Companies: Pfizer reaches agreement with Gilead to manufacture anti-C drug

Pharmaceutical Pfizer announced an agreement with biotechnology company Gilead Sciences to produce its drug against COVID-19, remdesivir, and thus scale the supply of the drug, which has been proven effective in reducing the chances of death from the virus.

Through a statement, Pfizer explained that it is an agreement “multiannual“For Gilead to use its manufacturing capacity and for the medicine to reach patients”as soon as possible”.

From the beginning it was clear that no single company or innovation could end the COVID-19 crisis on its own. Pfizer’s agreement with Gilead is an excellent example of how members of the innovation ecosystem work together to deliver medical solutions.“Pfizer President and CEO Albert Bourla said in the note.

He also added that together they are “more powerful than alone”And that for Pfizer, as“one of the largest manufacturers of vaccines, biologics and sterile injectables“, is a “privilege”Offer their expertise and infrastructure to help fight the pandemic.

Remdesivir is the only drug authorized to treat COVID-19 in the United States, although that approval has been made through an emergency procedure.

The drug has not yet received final approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has not certified the use of any specific drug for the virus.

About a month ago, Gilead said they had carried out a study with 312 patients that proved that remdesivir, their treatment for the coronavirus, reduces the risk of critical patients of dying from the disease by up to 62% and said that the drug is associated with a significant “improved clinical recovery.”

Precisely this Thursday, the biotechnology firm assured that by October it would be able to manufacture enough doses of this intravenous drug to satisfy global demand and guaranteed that it is ready to deliver two million more drugs by the end of the year, as well as “many millions more”In 2021 after increasing the supply of the drug more than fifty times since January.

The agreement between Pfizer and Gilead comes as the former is still immersed in its effort to produce a possible vaccine against the coronavirus whose final phase of the trial with 30,000 humans began last week.

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Giant Pfizer announces a “wonderful” date for the introduction of the Corona vaccine

To date, the World Health Organization says, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral drug to prevent Covid-19 disease.

However, those with it should receive care to relieve symptoms, and people with severe illness should be hospitalized,

According to global health, most patients recover with supportive care.

Many consider vaccine the best way to restore life to normal, as it was before the outbreak of the Coruna virus worldwide.

But health experts stress that there are other, no less difficult, things that should be applied, such as millions of tests and the need for more than tens of thousands of additional healthcare workers to track and isolate those exposed to the Coronavirus, as well as unite countries ’efforts by sharing data.

Some US states have begun to ease restrictions imposed by the epidemic, but a return to the pre-SK period in late 2019 seems out of reach today.

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Albert Burla, CEO of the New York-based company, said Pfizer would be ready to roll out the vaccine for emergency use next fall, becoming more prepared for large-scale production at the end of the year, according to the American Wall Street Journal.

He added that the company will continue to conduct further tests to ensure the effectiveness of the vaccine and its safety, noting that the first results are expected in early May.

The value of Pfizer’s announcement is due to the size of the global company, which is among the largest and most well-known and potential in the world, as well as the proximity of the announced date, compared to statements by global health experts who expected that the development of the vaccine will take between 12-18 months.

Dozens of companies in the world are testing anti-retroviral drugs and vaccines, Curna, but none of them has yet obtained an international use license.

To date, the World Health Organization says, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral drug to prevent Covid-19 disease.

However, those with it should receive care to relieve symptoms, and people with severe illness should be hospitalized,

According to global health, most patients recover with supportive care.

Many consider vaccine the best way to restore life to normal, as it was before the outbreak of the Coruna virus worldwide.

But health experts stress that there are other, no less difficult, things that should be applied, such as millions of tests and the need for more than tens of thousands of additional healthcare workers to track and isolate those exposed to the Coronavirus, as well as unite countries ’efforts by sharing data.

Some US states have begun to ease restrictions imposed by the epidemic, but a return to the pre-SK period in late 2019 seems out of reach today.

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DAX outlook: mood barometer cloudy outlook

Frankfurt In the past weeks there have been repeated attempts to recover the course, on some days one could believe that the corona pandemic has already been overcome. But on Friday, disillusionment returned – the collapsed ifo business climate index made the whole dilemma clear.

The course of the mood barometer looks like a “Highway to Hell”, was the analysis of the VP Bank. The index is now significantly below the values ​​of the crisis year 2009. The simple message for the future was: “Massive income losses are imminent. We will all get poorer. This applies not only to Germany, but to all economies. ”Sometimes it is better to hear the unvarnished truth.

Other analysts and experts are also skeptical about the weekly outlook. Cautious savings by consumers and companies create a completely different economic and inflation environment than one knows from the post-war period, the analysts at MFS Investment Management believe.

They expect the earnings recovery to be weaker than the market and point to the possible dilution of earnings through capital increases. They particularly highlight 2008 as a comparison.

“When the extreme risk of the international financial crisis subsided, companies were no longer concerned with distributions, but with recapitalization. To this end, new shares were issued – at the expense of existing shareholders, whose capital was heavily diluted, ”said the investment professionals. The new wave of recapitalization has probably just started. In the past few weeks, leisure companies and service providers in the United States and Europe have already offered new shares.

Warning to bargain hunters

The BLI – Banque de Luxembourg Investments is also cautious. “The financial markets are currently giving the impression that they are underestimating the extent of the economic damage and are counting on a rapid recovery as soon as the containment measures are reversed,” is the BLI’s assessment.

Many investors are conditioned to view any decline as an opportunity to buy. However, the analysts recall that while the fall in share prices in February / March was dramatic, the valuations were also very high. As a result, the markets today are anything but cheap, especially after the recent price recovery.

