Keeping tabs on Covid-19: Pharma IQ’s top four coronavirus news stories of 2020

Pharma IQ’s editor has selected four updates featured in our weekly series, Keeping tabs on Covid-19 that have dominated global headlines in 2020

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We are now in the 50th week of the Covid-19 pandemic and the situation worldwide shows that there have been 75,479,471 confirmed cases and 1,686,267 deaths, according to the World Health Organisation.

With news of a new Covid-19 variant spreading more rapidly than the original version in the UK, Pharma IQ has selected four updates that came out of the pharma industry in 2020, so you can begin the New Year with innovative solutions and research options to transform your pharma strategies for 2021.

1. A watershed moment for Pfizer and BioNTech as they announced Covid-19 vaccine was 90 per cent efficient

In early November, Pfizer and BioNTech announced their mRNA-based vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, was more than 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 in cases where participants had shown no evidence of being infected with coronavirus.

After completing the first interim efficacy analysis on 63 cases on November 8, 2020, subsequent results proved BNT162b2 had lasting effects for up to 28 days after the initiation of the vaccination, which consists of a two-dose schedule.

Pfizer submitted the vaccine for emergency-use authorization (EUA) to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and announced plans to release the vaccine for use as early as the third week of November if it had achieved the required safety milestone.

On the day of the announcement, Dr. Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of Pfizer, said: “Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our Phase 3 Covid-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent Covid-19.

“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen.”

Read the full update here.

2. Abbott’s 15-minute Covid-19 antigen test received FDA emergency use authorization

Back in August, Abbott announced the FDA has issued an EUA for its BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card test for detection of the Covid-19 infection. Abbott claimed the card-sized test could provide results in 15 minutes and would be sold to patients in the US for US$5 per use.

Using the same technology as a pregnancy test, the portable device can be used by healthcare professionals in point-of-care settings that are qualified to have the test performed and aims to help manage risk and quickly identity infectious people, so they do not spread the disease to others.

In data submitted to the FDA, Abbott claimed BinaxNOW demonstrated a sensitivity of 97 per cent (positive per cent agreement) and specificity of 98 per cent (negative percent agreement) in patients suspected of Covid-19 by their healthcare provider within the first seven days of symptom onset.

Robert B. Ford, president and chief executive officer at Abbott, said: “BinaxNOW and the NAVICA app give us an affordable, easy-to-use, scalable test, and a complimentary digital health tool to help us have a bit more normalcy in our daily lives. The test has been designed to offer a comprehensive testing solution to help Americans feel more confident about their health and lives.”

Read the full update here.

3. Covid-19 app designed to tackle misinformation on healthcare made available to patients online

Healthcare technology firm Cognitant Group launched a verified Covid-19 app called Healthinote to combat fake news about healthcare and provide patients with access to credible, usable and verified healthcare information in May.

Cognitant Group partnered with the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and other global pharmaceutical companies to ensure the content was trustworthy, up-to-date and verified. At launch, the app featured more than 1,100 health ‘A to Z’ articles from the UK’s NHS official website and leading universities.

Dr Tim Ringrose, CEO of Cognitant Group, commented: “It’s vital for everyone to have access to trustworthy, up-to-date and verified health and medical information.

“We built Healthinote to improve the way patients receive their health information and to combat misinformation found online, in the media, and from friends and family. Thanks to our key partners, the content and programs offered on the platform will help us all to receive information we can rely on to protect and manage our health.”

Read the full update here.

4. ERT accelerated clinical trials and medical research with AI-assistance

Also in May, clinical trial technology service ERT revealed its collaboration with Dynatrace, a software intelligence company, had led them to develop an AI-assisted process to optimize performance of clinical trial solutions and drive faster time-to-market for new treatments and vaccines.

Using the Dynatrace AI engine coined Davis, ERT said it could automate DevOps processes and monitor app delivery pipelines, as well as watch for errors, degradations and regressions in clinical trials. Davis automatically prioritizes any issues based on impact, saving developer’s time and ensuring the DevOps team can find, understand and resolve issues before they affect clinical trials.

According to Dynatrace, Davis can help ERT to speed up delivery of new applications, from an average of six weeks to as little as two weeks, including those it has developed to support two potential Covid-19 vaccine trials.

Simon Pilar, Director of IT Service Operations at ERT, said: “Our solutions are critical to our customers’ ability to get new, potentially life-saving treatments out of the laboratory and into hospitals and pharmacies.

“Given the high-stakes nature of their business, our customers can’t afford to miss important patient data or medical alerts during clinical trials, so we have to ensure the highest levels of quality, reliability, and performance in our solutions.”

Read the full update here

If you missed any of our Covid-19 updates from this year, head to our Keeping tabs on Covid-19 content hub to read more. Be sure to also claim your early bird ticket to Pharma IQ’s fourth annual edition of Smart Lab Digital 2021, tackling some of the key challenges affecting manufacturing, data management and R&D in a post-Covid world.