At another chaotic press conference on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump accused WHO of “mismanaging and covering up” the epidemic, saying that “so many deaths have been caused by their mistakes.” As a result, he swore that the United States would stop funding the United Nations agency until it had examined the actions of the organization.
The United States contributes approximately 15% of WHO’s annual budget, or more than $ 400 million, making it the agency’s largest donor. The decision to suspend funding for Trump, who himself was reprimanded for a slow and helpless response to the crisis in the United States, has sparked a wave of criticism from various circles.
Heiko Maas, the German Minister for Foreign Affairs, denounced this decision. “It doesn’t help to blame”, he wrote on Twitter. “The virus knows no borders. “
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said now is not the time to cut WHO’s resources. “This decision weakens WHO’s capabilities and undermines international cooperation,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Reuters. Former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, who led WHO from 1998 to 2003, said the attack on the agency was “the last thing we need right now.”
Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who heads the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which supports a plethora of anti-Covid-19 approaches, also berated the decision:
Stopping funding to the World Health Organization during a global health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work slows the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped, no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever.
– Bill Gates (@BillGates) April 15, 2020
But some have said the agency should not be immune to criticism. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he sympathized with Trump’s criticism of the WHO, in particular his “unfathomable” support for the reopening of China’s “wet markets” where freshly slaughtered animals and live are sold, according to the news agency report. “But having said that, WHO, as an organization, is also doing important work,” added Morrison in an interview with an Australian radio station.
J&J organizes a “reality show” to chronicle the development of the Covid-19 vaccine
Who needs the Kardashian, when J&J shows you how to build a vaccine in the next two months on a screen of your choice?
In late March, J&J unveiled an ambitious plan to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, adding to the growing list of drug manufacturers, large and small such as Sanofi, Moderna and GSK who are fighting to relegate the disease to the annals of past.
The plan is to launch human tests on the J&J candidate by September, have safety data and data by the end of the year and prepare the non-profit vaccine for use in case of an emergency pandemic in early 2021, company executives said, adding that they expect to have the capacity to generate 600 to 900 million doses in early 2021 and to reach one billion doses in during the year.
Like others hoping to have a vaccine ready within 12 to 18 months, the short-circuited development schedule has sparked disbelief, but J&J plans to show exactly how it plans to do it in segments half an hour a week.
Producer and journalist Lisa Ling hosted the first show on Tuesday, “The Road to a Vaccine” – it aired on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and JNJ.com.
In an interview with STAT, Ling said J&J has placed no restrictions on what it can ask of scientists and company executives. “I was lead a series on how the vaccine development process works,” she said. “I don’t approve of a product. I don’t even approve of a particular company. I am as curious as anyone about this process. “
Data still pending, but Gilead is already protecting the remdesivir brand
While the US drug maker has been forced to end an advanced study testing the antiviral in mild to moderate Covid-19 patients due to the lack of patients to enroll, the drug continues to be evaluated as in severe patients. Meanwhile, the company filed a trademark application for the packaging of the drug, Axios reported.
“The reason you make this brand is because you think you are going to release a product soon,” said Josh Gerben, a trademark attorney who first Note Gilead’s request has been communicated to Axios. “It’s part of protecting your brand. “
Abbott’s antibody test has arrived
Diagnostic tests for existing coronaviruses are designed to refine the virus’s RNA genome, but if the person recovers from the coronavirus infection, that evidence disappears. Antibody tests – which are based on blood instead of nasal or throat swabs – should reveal who had the infection, but was asymptomatic and recovered.
Abbott, one of a menagerie of diagnostic developers working on an antibody test, revealed on Wednesday that it plans to start shipping tomorrow and distribute 4 million tests in April, reaching 20 million in the United States. United per month in June and beyond.
Test data like these will reveal the full extent of the pandemic and inform containment strategies. It will also help researchers working on plasma therapies, which require blood from survivors.
GSK chief Walmsley says vaccine is not enough
British pharmacist GSK and French compatriot Sanofi – the two largest vaccine manufacturers around the world – joined forces on Tuesday to work on a vaccine for Covid-19, in addition to other vaccination efforts that each is working on separately .
“The world is definitely going to need more than one vaccine when you think about the demand in this extremely difficult global health crisis,” Emma Walmsley, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, told BBC Radio. Reuters.
The two companies said they plan to start clinical trials for the vaccine in the second half of this year and, if successful, to roll out the vaccine in the second half of 2021. This truncated timeline, similar to the plans released by J&J, has its critics, who point to historical data showing that vaccines generally take at least a decade to develop, and even then the results are not always as safe as expected. The record for the fastest vaccine ever developed is five years – and it was for Ebola, approved only months ago.
Head lice medication to fight coronavirus?
As desperate researchers rummage through their medicine cabinets to find different ways to fight the virus, a drug used to fight head lice has become a potential candidate.
Initially developed as a treatment for roundworms in cattle in the 1970s and 1980s, the compound ivermectin was later evaluated as a treatment for river blindness in humans. More recently, the drug has been used as a topical treatment to treat head lice, earning it a spot on the WHO list of essential drugs.
Earlier this month, a team led by researchers from Monash University discovered that the drug inhibits virus activity in a petri dish, causing an approximately 5,000-fold reduction in viral RNA after 48 hours.
“We found that even a single dose could essentially clear out all of the 48-hour viral RNA and that even at 24 hours there was a really significant reduction,” Kylie Wagstaff, who led the Monash team, told ABC News Biomedicine Discovery Institute of Melbourne. .
In addition, a small observational study by researchers at the University of Utah found that “critically ill patients with lung damage requiring mechanical ventilation can benefit from the administration of ivermectin.”
With such early data, there is no guarantee, of course, that the drug will be a safe and effective addition to the sparse arsenal of tools available to doctors to fight the virus.
A few days ago, the FDA issued a warning that consumers should not self-medicate with ivermectin, citing increased interest in the drug since the publication of the journal Monash.
Not just the United States, India is also concluding an agreement with Malasia to sell an antimalarial drug touted for its potential against Covid-19
Under pressure from President Trump, India relaxed restrictions on the export of hydroxychloroquine to the United States earlier this month. Now the Modi administration has entered into an agreement with Malaysia to supply the drug, which has the second-highest number of infections in Southeast Asia with nearly 5,000 cases and 82 deaths, according to Reuters.
India is the largest producer of hydroxychloroquine. Malaysia has requested more than one million hydroxychloroquine tablets from India, two sources with direct knowledge told the news agency on condition of anonymity.
“On April 14, India authorized Malaysia to import 89,100 tablets,” Malaysian Deputy Foreign Minister Kamarudin Jaffar told Reuters on Wednesday. “We will try to get more hydroxychloroquine tablets from India, which are also subject to stock availability.”
The decades-old drugs – hydroxychloroquine and its chloroquine, a cousin therapy – have gained cult status as potential Covid-19 therapies thanks to their passionate approval by Trump. But the existing data on their efficacy is inconclusive, and a growing body of evidence suggests that their safety profile in Covid-19 patients is untenable.
Ginkgo Bioworks helps Moderna
Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, who said his mRNA vaccine to protect against Covid-19 could be ready for regulatory review this fall, called on Gingko’s bioengineering platform to prepare raw materials for the manufacture of its developing vaccines. .
“We appreciate Ginkgo’s offer to make its resources available to Moderna as we work on our candidate vaccine against the new coronavirus,” said Juan Andres, manager of technical operations and quality at Moderna, in a statement. . “We are excited to see how optimizing our internal processes could increase the production of a key raw material used in our manufacturing.”
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