Quality companies with a very solid balance sheet, one or more sustainable competitive advantages and the ability to self-finance should be preferred. The main factor that will continue to speak for stocks remains the low interest rate level and thus the lack of alternatives. At the same time, gold will become an “indispensable part of a balanced portfolio because of the inflation risks.”

After the significant recovery since mid-March, the European stock market has recently lost some momentum, the Weberbank experts believe. In addition, the balance sheet season that is already underway shows significant impacts on corporate balance sheets due to the global “lockdowns”.

Correspondingly, the analysts have also significantly lowered their profit expectations for industrial companies, but also for the banking and energy sectors. Due to the economic slump, banks faced increased write-downs on their credit books and the massive drop in yields clouded interest income. Most recently, they also negatively impacted the rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P).

The Deutsche Bank and the Commerzbank were therefore particularly under pressure on Friday “We continue to distance ourselves from these sectors and prefer creditworthy pharmaceuticals or companies from the non-cyclical consumption. In addition, titles from the technology sector are promising in our eyes, ”said the Weberbank experts.

Central banks meet worldwide

If the economic situation continues to be poor, the states and central banks will have to take further support measures. Robert Greil, chief strategist at Merck Finck Privatbankiers, sees an opportunity for this next week because the European Central Bank, the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan are meeting.

“As a result of the unprecedented economic downturn caused by the Covid 19 consequences, all central banks will reaffirm their willingness to support,” says Greil. The economic downturn left neither governments nor central banks a choice but to take further measures to support and recover the economy.

The gross domestic product for the first quarter of 2020 will be published in the euro area on Thursday, and new growth figures will come in the US on Wednesday. Further important economic data in Germany are the preliminary inflation figures and the labor market report for April.

According to DZ Bank, the next quarter should bring an improvement in the economy, but there does not have to be a “V” or “I” recovery. This is not ignored on the stock market, many stocks are up to 80 percent down.

A large number of “mega-caps” hold up against this, mainly in the USA. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Netflix and Facebook, but also Adobe or Comcast, be stable on the way. Things are also going well for the great values ​​of the “old economy”, including Pepsico, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Home depot and Pfizer. The German Leading index Dax the strategists from DZ Bank see 11,200 points by the end of the year, and the S & P-500 for US equities at 2,800. This would at least stabilize in the medium term.

More: Yield in Corona times: With which investments you can still make money

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Sahin and Türeci are developing a vaccine

Mainz Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türeci do not currently have much time for their private lives. The focus of the two doctors is their company. Your mission: the fight against Covid-19.

That seems to be paying off: the stock listed on the US technology exchange Nasdaq gained almost 50 percent overnight. With currently around $ 12 billion, Biontech is worth almost three times as much as the one stumbling in the pandemic Lufthansa.

Together with the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the Chinese company Fosun, both of which have a minor stake in Biontech, are now expected to break through in the corona crisis.

Mainz has been researching an influenza vaccine with Pfizer for a long time. Nevertheless, vaccines against infectious diseases have so far been a minor issue. The company that Sahin founded in 2008 with the immunologist Christoph Huber specializes in individualized cancer therapies. The goal: to activate defense reactions against tumors in cells.

The pandemic shows: Sahin and Türeci are not bogged down in technology. When they first heard about the virus, they were convinced that they could contribute to the fight against Covid-19. 400 of the 1300 employees are now working around the clock on vaccine development, in three shifts, as the “Manager Magazin” wrote.

Biontech expects interim results at the end of June. If the first study is successful, a larger test run could begin in autumn. But Sahin curbs the euphoria: he does not believe that the vaccine will be approved before 2021. Nevertheless, that would be a record pace: New vaccine developments would otherwise take decades. It is not without reason that the project bears the name “Lightspeed”.

Scientist at heart

Despite his leading role, Sahin sees himself primarily as a scientist and continues to teach as a professor of experimental oncology at Mainz University. “We are a technology company, not a classic pharmaceutical company,” he once said. “Our success depends on what we do technologically and medically work.”

Sahin who liked his company with the electric car maker Tesla compares, is viewed in the oncologist community and received the “German Cancer Award” in 2019 for its research. Sahin comes from southern Turkey and received her doctorate in Cologne in 1990. Türeci’s family comes from Istanbul, the father worked as a country doctor in Lower Saxony. The two met in Saarland, at the University of Homburg.

Türeci founded her first company with other partners in 2001: Ganymed Pharmaceuticals. In 2016, the Japanese pharmaceutical company Astellas bought the company for 422 million euros – the largest deal to date in the still young German biotech industry. Ganymed developed antibodies for targeted cancer therapies.

Biontech also includes the Hexal founders and investors Andreas and Thomas Strüngmann. Your family office owns half of the shares. Bill Gates also invested. Sahin himself holds a good fifth of the shares. This makes him the second largest shareholder after Strüngmanns. On paper, Sahin is now worth more than two billion euros.

That shouldn’t mean much to him. “Sahin has never put monetization in the foreground,” said Thomas Strüngmann in an interview with Handelsblatt last year. “His dream coincides with ours to build something sustainable, permanent and to develop fundamentally new, better therapies.” Sahin and Türeci are “exceptional phenomena” with what scientific foundations they have created for the company – “and with what passion push it forward ”.

More: New technologies are stirring up the vaccine market

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The anti-covid weapon from Mainz – morning briefing

Good morning dear readers,

have you ever had of Biontech belongs? Probably not. But now it is Mainz biotechnology company World famous in one fell swoop – because the Paul Ehrlich Institute authorized him to test a vaccine against Covid-19 on 200 people together with the US partner Pfizer. Company founder Ugur Sahin expects the first interim results at the end of June and approval – if successful – not before 2021.

