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Berlin acts to stop US poaching German coronavirus vaccine company

Concern that Washington may seek monopoly on any breakthrough in fight against disease

Berlin acts to stop US poaching German coronavirus vaccine company
There are fears in Berlin that countries could take an 'every man for himself' approach to combating coronavirus © Adrienne Surpreant/Bloomberg

Berlin is seeking to stop a German company trying to come up with a vaccine against coronavirus from moving its research to the US, amid fears Washington may seek a monopoly on any breakthrough in the fight against the disease. A German government source said that ministers were looking at ways to keep the company in question, biopharma group CureVac, in Germany. On Sunday the German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag reported that Donald Trump was trying to lure CureVac to the US with generous offers of money. Welt quoted unnamed German officials as saying the president was doing everything in his power to acquire a vaccine for the US — “but only for the US”. The report has reinforced fears in Berlin that countries could take an “every man for himself” approach to fighting coronavirus, rather than pooling resources and sharing potential scientific breakthroughs that would help to stop the disease. A German government spokesman declined to comment on the Welt story. But the health ministry issued a statement saying the government had “a great interest in ensuring that vaccines and compounds against the new type coronavirus are also developed in Germany and in Europe”. “With this in mind, the government is in an intensive exchange with the firm CureVac,” the ministry added. German officials have pointed to Berlin’s law on foreign trade, under which the government can scrutinise bids from non-EU countries “if national or European security interests are at stake”. A US official said the Welt story was “wildly overplayed”. He said the US government had spoken with more than 25 companies that claim they can help with a vaccine, and most of them had already received seed funding from US investors.

“We will continue to talk to any company that claims to be able to help,” he said. “And any solution found would be shared with the world.” This month, CureVac reported on its website that its chief executive Daniel Menichella had been invited to the White House to discuss “strategies and opportunities for the rapid development and production of a coronavirus vaccine” with Mr Trump and members of his coronavirus task force. In the press release, Mr Menichella was quoted as saying that the company was “very confident that we will be able to develop a potent vaccine candidate within a few months”. It said it hoped to start clinical trials early this summer. A few days after the meeting, Mr Menichella left the company, which is based in the south-western town of Tübingen. He was replaced as chief by Ingmar Hoerr, CureVac’s founder.

The Welt report kicked up a political storm in Germany. “The exclusive sale of a potential vaccine to the US must be prevented using all available means,” said Karl Lauterbach, health policy spokesman for the Social Democrats, the junior partner in Angela Merkel’s grand coalition government. “Capitalism has limits,” he tweeted. “We can’t continue to be reliant on medicine from China and the US. Our policy on research needs to change.” “It’s an ethical, not an economic or national issue,” said Bärbel Bas, deputy head of the SPD’s parliamentary group. “If there’s a vaccine, it must be available for everyone. Anything else would be a scandal. “In a pandemic, it’s about everyone, not ‘America First’,” she added.

via – FT | SourceFT | Search  》coronavirus vaccine

FDA approves Bristol Myers’ liver cancer therapy


(Reuters) – Bristol Myers Squibb’s combination of its immunotherapies, Opdivo and Yervoy, to treat a type of liver cancer received U.S. regulatory approval, the drugmaker said on Wednesday.

The therapy received the Food and Drug Administration’s accelerated approval to treat patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, who have previously been administered sorafenib, the current standard of care. (

The accelerated approval program allows a speedier market entry to medicines that fill an unmet medical need for a serious condition, and further clinical trials may be required for final approval of the therapy.

The FDA approval is based on an early stage trial in which 33% of patients responded to the therapy.

“The incidence of liver cancer is rising in the United States…and today’s approval provides a new option for patients with HCC (hepatocellular carcinoma),” said Andrea Wilson, president Blue Faery: The Adrienne Wilson Liver Cancer Association.

HCC is the most common type of primary liver cancer and is more common in people who drink large amounts of alcohol and who have an accumulation of fat in the liver.

via – Reuters | SourceReuters | Search  》liver cancer therapy

Could Amazon cure the common cold? CEO Jeff Bezos’ company is reportedly working on it

Amazon’s Grand Challenge Division has ambitions to deliver – books, iphones & a cure for the Common Cold!

Man coughing in bed with cough medicine, a thermometer, and a glass of water on his end table. (GETTY IMAGES)

Maybe soon you’ll be able to get free shipping, free streaming movies and a cure for the common cold from Amazon.

Yes, you read that right. Amazon is reportedly working on a cure for the common cold.

The company is secretly working on a cure for the condition that causes a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, sneezing, low-grade fevers and other symptoms, according to CNBC.

Amazon representatives did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment Friday.

