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Daily Brief: PRIME status for vaccine, NHS urged to adopt automation, Brexit votes loom

A rapid round up of pharma, biotech and healthcare news

Hello and welcome to another Daily Brief from Pharmaceutical Market Europe (PME).

Today’s biggest pharma news is more grim tidings from the field of Alzheimer’s research – AZ and Lilly have conceded defeat on their BACE inhibitor.

Read more here:

Off BACE: AZ/Lilly drop Alzheimer’s drug lanabecestat

PRIME status for chikungunya vaccine

ema

The European Medicines Agency has granted Priority Medicines (PRIME) designation to a vaccine in development to prevent chikungunya fever.

The product is being developed by Vienna-based vaccines specialist Themis, which has been working on this its lead product since it was founded in 2011. The PRIME scheme is the EMA’s lead programme for accelerating treatments in areas of high unmet need, and focuses particularly on biotech and SME pharma companies.

Chikungunya is a mosquito-transmitted disease that can have debilitating long-term effects, and has no current treatment or prevention options. The disease is mostly seen in South America, Asia and parts of Africa, but cases of local transmission have occurred in the US and Australia.

Themis’ vaccine candidate has shown a good safety and immune-response data in clinical testing to date. Final results of a large dose-confirmation phase II trial are expected in mid-2018.  Further phase II trials are underway, totalling over 600 study volunteers in the US, EU and Central America.

“Being accepted into the PRIME scheme recognIses the potential of our programmes and the important endeavour of preventing chikungunya, a severe disease with global outbreak potential and no available treatments,” said Dr. Erich Tauber, CEO of Themis. “As we near the data read-out from our phase II trial, we are currently gearing up for phase III manufacturing and continuing interactions with the regulatory agencies will support a streamlined review and development process.”

NHS

Tech could save NHS £12.5bn and give staff ‘time to care’

Robots at the bedside and “care-bots” in the home can transform health and social care in the UK, according to a new report.

Put together by the IPPR, which describes itself as a ‘progressive policy’ think tank, and chaired by eminent surgeon and former health minister Lord Darzi, the report says technology could free up frontline time worth £12.5 billion a year - and allow them to focus on providing the human touch.

This represents almost 10% of the NHS’ annual running cost, and Lord Darzi says bold investment in a “far-reaching programme of automation” would help free up healthcare professionals’ time and secure the future of the health service.

It says a further £6bn in productivity gains could be realised by automation within social care, where 30% of current tasks could be carried out by adopting new technology. A more detailed version of the report will be published later this month, just ahead of the NHS’s 70th birthday on 5 July.

Lord Darzi

Echoing a remark by Aneurin Bevan, health minister when the NHS was launched in 1948, Lord Darzi (pictured) commented: “In the 21st century NHS, it might not be the sound of a bedpan dropping that is heard in Whitehall, but that of a robot picking it up. The NHS turns 70 this year but we must turn our sights to the future. We should not accept an analogue NHS in a digital decade.”

NHS staff will of course be wary of losing their jobs to these robots – something that Darzi has anticipated.

He proposes creating an automation fund to invest in the digital infrastructure needed, but also offering all staff affected by automation "the right to retrain", with a focus on filling gaps caused in the service.

However there is currently more than enough work to go round – in fact health and social care are suffering from chronic understaffing. NHS Improvement estimated in late 2017 that the NHS in England is short of 100,000 staff – one in 11 of the entire workforce.

Read the IPPR report here

BREXIT

Vote on Parliament’s ‘final say’ on Brexit on knife edge

Prime Minister Theresa May faces a nerve-wracking day in the House of Commons tomorrow, as two crucial bills reach MPs.

The first is on the UK’s future customs arrangements with the EU, and on this matter the government looks likely to secure a majority support. The government is supporting an amendment describing  “a” customs union, which has been tabled by backbenchers from opposing wings of the Conservative party - Nicky Morgan, a Remainer, and leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg.

However a separate vote on whether MPs should have the final say on any Brexit deal struck with the EU could go either way.

Many Conservative Remainers are threatening to support the vote, as well as most Labour MPs. If carried, this amendment would mean a government-proposed ‘No Deal’ Brexit, or one deemed not favourable enough to the UK could be blocked.

The chances of a Conservative Remainer rebellion looked to have increased today, with the resignation of justice minister Philip Lee, who is stepping down to vote in favour of the amendment. We'll bring you the results tomorrow, and the likely implication for the life sciences sector.

Article by
Gemma Jones

12th June 2018

From: Research

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