Biontech belongs now Moderna (USA) and Cansino Biologics (China) among the pioneers among 80 Covid-19 vaccination projects worldwide, is analyzed by our medicine man Siegfried Hofmann in the current cover story. Biontech’s stock temporarily rose by almost 50 percent on Tuesday, and the company is now worth almost ten billion euros. Mainz, how it researches and laughs.

Top investor Klaus Hommels, Founder of the Lake Star Fund, knows everything about gimmicks and Quirks of the financial market. Therefore, listen carefully if he likes government aid for listed companies Tui and Adidas criticized. Here there are loans for companies, which could also simply make a capital increase, in which then mostly foreign shareholders would have to go along, says the capital professional in the Handelsblatt interview. “With the corporations we protect foreign investors”, continues Mosel Hommels – and thus aims at the Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris (Adidas) and on the Russians Alexei Mordashov (Tui). Theodor Fontane comes to mind: “Where there is a lot of money, there is always a ghost.”

With regard to the easing of the “lockdown” in Germany, Christian Drosten criticizes that there are now “free interpretations” of the easing and a lot of imagination in the economy.

If Germany is happy about the easing of the “lockdown”, the man, who has been a for weeks Virologist of the Republic occurs – as reliable as the Schäffler, who turn at noon at the carillon in front of Munich City Hall. He regrets very much these days, “that we are perhaps just about to completely lose our lead in Germany,” warns Christian Drosten from the Charité. One has to ask oneself “whether all of this still makes sense,” he says with a view to the reopened shopping malls.

There would now be “free interpretations” of the easing everywhere and a lot fantasy in the economy, Drosten said, and it would not surprise him if a situation arises in May or June “that we can no longer control”. Perhaps the Germans no longer follow the Warner as usual, but they still appreciate him: for his NDR-Podcast “The Corona Virus Update” has been nominated for the Grimme Online Award, Information category.

In his current studies, psychologist Stephan Grünewald is experiencing a political dichotomy among the people.

What does corona mean for the psyche of the Germans? I spent a long time discussing this with the psychologist Stephan Grünewald entertained, head of the Rheingold Institute and member of the Corona Expert Council of the NRW state government. He is actually experiencing one in his current studies political division in the people, he says: Some wanted a variant “Söder plus”, that is, a “leader” who is even more assertive and rules through more clearly, like Markus Söder So in Bavaria. The others, on the other hand, think that the lockdown limits deprivation of liberty, you need more open dealings and more Personal responsibility. This is where the prime minister comes in Armin Laschet from NRW, “the type of moderating politician who takes citizens with him and includes all risks.”

The climate in the Grand coalition had recently become rougher again. The initial one Magic the common fight against corona seemed to have evaporated. But now the tops of union and SPD at her meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel a coup: because of the corona crisis, you lift that Short-time work allowance at. Now it is no longer 60 and 67 percent of the last income, but much higher rates.

The aid payment should increase to up to 80 percent and for parents up to 87 percent, staggered according to the duration of the benefit. More than 700,000 companies have already registered short-time work in Germany – the new benefit will probably be the one Opinion values per Union.

It’s been a bit since the lingerie brand “Victoria’s Secret” hip and was an ornament of the parent company L Brands. That was before “Metoo” and “Body Shaming”. However, even the resale of the former cult company has burst. Financial investor Sycamore Partners Bang on Fall ends the February 2005 takeover of 55 percent of the capital for $ 525 million.

To run the business back, the refugees have one legal action filed with a Delaware court. Justification: Because L brands The deal was null and void in the corona crisis, when several branches were closed, staff was on leave, and rent payments were suspended. The former owner of “Victoria’s Secret” sees it completely differently and in turn thumps it up Performance of the contract. The old wisdom “Sex Sells” seems to be overridden in this dispute.

Abigail Disney is upset that entertainment company Walt Disney has taken more than a hundred thousand low-income workers to its parks.

(Photo: Getty Images)

And then there is Abigail Disney, Descendant of the famous American cartoon clan without influence, but with opinion. The granddaughter of Walt Disney’s brother Roy is upset that the entertainment company more than a hundred thousand low earners on vacation in his parks after the managers got lavish bonuses and the shareholders got a nice dividend. “What the actual F *** ?????”, tweeted Mrs. Disney and criticized the company for not caring about its workers. Earlier she had the salary of the one who left in February Ex-CEO Bob Iger (2019: $ 47.5 million) labeled “crazy” – it was 911 times higher than the average salary for all employees.

I wish you a harmonious day on which everything will hopefully be worthwhile for you.

Greetings to you warmly

Hans-Jürgen Jakobs
Senior editor

Here you can subscribe to the morning briefing.

Morning briefing: Alexa

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Wall Street on the upswing after oil price collapse

Dusseldorf After the turmoil of the past few days, Wall Street is breathing a little more. The prospect of further stimulus measures on Wednesday lured investors back into the US stock market. The standard value index Dow Jones closed two percent higher at 23,475 points. The technology-heavy Nasdaq advanced 2.8 percent to 8495 points. The broad S&P 500 gained 2.3 percent to 2799 points.

Impaired by the historic oil price chaos, the Dow Jones ended Tuesday trading 2.7 percent lower at 23,018 points. The technology-heavy Nasdaq dropped 3.5 percent to 8,263 points. The broad S&P 500 lost 3.1 percent to 2736 points.

“Stock markets seem to think that stimulus from governments and central banks will be enough to neutralize the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Rabobank economist Teeuwe Mevissen. “As long as this mood persists, economic data don’t seem to matter.”

The Federal Reserve (Fed) pumps trillions of dollars into the financial markets through the purchase of securities. In parallel, the US Senate launched another $ 500 billion stimulus package. That is certainly not the last, said analyst Joshua Mahony from the brokerage IG. “US President Donald Trump has demonstrated his willingness to increase debt in the name of economic growth.”

