2023-09-12| Asia-Pacific

GeneOnline’s Weekly News Highlights: Sept 4-Sept 8

by GeneOnline
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GeneOnline’s editorial team has compiled a digest of top international biotechnology and healthcare news of the week to help readers keep abreast of global biomedical industry updates.

Related article: Long COVID’s Mental Health Toll: Understanding the Challenges

World Premiere of Documentary on the Battle Against Antibiotic Resistance

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) caused by misuse or abuse of antibiotics constitutes a pressing health risk issue in recent years and is increasingly jeopardizing public health. With the aim of highlighting AMR’s threat to global health, the AMR Action Fund, Pfizer, MSD, and Shionogi co-funded an ambitious documentary, produced by the BBC, which premiered globally on YouTube on September 5. The 36-minute film features the testimonies of AMR survivors, as well as scientists and researchers dedicated to tackling AMR. In addition, the CEOs of Phare Bio and Adaptive Phage Therapeutics, two biotech companies that are actively developing therapies against AMR, have also been interviewed. 

Health Innovations Acquires a Singapore-based Startup, Strengthening Digital Healthcare 

On September 5, Health Innovations, a consortium of practicing medical doctors affiliated with GP+ cooperative, announced its successful acquisition of AskDr, a prominent digital health startup based in Singapore. This strategic merger has positioned the group to make a significant impact on healthcare across the Asia Pacific region, a particularly pertinent development as Singapore transitions to a value-based care system known as “Healthier SG.” AskDr has gained recognition for its innovative online health community (OHC) platform during the COVID-19 pandemic. This platform facilitates patient access to trusted medical advice and personalized health information while addressing medical misinformation and providing remote professional medical training. 

Celltrion Reveals its Latest Plan to Ramp Up Drug Production

Headquartered in Incheon, South Korea, Celltrion announced on September 5 its intention to invest 126 million South Korean won (approximately $94.5 million) in a new production facility at its Songdo campus in order to meet the growing demand for its products. The facility has already entered its design phase and is slated for completion by early 2026 and full-scale operation by 2027. As Celltrion’s revenues grow, it anticipates that the expanded facility will not only strengthen the stability of its product supply, but will also reduce costs substantially. It is estimated that the company will be able to save about 30% on unit costs as compared to the prices currently being charged under contract manufacturing agreements. 

Astellas Withdraws Lawsuit Against IRA but Maintains Concerns

Having expected to be subject to Medicare pricing negotiations, Astellas Pharma challenged the constitutionality of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in July. Nevertheless, now that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have released a list of the first 10 drugs set for government bargaining, without including the Astellas’ cancer blockbuster Xtandi, the Japanese Big Pharma made a significant decision by requesting the dismissal of its lawsuit on September 6. Despite withdrawing the case, Astellas remains steadfast in its belief that the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Program is flawed and unconstitutional in its current form. 

Otsuka collaborates with ShapeTX to Develop Novel AAV Gene Therapies for Severe Eye Diseases

On September 7, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. (Otsuka) and Shape Therapeutics (ShapeTX), a Seattle-based programmable medicine company using AI and RNA to end genetic diseases, announced a multi-target collaboration to develop intravitreally-delivered adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) for ocular diseases. The companies will collaborate to apply ShapeTX’s AAVid capsid discovery platform and transgene engineering technology along with Otsuka’s expertise in genetic payload design and ophthalmology to develop novel treatment options for people living with serious eye diseases. Under the terms of the agreement, ShapeTX will receive an initial payment from Otsuka and is eligible to receive development, regulatory, and sales milestone payments potentially exceeding $1.5 billion in aggregate value. ShapeTX is also eligible to receive tiered royalties on future sales of products resulting from the collaboration.

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