With the Food and Drug Administration approving the first COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use last week and another approval expected this week, the focus around the vaccine will start to shift toward public health messaging and how to convince tens of millions of people around the country to accept the vaccine and roll up their sleeves for a shot.
And it’s not all promising news on the vaccine front; just last week, news broke about a cyberattack targeting COVID-19 vaccine data. Also in this week’s roundup, we look at developing technology that would replace needles with pills, wearable technology in research, and a huge fundraising round for a company that combines artificial intelligence and precision medicine.
Each week, we highlight five things you need to know about in the life sciences industry. Here’s the latest.
This week marks a major turning point in the COVID-19 pandemic as people in the United States – primarily health care workers – have begun to receive the vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech. The FDA is also expected to approve the Moderna vaccine by the end of this week. Now come the challenges of distribution and persuading the public to be vaccinated.
A new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found 71% of respondents said in December that they would get a COVID-19 vaccine, up 8 points from KFF’s prior survey in September. This is a needed improvement, but it is important to think of the United States not as one group of approximately 330 million people, but a collection of smaller communities. Each community will need to reach approximately 70% immunization to achieve herd immunity, and willingness to be vaccinated varies widely across demographic lines.
Hackers have been targeting government agencies – including stealing Pfizer/BioNTech data from the EMA
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) reported last week that hackers breached their systems and stole data related to the COVID-19 vaccine application from Pfizer/BioNTech, this FiercePharma piece explains. This attack came to light just days before news of widespread attacks on U.S. government agencies as part of a sweeping Russian cyberattack. Although the prospect of an attack by a nation state may be unrealistic for your company, cybersecurity should be a priority for leadership teams at every life sciences company.
For many therapies, delivering a drug into the bloodstream without facing the harsh environment of the stomach is a requirement. This typically involves needles and often multiple trips to a doctor’s office or infusion site. Rani Therapeutics is raising capital and running trials to replace all of that with a small, robotic pill.
As our phones, watches and rings become more sophisticated and have ever more sensors and other Internet of Things capabilities, they are becoming useful tools in research projects and clinical trials. For researchers, this opens a new window into real-time and long-term data on heart rates, temperatures, activity levels, blood oxygen levels and more – without inconveniencing study subjects. Oura, a maker of smart rings, partnered with several research universities to study whether its device could detect early signs of COVID-19.
A tech entrepreneur raised more than $1 billion to leverage artificial intelligence in precision medicine
A recurring theme in the life sciences space is the growing overlap in expertise with the tech industry. Talented data scientists, programmers and artificial intelligence experts are in high demand in both fields. Highlighting this overlap is Tempus, founded by Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky. The company has raised more than $1 billion at an $8 billion valuation to continue Tempus’s focus on integrating artificial intelligence into the field of precision medicine.