With the overall market, oil stocks also went on a recovery course. They had come under pressure in the past few days because of the price hype of the US variety WTI. The shares of Exxon and Chevron grew up to 3.4 percent.

Look at the individual values

One of the biggest winners on Wall Street Biontech with a course increase of almost 27 percent. The Mainz biotech company, which works together with the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer researching a vaccine against the lung disease Covid-19 has received approval for a clinical study in Germany.

In the USA, too, the active ingredient will soon be clinically tested after approval. While in the Dow Pfizer shares In line with the market, increasing by 1.8 percent, the Biontech stocks listed on the Nasdaq gained almost 27 percent.

The titles of Chipotle, which rose by twelve percent. The strong online business cushioned the slump in the stationary business of the fast food chain, the analysts of the investment bank BMO wrote. The company, which also has branches in Germany, made a surprisingly high quarterly profit of $ 0.18 per share.

The papers from Netflix On the other hand, they fell by 2.8 percent, although the online video store was able to win twice as many new customers as expected due to the coronavirus restrictions. However, the company warned that the boom would slow down as soon as the restrictions on public life were relaxed again.

But that doesn’t change the positive long-term business prospects, wrote the analysts of the asset manager Cowen. They also considered Q2 user numbers to be too conservative because of the still widespread exit restrictions.

Quarterly numbers, among other things Texas Instruments, AT&T and Biogen in front. The chipmaker had lost less revenue and profit in the first quarter than feared, which gave the shares an increase of 4.8 percent. The telecom company’s papers, on the other hand, lost 1.3 percent after a drop in sales and a withdrawn outlook.

Biogen fell by 9.4 percent to the end of the Nasdaq 100. The biotech company was not only in the spotlight with its quarterly figures, but also with its active ingredient aducanumab against Alzheimer’s.

The application for approval of this product is to be submitted later than previously announced. That raised more questions than answers, complained about RBC analyst Brian Abrahams and immediately lowered the price target for the share.

There was also news too United Airlines and Facebook. The shares of the battered airline dropped 7.2 percent because United wants to raise fresh money through a billion dollar capital increase.

Facebook on the other hand, jumped 6.7 percent after strong losses from the previous day. The network giant wants to penetrate further into India and buys almost ten percent of the Jio Platforms for $ 5.7 billion (€ 5.25 billion). This is the subsidiary of a leading mobile operator.

In the US bond market, ten-year government bonds lost 17/32 points to 108 10/32 points and returned 0.624 percent. The euro was trading at $ 1.0820 at the close on Wall Street. The European Central Bank set the reference price at $ 1.0867 (Tuesday: 1.0837). The dollar thus cost 0.9202 (0.9228) euros

With agency material.

More: Read here what happened on the German stock market this Tuesday.

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Finding the Corona vaccine is a race against time

Frankfurt Without broad immunization of the population against the causative agent of Covid 19 disease, there will be no return to normal. This conviction is becoming increasingly popular both among virologists and in politics.

The development of a vaccine is thus the linchpin in the fight against the corona crisis. In the opinion of the American infection specialist Mark Denison, a kind of “Manhattan” project, as was once the case with the development of the American atomic bomb, is ultimately necessary to clean up the threat from Sars-CoV-2 and possible other corona viruses – a large-scale, concerted research project.

No such centrally controlled initiative is in sight. Vaccine development is now in full swing. After all, more than 80 vaccine projects have already been initiated worldwide. More than a dozen product candidates are likely to go into clinical trials this year or have already started. This increases confidence among many observers that the first vaccines may be available in 2021.

Mainz-based Biontech and its US partner Pfizerwho have now received approval for the first clinical tests are moving alongside competitors such as the US companies Moderna and Inovio as well as two Chinese companies – at the forefront in the fight against Covid-19.

According to experts, the largest possible number of projects is urgently required in view of the great need for vaccines and the many imponderables. “Nobody can say at the moment which type of vaccine will be the most successful and which technology will lead to approval fastest,” says Rolf Hömke, research spokesman for the pharmaceutical association VFA.

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According to previous experience, new vaccine developments sometimes take decades. The approval for an Ebola vaccine four years after the start of research is already very quick. There is therefore no shortage of skeptical voices warning of excessive expectations regarding vaccine development.

Severin Schwan, the boss of the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche For example, it sees a likely scenario that no vaccine should be available before the end of 2021. And Geoffrey Porges, pharma expert at investment bank SVB Leering, even estimates that it will be possible to launch a mass-market vaccine in two to three years at the earliest. And even after that, it would still take years to generate herd immunity with a vaccination campaign.

The biotech companies Moderna and Biontech, on the other hand, are demonstrating much greater confidence. Both rely on a completely new vaccine technology based on messenger nucleic acids, the so-called messenger RNA (mRNA).

Technology is at an early stage

The basis for this is the function of RNA as an intermediate link between genes and proteins. In principle, mRNA can be used to reprogram body cells to produce certain proteins. The RNA specialists are trying to use this effect to develop both medicines and vaccines. The key challenge is to prepare the artificially produced mRNA so that it cannot be rejected by the immune system before it works in the cells.

The technology is still relatively early in development. So far, there is no approval for drugs or vaccines made from mRNA. Work on Covid-19 vaccines, however, offers companies an opportunity to help their technology break through in a particularly important field. This has also given the RNA pioneers a boost on the capital market.

No one can say at the moment which type of vaccine will be the most successful. Rolf Hömke, research spokesman VFA

Moderna is now valued at around $ 16 billion. Biontech weighs in at just under eleven billion dollars after the price rose by around twelve percent on Tuesday. The Mainz-based company, which is still half owned by the Strüngmann family, is the highest-rated German biotech company.

