Senior Correspondent, London
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Jun 17, 2015

Ebola vaccines in limbo expose need for more speed in trials

LONDON (Reuters) – Drugmakers’ plans to conduct vast clinical trials to test and hopefully validate the first Ebola vaccines have been thwarted by success in beating back the deadly epidemic in West Africa.

GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Johnson & Johnson are struggling to recruit volunteers with enough exposure to the disease to prove whether their vaccines are doing the job and preventing infection.

Jun 16, 2015

Energy and medicine top import risk list as Greece teeters

LONDON (Reuters) – Imports of energy and life-saving medicines top the list of products in jeopardy if Greece defaults on its debt and moves closer to exiting the euro zone.

The threat to vital supplies is increasingly exercising policymakers, companies and traders as an impasse in negotiations between Athens and international creditors provokes alarm in financial markets.

Jun 15, 2015

Why no MERS vaccine? Lack of foresight frustrates scientists

LONDON (Reuters) – Three years after the mysterious MERS virus first emerged in humans, scientists and drugmakers say there is no excuse for not having a vaccine that could have protected those now falling sick and dying in South Korea.

The facts behind the coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) have been slow to emerge, partly due to a secretive response in Saudi Arabia, which has suffered an outbreak stretching back to 2012.

Jun 13, 2015

Bluebird Bio’s sickle cell gene therapy working for French boy

LONDON (Reuters) – A pioneering gene therapy for sickle cell disease is working well so far for a 13-year-old French boy with the hereditary blood disorder, researchers said on Saturday, in a boost for the technology to fix faulty genes.

He is the first patient with severe sickle cell disease (SCD) to be treated with Bluebird Bio’s LentiGlobin BB305 product, which the U.S. biotech company believes could cure the disorder.

Jun 10, 2015

AstraZeneca R&D boss Morrison leaves to head private drugmaker

LONDON, June 10 (Reuters) – AstraZeneca’s chief
medical officer and head of global late-stage drug development
Briggs Morrison is to leave the company, creating a gap at the
top of the group’s research operations.

A spokeswoman said on Wednesday Morrison was departing to
become chief executive of an unlisted venture capital-backed
drugmaker in the United States, adding there had been no
disagreement with other top managers at AstraZeneca.

Jun 9, 2015

China’s big biotech bet starting to pay off

SHANGHAI/LONDON, June 10 (Reuters) – Years of pouring money
into its laboratories, wooing scientists home from overseas and
urging researchers to publish and patent is starting to give
China a competitive edge in biotechnology, a strategic field it
sees as ripe for “indigenous innovation.”

The vast resources China can throw at research and
development – overall funding more than quadrupled to $191
billion in 2005-13 and the Thousand Talents Program has
repatriated scientists – allow China to jump
quickly on promising new technologies, often first developed

Jun 9, 2015

Canadians hope $250 mln trial can revive failed Roche heart drug

June 9 (Reuters) – A Canadian team hopes to revive a heart
drug ditched by Roche three years ago by running a
major clinical trial targeting only those patients with the
right genetic profile to benefit from its ability to boost
“good” cholesterol.

The Swiss drugmaker, which has licensed rights to
dalcetrapib to Quebec-based DalCor Pharmaceuticals, said on
Tuesday it would provide a companion diagnostic for use in the
Phase III study.

Jun 8, 2015

Novartis places big, broad bet on cancer immunotherapy

June 8 (Reuters) – Novartis is well placed in the
hot field of cancer immunotherapy, despite being behind rivals
in developing immune system-boosting drugs known as checkpoint
inhibitors, a top executive at the Swiss drugmaker said on

“We will play an important role in this in the future and we
believe we are well-positioned for that,” Bill Hinshaw, U.S.
head of Novartis Oncology, told a webcast media briefing in New

Jun 8, 2015

Swiss biotech Actelion hits record high on potential Shire bid

LONDON (Reuters) – Shares in Actelion (ATLN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), Europe’s biggest biotech company, jumped 10 percent to a record high on Monday after a report Shire (SHP.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) was considering a $19 billion takeover of the Swiss group to boost its rare diseases business.

Shire, which is based in Ireland but has most operations in the United States, is a serial acquirer in a consolidating healthcare sector, which has seen a record $253 billion of deals so far this year.

May 27, 2015

Exclusive: Greece owes drugmakers $1.2 billion – and counting

LONDON (Reuters) – Cash-strapped Greece has racked up mounting debts with international drugmakers and now owes the industry more than 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion), a leading industry official said on Wednesday.

The rising unpaid bill reflects the growing struggle by the nearly bankrupt country to muster cash, and creates a dilemma for companies under moral pressure not to cut off supplies of life-saving medicines.

    • About Ben

      "Ben Hirschler is European pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and healthcare correspondent, based in London. Previously, he was in charge of British company news and before that was posted to Johannesburg, covering the economic challenges facing post-apartheid South Africa."
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