This has been a great week in biotech, and we will catch you up on all the innovations, Medtech developments, new devices, investment rounds, and of course the most important news covering the Covid-19 vaccine rollout and alternative Covid-19 treatments. What were some of the most important highlights in the biotech and MedTech world? GE launched a pocket-size wireless ultrasound, Merck will make a large investment to make bioreactor gear in France which will relieve the Covid-19 vaccine production, Cardinal Health is letting go of its Cordis medical division, the digital diabetes management software receives $30 million funding, and the global Covid diagnostics competition is finished as nine winners were announced. Meanwhile, in the Covid-19 news, as the European Union is struggling to administer a sufficient number of doses, the speculations on whether the bloc will turn to the Sputnik V vaccine increase. Meanwhile in India, up to 18% of doses go to waste. Let’s look at the latest healthcare, biotech, and MedTech news.
Cardinal Health has decided to divest its Cordis medical division, acquired from Johnson & Johnson in 2015. After 6 years of attempting to use Cordis as a catalyst for global footprint and broader portfolio, Carinal Health decided that establishing all the infrastructure is more expensive than it was anticipated and the best decision would be divesting.
In 2015, Cardinal Health spent $1.9 billion on the acquisition. Now, it is divesting in a $1 billion deal with the private equity firm Hellman & Friedman. The new owner plans to transform Cordis into a top-quality provider of barely invasive cardiovascular devices, cooperating with Ajax Health and Zeus Health.
“Our decision to divest Cordis demonstrates our disciplined approach to evaluating our portfolio and focusing our resources in our strategic growth areas where we are an advantaged owner,” said Mike Kaufmann, CEO of Cardinal Health.
Ajax Helth and Zeus Health are both led by the MedTech entrepreneur Duke Rohlen.
“We at Ajax Health and Zeus Health are ecstatic about injecting growth into Cordis’ powerful platform, and will do so through investments in the core business and through an independent R&D engine—the ‘Cordis Accelerator’—to develop and commercialize a new pipeline of products exclusively for Cordis,” said Rohlen.
Roche and GenMark Diagnostics have settled on a $1.8 billion all-cash deal upon which the former will acquire the molecular tests designed to screen patients for multiple infections at the same time from the latter.
Roche has quite a big portfolio of molecular diagnostics already and the ePlex panels developed by GenMark will fit in perfectly.
“Their proven expertise in syndromic panel testing provides faster targeted therapeutic intervention, resulting in improved patient outcomes and reduced hospital stays, and will contribute to Roche’s commitment to helping control infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance,” said Roche Diagnostics CEO Thomas Schinecker. “The rapid identification of bloodstream infections and the detection of antimicrobial resistance genes are more essential than ever for hospitals and their patients,”
The deal will close in the Q2 of 2021.
“As a part of Roche, we can accelerate our mission to enable rapid diagnosis of infectious disease to improve patient outcomes,” GenMark CEO Scott Mendel said. “Together with Roche’s diagnostics healthcare solutions, we will be able to provide a full suite of molecular diagnostic solutions to customers around the world.”
Glooko, the digital diabetes management developer, has just successfully ended another funding round, raising $30 million in a series D round. The company has used the increasing interest in MedTech to its advantage and can continue to grow and innovate its product.
“This is an unprecedented time in healthcare and technology,” said Glooko CEO Russ Johannesson. “Now more than ever, the healthcare industry is seeking new and smarter technologies, whether it’s for patient care or researching new therapies.”
The funding round was led by Health Catalyst Capital and included the previous investors: Canaan Partners, Georgian, Novo Nordisk, Insulet, and the Mayo Clinic.
“Glooko has done a remarkable job of bringing to market cutting edge digital healthcare platforms, which empower people with diabetes to better manage their disease and improve their lives,” said Charles Boorady, founder and managing partner of Health Catalyst Capital. “As a result of Glooko’s innovations, the company has experienced rapid market adoption growing its global ecosystem to more than 7,500 clinics and has entered into partnerships with many of the world’s largest diabetes medical device companies and pharmaceutical companies as well as top healthcare systems,”
The program developed by Glooko collects and monitors the data from glucose meters, insulin pumps, pens, and other wearable activity trackers. So far, there are more than 3 million users across 27 countries.
GE Healthcare has launched its newest device, a pocket-size, handheld, wireless ultrasound that can scan any part of the patient’s body and can be used by connecting it to the smartphone of a physician.
The Vscan Air is another of the portable ultrasound devices that the company launched in 2010.
“Now more than ever, clinicians need smaller and smarter tools that increase access and efficiency both in and outside of the four walls of the hospital,” with ultrasound becoming an essential point-of-care tool, said Anders Wold, president, and CEO of GE Healthcare’s global ultrasound division.