CNBC reported that Amazon has assigned more than 100 people in its Grand Challenge division to pursue the cure.

The mission is to develop a vaccine or some other form of treatment, according to the report.

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But it might be too early to get your hopes up. The cold, which is usually caused by the rhinovirus, comes in many different forms. And that has made it notoriously hard to cure.

And even if the company comes up with a cure, who will pay for it?

The drug would need to have “almost zero side effects” and there would still be “a major question of whether insurance would pay for it,” venture capitalist and veteran diagnostics executive Mike Pellini told CNBC.

The market opportunity for Amazon is obvious. American adults get about two to three colds per year, and they typically last about seven to 10 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The best way to protect yourself from getting a cold is to wash your hands often with soap and water, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and avoid people who are sick, according to the CDC.

via – USA Today | Source – USA Today | Search  》cure common cold | rhinovirus

Insurers promise to cover coronavirus tests, relax coverage policies

So far, the CDC has picked up the tab for coronavirus diagnostics.

Cigna-Insurers -coronavirus-testing-cost-price-reduction
Cigna announced its customers will have access to coronavirus testing "as prescribed by health practitioners." | Cigna via AP Images

A major health insurance trade group is pledging its member plans will cover doctor-ordered testing for the coronavirus amid rising confusion and concern about who will bear the cost of care in an outbreak.

America’s Health Insurance Plans made the commitment Thursday, although it’s still unclear when insurers might have to start paying for tests. So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has picked up the tab for coronavirus diagnostics. The cost picture is expected to become more complicated as more private labs and academic medical centers launch their own testing. Thursday alone, commercial labs Quest Diagnostics, LabCorp and BioReference Laboratories announced they’d launch testing for the virus.

Cigna separately announced its customers will have access to coronavirus testing “as prescribed by health practitioners” and that it intends to waive co-pays and other forms of cost sharing.


AHIP also promised to take steps to dissuade patients from skipping tests or treatment due to cost concerns and potentially could waive co-pays. The trade group said it would begin relaxing policies on provider networks and referrals as well.

New York, Nevada and Washington state have already ordered health plans to waive co-pays and deductibles for coronavirus testing.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma applauded the move by insurers, noting she’d spoken with AHIP President Matt Eyles Thursday morning.

She told reporters earlier in the day that people who need to get tested should check with their insurance company about coverage but that it’s a “commonly covered” diagnostic. And she reiterated that state health departments are providing testing for free.

Vice President Mike Pence who is leading the White House coronavirus task force has given assurances that Obamacare plans as well as Medicare and Medicaid will cover any testing costs.

via – Politico | Source – Politico | Search  》coronavirus medical insurance

Futures dip as coronavirus cases outside China rise

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures fell on Thursday, a day after the S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed at record levels, as the number of coronavirus cases outside China increased.

South Korea reported a spike in new cases on Thursday and Japan reported two new deaths while research suggested the virus spreads faster than previously thought.

Iranian health officials urged all religious gatherings to be suspended in Qom, news agency ISNA said, after two more people tested positive for the coronavirus in the holy city, where two died of it this week.

China reported a sharp drop in new cases, but the data was treated with skepticism as another change in the diagnostic method raised questions about the extent to which daily tallies accurately reflect the state of the outbreak.

China lowered its benchmark lending rates, as expected, to cushion the blow to growth from the epidemic that has disrupted global supply chains and upended business operations and factory activity.

Recent policy easing in the country, a largely better-than-expected fourth quarter earnings season and hopes that the economic jolt from the outbreak will be short-lived have pushed Wall Street’s main indexes to new peaks in recent weeks.

At 7:09 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis 1YMcv1 were down 48 points, or 0.16%. S&P 500 e-minis EScv1 were down 5 points, or 0.15% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQcv1 were down 17.25 points, or 0.18%.

Among stocks, L Brands Inc (LB.N) slid 9.5% following a report that it was nearing a deal to sell control of Victoria’s Secret to private equity firm Sycamore Partners, valuing the lingerie brand at $1.1 billion.

 via – Reuters

Sanofi partners with U.S. agency to develop coronavirus vaccine

PARIS (Reuters) – Sanofi said on Tuesday it was working with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) of the U.S. Health Department to develop a vaccine against the new coronavirus from China.

The French drugmaker said it intended to further investigate an advanced pre-clinical vaccine candidate previously developed against the SARS virus in the early 2000s, which it believes could protect against the latest coronavirus.

At least a dozen drugmakers are working on vaccines or antivirals and other treatments to help those infected with the fast-spreading contagion.

Johnson & Johnson said last week it was collaborating with BARDA to speed up development of a coronavirus vaccine.

via – Reuters