area, Lilly will still hold all rights.
Alpha-synuclein is primarily found in neural tissue. Among many other diseases, it is also contributing to Parkinson’s disease.
“Approximately 3 million elderly people are currently affected by Parkinson’s disease in Greater China, creating a significant disease burden,” said Michael Hutton, vice president, Neurodegeneration Research, at Lilly. “There is a pressing need for new therapeutic options. We are pleased to be collaborating with SciNeuro, a company dedicated to the treatment of serious neurological diseases and focused on development within Greater China, to help address such needs.”
“We are very encouraged by the results from PASADENA, demonstrating significant slowing of motor progression and improvements on imaging biomarkers consistent with disease modification, as this provides a rich dataset to directly inform and de-risk this next late-stage study,” Gene Kinney, president, and chief executive officer of Prothena stated in October 2020. “Results from the PASADENA study are part of a growing clinical body of evidence suggesting antibodies that optimally target misfolded proteins can result in clinically meaningful benefit. With a growing pipeline of programs based on this scientific approach, Prothena is poised to advance a number of novel therapeutics for the devastating disease.”
The FDA and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially recommended that all U.S states temporarily pause the administration of the Janssen vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson.
The recommendation comes after six reported cases of severe blood clots. Thus, the FDA emphasized the urgent necessity for further studies.
“Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” the agencies said, in a statement by Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and Anne Schuchat, MD, principal deputy director of the CDC and a retired rear admiral with the U.S. Public Health Service.“Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare,” Marks and Schuchat added. “COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously.”
Johnson & Johnson has also issued a statement in which it says, “At present, no clear causal relationship has been established between these rare events and the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine,” J&J stated. “We continue to work closely with experts and regulators to assess the data and support the open communication of this information to healthcare professionals and the public.”
“Despite issues with J&J and AZN, we continue to believe a majority of Americans will/can be vaccinated by this summer through the exclusive use of mRNA vaccines from MRNA [Moderna] and PFE [Pfizer and BioNTech], which are slated to deliver 200M doses in Q2 and another 200M doses by Q3, for a total of 600M doses,” Jefferies Equity Analyst Michael Yee wrote in a research note. ” The math clearly says there are more vaccines in the USA than a number of people who are amenable and necessary to take them. So the overall recovery in the USA is still on track based on the math.”
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