Biontech went to the US technology exchange Nasdaq last fall with an initial valuation of just under $ 4 billion. A listing in Germany was considered hopeless at the time.

Faster and cheaper

Compared to conventional vaccines, which are based on killed or modified viruses as well as fragments of viruses, the method offers the advantage that product candidates can be generated much faster. On the other hand, the development can theoretically be expanded faster and cheaper if successful.

The first Moderna product candidate entered clinical tests in March. Biontech is now following with four product candidates, which are initially to be tested in parallel on around 200 patients. In a second stage of the tests, Biontech and Pfizer want to add 500 further probants to the study, including older and particularly vulnerable people. Further clinical trials are planned in the United States and China, where Biontech is cooperating with the Chinese pharmaceutical manufacturer Fosun.

The Mainz-based company specializes in cancer therapy and has already clinically tested mRNA products as therapeutic vaccines in more than 400 patients in this area. Like its US competitor, Biontech therefore already has clinical experience with this type of active ingredient.

Company boss and founder Ugur Sahin is accordingly confident that even in the fight against Covid-19, strong immune reactions can be stimulated with mRNA vaccines.

Biontech and Pfizer start testing possible corona vaccine

Biontech is testing the four product candidates in doses between one and 100 micrograms – indirectly signaling that it is hoped that very low doses will produce strong protective effects. This quality is relatively important in view of the capacity expansion for the production of large quantities of vaccines. The lower the dosage, the cheaper and faster it will be to produce large quantities of vaccine for mass use.

Compared to the US competitor Moderna, which is testing its product candidates in doses of 25 to 250 micrograms, this indicates a certain technical advantage for the Mainz company. However, clinical studies in the next few months are unlikely to show whether this is confirmed.

Regardless, Pfizer and Biontech have announced plans to build capacity for “millions of vaccine doses” for the European and American markets by the end of the year. For 2021, “rapid expansion of the capacity to manufacture hundreds of millions of cans” is targeted. Production is to take place in both Biontech and Pfizer plants.

The two companies back their ambitions with high investments. To this end, Pfizer will initially pay $ 185 million to Biontech as part of the alliance, of which $ 72 million in advance and 113 million euros in the form of a capital participation. Depending on certain development successes, the Mainz biotech company is also entitled to further payments of up to 563 million euros.

The corona alliance of the two companies is one of the largest deals in the field to date. Biontech has also entered into a similar alliance with Pfizer with the Chinese company Fosun.

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Similar to Biontech, that of SAPFounder Dietmar Hopp financed Curevac in Tübingen on an RNA-based vaccine. The start of clinical trials is planned for early summer here. The Belgian RNA research company Etheris meanwhile plans to go into clinical tests later this year with an RNA vaccine administered as a nasal spray.

In addition to the projects of the RNA specialists, several products based on established vaccine technologies have already started the clinical tests. Similar to the medication sector, these are candidates for whom certain development steps had already taken place before the new corona virus even appeared.

In particular, this includes vaccine projects against Sars and Mers infections, which are also caused by coronaviruses. Typical examples of this are the projects of Oxford University and the German Center for Infection Research. The US group Johnson & Johnson focuses on experience in developing an Ebola vaccine with his major project.

Viral vectors

These vaccines are mainly based on so-called viral vectors, i.e. modified viruses that carry individual components of the Covid-19 pathogen. The challenge for these products is, among other things, that the production is more complex than for RNA products. Because the viruses first have to be propagated in cell cultures. The same applies to protein-based vaccines that are generated using genetically modified microorganisms.

The target for the vaccines, including the products from Moderna and Biontech, is practically the same target, the so-called spike protein on the shell of the coronavirus. The approximately 100 protein bumps on the surface of the pathogen give it its typical appearance and are considered crucial for its ability to penetrate cells.

Specifically, almost all vaccine projects aim to prophylactically activate the immune defense against these spike proteins and thus prevent viruses from entering the cells and multiplying.

More: New technologies are stirring up the vaccine market

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A spray against Corona – biotech companies form new alliances

Frankfurt Bad news packed in protein. This is how British biologist Peter Medawar once described the function of viruses. In the case of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, the bad news is written on an RNA strand that the pathogen infuses into the cells of the respiratory tract in order to reprogram it for the production of new viruses.

Two young biotech companies – the Munich company Ethris and the Zurich neurimmune – want to use a very similar technique to combat the corona virus. Their concept is also to package RNA and deliver it to the lungs as an aerosol. In this case, however, the RNA is not encased by proteins, but by lipid molecules. And instead of bad information, it should contain the building instructions for an effective defense mechanism, i.e. for so-called antibodies against the coronavirus.

“We want to put a protective antibody layer over the lung cells”, the Ethris founders Carsten Rudolph and Christian Plank describe the project of the two companies. The charm of the concept: In this case, the medicine would be delivered in the form of a spray to where it is most urgently needed, in the lungs. And the drug would not contain the actual active ingredient, just the blueprint for it in the form of a specially prepared messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA).

The biomolecule mRNA plays a central role in cell metabolism by translating genetic information into protein substances (proteins). In recent years, pharmaceutical researchers have increasingly become the focus of attention after some companies have developed processes that could use mRNA as a drug. Some experts see it as a kind of software that can be used to control cells in any direction.

Around a dozen biotech companies – including the German companies Curevac and Biontech – are now working on specific drugs and vaccines made from mRNA. The corona crisis gives them additional impetus, also because the technology promises a comparatively quick generation of drug and vaccine candidates.

Regardless, it is too early to speak of a validated class of agents. Potential mRNA drugs are still at a relatively early stage of development and are subject to some uncertainties. There is still no approved drug or vaccine in the world that consists of mRNA. As far as clinical trials are running, they are almost always in the first of three trial phases.