XPrize has released winners of its $6 million competition aiming at finding out the most affordable and specific Covid-19 diagnostics methods.
Nine teams have been awarded. Five of them (Alveo Technologies, ChromaCode, Mirimus, Reliable LFC, and the La Jolla Institute for Immunology) have worked on unique antigen and RNA tests while the other four ( Ram Global, Steradian Technologies, TeraGroup and U-smell-it) have discovered alternative screening technologies such as breath analysis machines.
“The competition was open to all modalities of molecular testing, and the teams submitted an impressive range of ideas,” said Chris Mason, the leader of XPrize science team.“The winners created innovative technologies in rapid PCR, novel antigens, and point-of-care LAMP as well as pioneering some of the first-ever olfaction and breathalyzer tests.”
This year, all the award winners will continue their work to ensure the wider adoption of the tests.
“While vaccines are important, we cannot rely on them alone to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and future outbreaks, especially not until they are provided around the world, en masse and at-scale,” said Jeff Huber, president and co-founder of OpenCovidScreen. “These technological breakthroughs in rapid COVID testing are providing a safety net to ensure the spread of the disease is contained and to enable a safe return to work and school, and to protect hotspots like nursing homes,” Huber said. “These advancements are key to helping underserved, under-resourced communities get access to affordable, accurate tests and to ultimately save more lives now and in the future.”
Accelmed Partners,a private equity firm, has just closed their second fund, with the goal to invest $400 million (passing the initial target of $300 million) in the development of the commercial-stage health tech companies. The fund was backed by a variety of partners, insurers, pension funds, and individuals
“We have built our business on the belief that increasing the conversion of healthcare and technology materially improves individuals’ lives, addresses society’s unmet healthcare needs, and ultimately drives down the cost of healthcare,” said Uri Geiger, Accelmed’s founder.
The fund will focus on companies producing medical devices, diagnostic tests, and MedTech programs.
Merck To Invest 25 Million Euros To Make Bioreactor Gear In France
The German company Merck announced it will invest 25 million euros to make disposable plastic materials for bioreactors in France.
The investment will create approximately 350 jobs and will come on stream by the end of 2021. It will be the first such facility of Merck in Europe and is considered a crucial element of the Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing. The single-use bioreactors have been increasing over the last year as it makes biotech production cheaper, quicker, and more flexible.
“Our new European production line will increase global capacity for urgently needed supplies of single-use products to makers of vaccines and therapeutics,” Merck said in a statement.
6.5% Of Covid-19 Vaccines In India Go To Waste?
On Wednesday, the health official in India reported that approximately 6.5% of the Covid-19 jabs go to waste, encouraging the experts to manage the vaccination more effectively.
Once a vaccine vial is opened, all doses need to be given within four hours. Thus, in many of the rural vaccination centers where the awareness levels are lower, citizens must be nudged to register for the jab.
In some of the states, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh, up to 18% of vaccines go to waste.
“Wastage of this elixir-like precious commodity, the most important thing now for an individual or the country as a whole, is absolutely wrong,” Vinod Kumar Paul, one of the leading health officials.
In the less crowded areas that administer the highest rates of vaccine wastage, more citizens could be eligible for the vaccine.
“The pace of vaccination in the country is continuously increasing,” Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India said. “But at the same time, we have to take the problem of vaccine doses to waste very seriously”.
All eyes are on the European Union as some countries in the bloc have already ordered the Sputnik V jab, others show interest in it and the rest is against the vaccine.
EU diplomatic and official sources have reported to Reuters that EU is slowly turning to the Russian Sputnik V vaccine as the mass vaccination of the population has not been going as quickly as it was anticipated. The source told Reuters that the governments are now considering talks with the Russian developers of Sputnik V.
So far, Hungary and Slovakia have bought the vaccine, the Czech Republic is considering it and so is Italy. The peer-reviewed data from February showed that Sputnik V was 92% effective, more than Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca and very close to Pfizer and Moderna jabs.
The source told Reuters that approving the Sputnik V by the EMA would likely split the bloc as some countries are strongly against cooperation with Russia while others are open to it.
“There are some who will not want to give (Russia) this propaganda victory, and there are others who will be seeing this as an opportunity to actually show that we are cooperating.”
So far, the EU has signed deals with six Western vaccine makers and it is in the process of talks with two additional ones.
On Monday, ElevateBio announced that it has raised $525 million in a fresh funding round. That was led by Matrix Capital Management and included investment from SoftBank as well.
The cell and gene therapy developer, ElevateBio, will use the funding to increase manufacturing capacities and furtherly innovate the cell and gene therapies.
“We do have a fundamental belief that a large percentage of innovation will keep coming through traditional academic or early-stage companies,” David Hallal, CEO of ElevateBio said.
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