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Life-Science Healthcare News | September 2021

The life sciences sector is carrying out mRNA-based research to develop vaccines for cancer, novel gene and cell therapies to treat Parkinson's, and providing a home for global pandemic research.

WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence inaugurated in Berlin

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel inaugurated the new global WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin. The initiative is part of WHO’s “Health Emergencies Programme” and represents a new collaboration of countries and partners worldwide to better prepare and protect the world from global disease threats. The Hub will bring together partners worldwide to collaborate and create the tools and data needed for all countries to prepare, detect and respond to pandemic and epidemic risks. The hub is currently operating from a center provided by the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, but will soon move to a permanent campus at the heart of the city.

Bayer developing new Parkinson’s therapy

Two US subsidiaries of the Bayer Group are currently working on novel gene and cell therapies to treat Parkinson’s disease. Clinical phase trials have started on the cell therapy being developed by Bluerock Therapeutics (acquired by Bayer in 2019) and a gene therapy in development at Asklepios Biopharmaceuticals (acquired by Bayer in 2020). The DAX-listed enterprise has high hopes for the two therapies, believing that the clinical product candidates have significant potential for the treatment of the degenerative disorder. According to the VFA association of research-based pharmaceutical companies, there are currently around four dozen active substance studies in advanced phase two and three clinical trial.

BioNTech testing cancer vaccine

BioNTech has announced news of the first person dosed in phase II clinical trial of an mRNA-based product candidate (BNT111) for the treatment of skin cancer. A total of 120 subjects are participating in the study, which is investigating the efficacy, tolerability and safety of BNT111 as part of skin cancer treatment for inoperable melanoma. The trialed vaccine is being evaluated in combination with Libtayo in patients with anti-PD1-refractory/relapsed unresectable stage three or four melanoma. The BT111 therapy is the lead product candidate from the company’s FixVac platform, which targets a fixed combination of mRNA-encoded, tumor-associated antigens with the aim of triggering a strong and precise immune response against cancer. The company believes that the potential of mRNA vaccines in addressing the coronavirus pandemic can be harnessed to address the global cancer threat.

Cannabis start-up raises EUR 35 million in funding round

Berlin-based Sanity Group recently announced the largest financing round to date for a European cannabis start-up, securing more than EUR 36 million from new and existing investors. This latest financing round sees the company, founded in 2018, having raised around EUR 60 million in funding, making it one of Europe’s leading cannabis companies.

Abiomed to quadruple production in North Rhine-Westphalia

US medical technology company Abiomed has announced plans to expand its activities in Germany in order to quadruple production at its site in North Rhine-Westphalia. The heart pump specialist, headquartered in Aachen, will hire an additional 200 to 250 employees to meet its new production target.

Photocure opens European headquarters in Düsseldorf

Norwegian healthcare company Photocure is opening its first German location in Düsseldorf. The new site, which will also be the company’s European headquarters, is part of the bladder-cancer technology specialist’s plans to intensify relationships with German and European clinics. The proximity of specialist clinics in the region and Düsseldorf’s central location were decisive factors in the decision to locate to North Rhine-Westphalia.

Evonik and Stanford researching mRNA medicines

Essen-based chemicals group Evonik is launching a research collaboration with scientists at Stanford University in California. The three-year project will see research into potential application of mRNA technologies to develop the next generation of mRNA-based medicines. Evonik is a specialist in drug-delivery technologies needed to safely deliver active ingredients to their site of action in mRNA therapies.

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