We take advantage of the evolution of the human immune system by taking millions of years of optimization. Roger Nitsch, neurimmune chief and founder

The product development of Ethris and Neurimmune is also just at the beginning. Nevertheless, the companies are confident that they will be able to identify the blueprint for a highly effective antibody over the next few months and will be able to start clinical trials with a spray against Covid-19 in the fourth quarter of 2020. “This is a unique combination of expertise to provide a therapeutic option for patients as quickly as possible,” said Ethris co-founder Rudolph.

The cooperation between the two companies is also a typical example of how pharmaceutical and biotech companies are bundling complementary skills these days in order to develop drugs against the corona pandemic as quickly as possible. Ethris, founded in 2009, has been working on RNA-based drugs against lung diseases such as COPD, asthma or fibrosis for a long time, and is cooperating in this area with the British pharmaceutical giant Astra-Zeneca.

The Swiss neurimmune, on the other hand, sees itself as a specialist in the analysis of immune cells and the selection of antibodies from these cells. In this way, the company, which was founded in 2006 as a spin-off from the University of Zurich, discovered, for example, the antibody aducanumab, currently the most prominent drug candidate for Alzheimer’s, for which the US company Biogen has recently applied for approval in the United States.

Selection of antibodies

Antibodies are complex protein molecules that can bind to other molecules particularly precisely. For many years, biotechnologically produced antibodies have been used in medicine primarily as active substances against cancer and rheumatism.

In the human body, the B cells of the immune system produce a wide variety of antibodies to ward off foreign bodies and microorganisms. The antibodies are gradually optimized and thus form an important element of the immune system. This also applies to the natural immune response against the corona virus.

It is precisely these properties that neurimmune tries to take advantage of. “Our technology is characterized by the fact that we can analyze the B cells of healthy people and use them to identify specific gene sequences that code for antibodies, which in turn can be used in sick people,” describes neurimmune boss and founder Roger Nitsch Strategy of the Zurich biotech company. “We are taking advantage of the evolution of the human immune system by taking millions of years of optimization.”

According to Neurimmune, an average of around 100 different antibodies against the pathogen are found in the blood of a person who has survived Covid-19 disease. Doctors also use this property, for example, to treat seriously ill Covid-19 patients with the blood plasma of convalescents.

Number of the day

100

antibody

against the pathogen can be found in the blood of a person who has survived Covid 19 disease. (Source: Neurimmune)

The experts at the Swiss biotech company, on the other hand, do not aim at a mixture of antibodies, but at the selection of a single, particularly effective specimen that not only binds to the virus, but also makes it harmless. For example, it eliminated its ability to penetrate the lung cells. In this case, biologists speak of “neutralizing” antibodies. They are considered the decisive weapon against the pathogen.

In order to find the gene sequence for such a super-antibody, Neurimmune says it currently analyzes two to three million B cells from cured Covid-19 patients per week using the high-throughput method. “We want to test until we have the optimal molecule,” says Nitsch.

Such an antibody, which is filtered out of the blood of healthy people, also has the advantage from the perspective of the neurimmune boss that it causes particularly few side effects. In principle, the immune system also optimized it in this regard.

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Biontech and Pfizer want to produce millions of doses of vaccine

Frankfurt The German biotech company Biontech and the US group Pfizer are driving the development of a vaccine against the lung disease Covid-19 with massive capital investment: By the end of the year they want to build capacities for millions of vaccine doses for the European and the American market, as the companies have now announced.

For 2021, “a rapid expansion of the capacity to manufacture hundreds of millions of cans” is aimed. Production is to take place in both Biontech and Pfizer plants.

The two companies are pursuing their goal with high investments. To this end, Pfizer will initially pay $ 185 million to Biontech as part of the alliance, of which $ 72 million will be paid in advance and 113 million euros in the form of an equity participation. Depending on the development success, the Mainz biotech company is also entitled to further payments of up to 563 million euros. The corona alliance of the two companies is one of the largest deals in the field to date.

The first clinical studies, Biontech affirmed, should start in April. The alliance reflects “the great commitment of both companies to act quickly to provide patients worldwide with a safe and effective vaccine,” said Biontech boss and co-founder Ugur Sahin.

Pfizer and Biontech announced a basic agreement for the development of the corona vaccine in mid-March. Financial details were not yet fully negotiated at this point. In China, Biontech is working in a similar cooperation with the Chinese company Fosun.

Biontech is one of the leading players in the field of messenger RNA (mRNA), a nucleic acid that is responsible for the translation of genes into proteins in the body’s cells.

Curavec is also working on vaccine

The researchers at the biotech company use this property to develop drugs and vaccines from mRNA. The proposed RNA vaccine will indirectly stimulate immune system cells to raise antibodies to the Sars-Cov2 virus, which is responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition to Biontech, the Tübingen company Curevac and the American biotech company also work Moderna on a vaccine based on mRNA. The technology is still largely untested, but it offers a chance that both the development of such a vaccine and the build-up of sufficiently large production capacities could be carried out faster than with conventional vaccines.

Biontech actually focuses on the development of novel cancer therapies. With the corona pandemic, the potential of mRNA technology for vaccines against infectious diseases suddenly came to the fore.

The first product candidates from Moderna’s development went into clinical tests a few days ago. Biontech now wants to follow this up to the end of April.

Curevac is planning the first human trials so far in early summer. Most experts assume that even if they are successful, the RNA active ingredients will not receive approval until next year at the earliest and could be used on a larger scale.

Five dozen vaccine projects

In addition to RNA projects, pharmaceutical companies and research institutes are working on numerous other vaccine projects worldwide. An overview from the World Health Organization (WHO) includes a total of around five dozen projects in the Covid-19 area.

