This week we highlight actions by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel deciding on what COVID-19 boosters should contain for this fall. The panel voted overwhelmingly to include updates for the omicron variant, setting up the potential that COVID-19 vaccines will be managed like the flu with new updates included each year. We also look at the twisting road from a latte to a new drug delivery method, ongoing developments in artificial intelligence in radiology, and delivery challenges for cell and gene therapies. Finally, we look at a new $3 billion fund being raised to invest in early-stage biotechs.
Note: Due to the July 4 holiday, we’ll pause publication of our “5 things” next week. We’ll resume the week of July 11.
On Tuesday, the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted 19-2 to recommend that new COVID-19 booster vaccines incorporate the omicron variant. While the current Pfizer and Moderna booster vaccines have appeared to show efficacy against the omicron variant, the prevalence of subvariants has made it challenging to measure actual effectiveness against new strands. The FDA has not stated when it will make a final decision on whether specific omicron boosters are appropriate, but a final decision is expected soon.
Researchers are constantly trying to find ways to deliver potentially toxic molecules to specific organs as a possible treatment for disease. In this case, researchers have been looking at common tools in the food industry as viable ways to deliver carbon monoxide to treat gastrointestinal issues, including whipped foams, gummies and Pop Rocks.
Bayer’s radiology group has launched a cloud-based platform that is designed to utilize artificial intelligence to automate review of CT scan and MRI results. Such results have historically been reviewed manually by highly trained medical professionals. This technology is designed to limit the amount of human review and reduce the time required to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.
One of the many challenges facing developers of cell and gene therapies is how to deliver these new therapies into the body. This requires the development of new tools ranging from micro-needle patches to mRNA encapsulation tools.
Given that the current initial public offering window is somewhat closed and the stock performance of many public biotechs is sluggish, it might be surprising to see ARCH Venture Partners has raised almost $3 billion for their new fund focused on early stage biotechs. They argue that the current public market is of little relevance to early-stage companies, and that now is as good a time as any to invest in the science that will lead to new treatments years down the road.