This also includes numerous projects based on established vaccine concepts, including the use of modified viruses, killed viruses, proteins and protein fragments.

On the German side, in addition to Biontech and Curevac, the German Center for Infection Research is also working, which is working on two vaccine candidates based on modified smallpox and measles viruses.

According to the WHO, clinical trials have only been started for two of the 62 vaccine projects. In addition to a vaccine candidate from Moderna, this is a project of the Beijing Institute for Biotechnology.

More: Pharmaceutical industry searches intensively for Covid-19 therapies – But there is a big problem.

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Corona Crisis Exposes US System Failure & Changes Country

Only a folded cardboard card in the low conference room indicates who the place is for. “The President” is written on it. Behind it sits Donald Trump, leaning back, arms folded, his favorite pose. Here, in the headquarters of the US civil protection agency FEMA, Trump can be seen in his new role for the first time in mid-March: as crisis president. The governors of the 50 US states are switched on one after the other via loudspeakers.

Bravely they present their wishes to the President. Brian Kemp from Georgia hopes that the power of command over the National Guard will remain with the states even during the corona crisis, “because we know best what is going on in our country.” Trump replies: “I like your idea, Brian, consider that a decision.” And then: “The next governor, please!” Trump has found a new role. That of the leader in the “war against the virus”.

What else is there for him? Trump’s initial downplay of Covid-19 lung disease no longer fits the harsh reality. In Corona Hell New York, forklifts are now hauling the dead in refrigerated trucks. There are hospital tents in Central Park to accommodate the sick – the last time it happened in the civil war was over 160 years ago.

How bad the supply of protective masks and respirators is, can be seen on the night of Wednesday, when Trump accepted relief supplies and experts from Russia. “That cannot be true,” said Russian expert Andrew Weiss from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in the United States.

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While the corona pandemic has abated in China and has presumably reached its peak in Europe, it is overwhelming the United States. No other country in the world has so many infections. In no other country in the world do so many people die. The Corona Task Force of the White House expects up to 240,000 deaths. The climax is expected with up to 3500 deaths per day around Easter – more than two people in the United States will lose their lives every minute.

With the term “China virus”, Trump not only started to upset China, but also suggested that this is a problem for others. The United States gave away valuable weeks in which they could have learned from the experiences in Asia and Europe. In which the rather ailing US health care system could have prepared for the onslaught of the corona patients and in which the economic consequences of the pandemic could have been mitigated.

“In the United States, we have had the worst of both worlds so far: an economic crash and a rapid spread of the virus,” says Maurice Obstfeld, former IMF chief economist.

The economic crisis comes to the health catastrophe. Compared to Europe, the less regulated US labor market responds more quickly to the situation. The unemployment curve is similar to an ECG of a heart attack, 3.3 million people registered without a job last week, twice as many this week.

Empty Broadway in New York

The city is the center of the US corona crisis.

(Photo: imago images / Bildbyran)

According to the investment bank Goldman Sachs The unemployment rate in the USA will skyrocket to 15 percent by the middle of the year, and the effects of the three Corona aid packages to date have already been included.

With unemployment, consumption collapses, with almost 70 percent a pillar of the gross domestic product (GDP). “The United States will plunge into a deep recession that is so unusual that statisticians may never agree on exactly what percentage production slumped,” warned Harvard professor Kenneth Rogoff. “Our system for calculating GDP is simply not designed for this kind of sudden stop.” He assumes that the slump in the second quarter will be up to 25 percent.

The US economy is particularly hard hit by the low oil price. It would have been a welcome help in the past, given that Americans spend less on gasoline and heating oil. But the country blossomed into international oil power with fracking. Now the new industry is facing ruin – and pulling the economy down.

There is a lot of talk in the United States about the situation with which the situation is most comparable. With the financial crisis of 2008? With the Spanish flu of 1918? Or even with the Great Depression in the early 1930s? Nobel laureate in economics Robert Shiller sees this as a “worst case scenario” for the possible consequences of the corona pandemic in the USA.

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In fact, there is another parallel: Pearl Harbor. The surprise attack by the Japanese on the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in 1941 hit a nation that could have known better. But the war raging across the oceans in Europe and the Far East seemed far away. An illusion that only died with Pearl Harbor.

Even in the corona pandemic, the United States has long deluded itself: that the pandemic would miraculously remain confined to Europe and Asia. That she could be kept away from the United States with entry bans. On March 9, Trump still saw that Corona was no more serious than a flu wave.

Six days later, the White House recommended a nationwide shutdown. The pandemic strikes a superpower that is just as unprepared as the 1941 attack by the Japanese. With deadly brutality, the virus exposes the weaknesses of the economic and social system:

  • In the crisis, the US social system is more like a fire accelerator than a safety net. Anyone who falls ill or is released in the USA is quickly at risk of ruin. It is not only hard for those affected. It also intensifies the crash of the overall economy and there is a lack of so-called automatic stabilizers. With hasty economic stimulus packages, politicians are trying to compensate for this shortage and to provide social benefits that are a matter of course in other industrialized countries, such as continued wages in the event of illness.
  • The American groups are world leaders in their stock market valuation. But in the crisis it becomes clear that this is often based on the art of illusion. Many companies have used the low interest rates of the past decade to get into debt. However, this money was mostly not used for future-oriented investments, but to distribute high dividends and buy own shares from the market and thus drive the stock market price. Now that sales break down in the shutdown, companies lack financial reserves. The state has to bail out the corporations with aid loans.
  • The struggle against the disaster is aggravated by a political system in which distrust dominates: Democrats against Republicans, governors against Washington. And above all a president who for a long time was not guided by facts, but by emotions, survey values ​​and ratings.

1. The social system: Even in the crisis there is an up and a down

Corpse transportation in Brooklyn

The health system is overworked.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

“Hang Tough, South Slope!” The residents of the Brooklyn house posted in their windows. “Hold on!” That is the motto with which the hard-boiled New Yorkers are trying these days to brave themselves against the rapid spread of the corona virus.

New York has long since become the largest source of fire in the world. The number of people who test positive in the city increases by thousands every day. More than 45,000 people have contracted Covid-19 and nearly 1,400 have died. The silence in the streets is increasingly interrupted by the sirens of the ambulances.

In Central Park, a field hospital made of white tents welcomes the Covid 19 patients, the Mount Sinai Hospital on the Upper East Side is no longer up to the rush. “I have already set up field hospitals like this in war zones and after earthquakes. But I never expected to ever have to build one in Central Park, ”said Elliott Tenpenny, doctor and team leader of the Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse.

New York doctors and nurses report that they have to wear their masks and suits for five layers, occasionally disinfected with spray. A doctor outraged spread the image of a rain poncho with “New York Yankees” on Twitter. The cloak, originally intended for spectators at baseball games, was given to her at the beginning of her shift in the hospital as protective clothing.

New York took the right measures, but too late. Rice Powell (CEO Fresenius Medical Care)

Rice Powell is optimistic that New York can cope with the situation thanks to the new makeshift hospitals. He has to be the boss of Fresenius Medical Care (FMC) know. The German company operates a total of 80 dialysis centers in the state of New York, many in New York City. Ten percent of these are isolation centers for corona-infected patients.

“We saw what happened in China, Italy and then Spain,” said FMC CEO Rice Powell. “That’s why we applied our pandemic protocol early and ordered protective clothing.”

The FMC boss is convinced that the US could have reacted earlier. “As a country and as a city of New York, we weren’t sufficiently prepared with the hospitals,” Powell says. “New York took the right measures, but too late.”

The catastrophe is now here, and anyone who can afford it leaves the city. Short-term rental prices for beach houses in the Hamptons have quintupled in recent weeks, brokers report.

Robin Mayer is a New York billionaire who prefers not to read his real name in the newspaper. He and his wife have retired to his luxury property in the US state of Wyoming. “So we can hold out for a while,” he says. The fridges are full, he got masks weeks ago.

“Now we just have to wait,” he says. “Sure, a few things will change permanently, but there will still be capital markets after Corona and it will continue. In two to three years, this will only be a small dent in a graphic. ”

Medical ship in New York

Aid is needed, as was the case in the 2001 terrorist attack.

(Photo: Brendan McDermid)

New York film producer David Geffen was less discreet than Mayer. Last week he caused a wave of outrage when he published photos of his super yacht “Rising Sun”. The billionaire in the Caribbean wants to sit out on the pandemic. “I hope you all stay safe,” his greeting ended on Instagram, which earned the billionaire so many angry reactions that he deleted his account.

Not all super-rich are as instinctual as Geffen. With his foundation, Bill Gates is providing $ 100 million to fight the virus. Michael Bloomberg donates $ 40 million to fight Corona in Africa.

But such benefits tend to go under. “More than half of the US stock is in the hands of the richest one percent,” criticizes Robert Reich, who was Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton and now teaches at the University of California at Berkeley.

The super-rich would therefore not see the corona virus as a health and social crisis. “After all, you are not exposed to the risk of infection like nurses, doctors and delivery men every day.” In Reich’s eyes, the problem for super-rich people is reduced to the question: “How can we get share prices up again as quickly as possible?”

I have already set up such field hospitals in war zones. But I never expected to ever have to build one in Central Park. Elliott Tenpenny (doctor and team leader Samaritan’s Purse)

The further down one looks in the income and wealth scale, the more the pandemic raises another question: How can I survive Corona without ruining myself financially? “We cannot say that we have a functioning health system,” Reich said on Tuesday with an online reading. “We are the richest country on this planet. It’s a shame.”

Since the health care reform under President Barack Obama (“Obamacare”) ten years ago, all US citizens have the right to health insurance without a prior health check – a huge step forward for US standards. But not everyone has such insurance, and even if: What benefits are covered by the individual policies and what additional payments are incurred can hardly be overlooked by the insured.

This leads to extreme burdens even in normal times – around 60 percent of private bankruptcies in the USA are due to invaluable hospital bills. Some, but by no means all insurance companies have announced that they will waive the excess that would otherwise be due for corona treatments.

With their aid packages hurriedly put together, politicians are now rushing to introduce social benefits that are a matter of course in other industrialized countries. For the duration of the corona crisis, most US employees are now guaranteed 14 days’ wages in the event of illness or if quarantine threatens.

In addition to the unemployment benefits that individual states pay in the United States, unemployed people are to receive $ 600 a week from the federal government’s fund. But even that only for the next four months, the measure against the corona crisis should under no circumstances become a permanent social benefit.

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The United States now even has a kind of improvised short-time worker regulation. Smaller companies can apply for aid loans that they do not have to pay back if they keep their workforce on board during the crisis.

This does not help corporate employees. The Macy’s department store chain wants to put the majority of its 125,000 employees in front of the door, as does the Gap clothing chain with 129,000 employees. There is no statutory protection against dismissal that could delay such mass layoffs or make them more socially acceptable.

America remains a class society even in the Corona emergency. This is also shown by the fact that the health crisis in the world financial capital of New York is taking place under the eyes of the digital and media public, who mourn every missing protective cape and cheer every new field hospital – while 770 kilometers further west, people die much more quietly.

Detroit, the run-down auto metropolis, is on its way to becoming the new corona hotspot in the United States. The number of infected and dead people increases particularly rapidly here and in the neighboring communities. One third of Detroit’s 673,000 residents live in poverty. Many have pre-existing conditions that make the virus particularly dangerous for them.

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