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Canadian and American business groups urge governments to reopen border to the fully vaccinated

The head of a group that represents the leaders of many of Canada’s biggest companies said the COVID-19 crisis has reached a “seminal moment,” as the federal government’s refusal to make it easier to travel to the U.S. amounts to taking economic…

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The head of a group that represents the leaders of many of Canada’s biggest companies said the COVID-19 crisis has reached a “seminal moment,” as the federal government’s refusal to make it easier to travel to the U.S. amounts to taking economic growth “hostage.”

Goldy Hyder, the president and chief executive of the Business Council of Canada (BCC), made the comments after an extraordinary number of business lobbies and trade associations from both Canada and the United States released a joint statement which called on the governments of both countries to allow freer cross-border travel among by vaccinated people.

“We’ve been playing Whack-a-Mole with COVID and allowing lockdowns to come and go over the last 15 months,” Hyder said in an interview Tuesday. This, he added, has hurt Canadian and American businesses competing globally with companies from countries that didn’t implement the same virus-containment measures.

“We’re at a seminal moment where we can … bring forth growth that we know is being held hostage at the sidelines,” he said.

In a letter, the organizations asked governments in Washington and Ottawa to loosen travel restrictions that would allow people who’ve received two vaccine doses to cross the border without showing a negative test result. The groups also called for the creation of a system that proves a person has had both jabs, and requested that authorities come up with timelines for broader reopenings.

Signatories include the BCC, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Retail Council of Canada, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, and the National Retail Federation.

The rare show of force by groups that sometimes jostle for attention shows the extent to which frustration with travel restrictions has built among executives who are simultaneously trying to navigate a pandemic, the aftereffects of an epic recession and the rapid shift to a digital economy. The situation is especially difficult for Canadian companies, as they often have more clients in the U.S. than they do at home.

The organizations argued that now is the right time for restrictions to be eased, as more than half of Americans and more than three-fifths of Canadians have received at least one injection. Canada’s largest trading partner is the U.S.; in 2020, 73 per cent of goods and services trickled southward.

“The statement refers to non-essential travel, but in many cases we’re talking about business travel that is absolutely essential to the future prospects of companies and workers who are trying to make ends meet,” said John Murphy, a senior vice-president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Since March 2020, the Canadian and U.S. governments have limited cross-border trips to essential travel, renewing the policy on the 21st of every month. However, enforcement of the rules has been arbitrary and a headache, especially for companies doing cross-border business, said Dennis Darby, the president and CEO of industry group Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.

It’s especially been a pain for his members, Darby said, who, in normal times, regularly go back and forth to carry out business operations. With border uncertainties, it can be hard for a U.S. technician to come to a plant in Ontario to service equipment, since that person may have to quarantine for two weeks before doing a job that takes a few days.

It goes the other way too, he said, noting businesses have to weigh whether it is “worth the hassle” and cost of, for example, sending engineers to the U.S. who might have to quarantine there and then again when they return.

The retail sector, upheld during the summer months by foreign credit cards, would also benefit from cautious reopening, said Marc Fortin, the Quebec president of the Retail Council of Canada. Stores, he said, need to know now if they should ramp up inventory, hire people and get cash from the bank. “What we’re asking for is to harmonize the measures for Canada and the U.S. to make sure that always, in a secure way, we can actually welcome American tourists.”

However, after the letter dropped, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made clear at a news conference midday Tuesday that the government will not be making any concessions to current measures for at least a few days or weeks.

“I think we all understand that we want to get back to normal. We want to start traveling again,” Trudeau told reporters. “But it’s very clear that even though one dose has allowed us to significantly protect Canadians… it is still an incomplete protection and we need people to get the full two doses of their vaccines.”

Reuters, though, reported the U.S. will announce Tuesday that the White House will establish working groups with Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and the EU to configure safe reopening plans.

Hyder, the BCC president, said easing restrictions for vaccinated people could be a good move for the government to implement as soon as possible. “We think that will not only create economic activity and social activity, but it will encourage more people to get vaccinated with both their vaccines sooner.”

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Spread & Containment

AstraZeneca antibody cocktail fails to prevent Covid-19 symptoms in large trial

AstraZeneca said a late-stage trial failed to provide evidence that the company’s Covid-19 antibody therapy protected people who had contact with an infected person from the disease, a small setback in its efforts to find alternatives to vaccines.

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Astra antibody cocktail fails to prevent COVID-19 symptoms in large trial

(Reuters; )

June 15 (Reuters) – AstraZeneca (AZN.L) said on Tuesday a late-stage trial failed to provide evidence that its COVID-19 antibody therapy protected people who had contact with an infected person from the disease, a small setback in its efforts to find alternatives to vaccines.

The study assessed whether the therapy, a cocktail of two types of antibodies, could prevent adults who had been exposed to the virus in the past eight days from developing COVID-19 symptoms.

The therapy, AZD7442, was 33% effective in reducing the risk of people developing symptoms compared with a placebo, but that result was not statistically significant — meaning it might have been due to chance and not the therapy.

The Phase III study, which has not been peer reviewed, included 1,121 participants in the United Kingdom and the United States. The vast majority, though not all, were free of the virus at the start of the trial.

Results for a subset of participants who were not infected to begin with was more encouraging but the primary analysis rested on results from all participants.

FILE PHOTO: A computer image created by Nexu Science Communication together with Trinity College in Dublin, shows a model structurally representative of a betacoronavirus which is the type of virus linked to COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus linked to the Wuhan outbreak, shared with Reuters on February 18, 2020. NEXU Science Communication/via REUTERS

“While this trial did not meet the primary endpoint against symptomatic illness, we are encouraged by the protection seen in the PCR negative participants following treatment with AZD7442,” AstraZeneca Executive Vice President Mene Pangalos said in a statement.

The company is banking on further studies to revive the product’s fortunes. Five more trials are ongoing, testing the antibody cocktail as treatment or in prevention.

The next one will likely be from a larger trial testing the product in people with a weakened immune system due to cancer or an organ transplant, who may not benefit from a vaccine.

TARGETED ALTERNATIVES

AZD7442 belongs to a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies which mimic natural antibodies produced by the body to fight off infections.

Similar therapies developed by rivals Regeneron (REGN.O) and Eli Lilly (LLY.N) have been approved by U.S. regulators for treating unhospitalised COVID patients.

European regulators have also authorised Regeneron’s therapy and are reviewing those developed by partners GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) and Vir Biotechnology (VIR.O) as well as by Lilly and Celltrion (068270.KS).

Regeneron is also seeking U.S. authorisation for its therapy as a preventative treatment.

But the AstraZeneca results are a small blow for the drug industry as it tries to find more targeted alternatives to COVID-19 inoculations, particularly for people who may not be able to get vaccinated or those who may have an inadequate response to inoculations.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, which has faced a rollercoaster of challenges with the rollout of its COVID-19 vaccine, is also developing new treatments and repurposing existing drugs to fight the virus.

AstraZeneca also said on Tuesday it was in talks with the U.S. government on “next steps” regarding a $205 million deal to supply up to 500,000 doses of AZD7442. Swiss manufacturer Lonza (LONN.S) was contracted to produce AZD7442.

Shares in the company were largely unchanged on the London Stock Exchange.

The full results will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal, the company said.

Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

 

Reuters source:

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/astrazeneca-says-its-antibody-treatment-failed-in-preventing-covid-19-exposed-2021-06-15

 

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Former FDA Head Takes on Exec Role at Flagship’s Preemptive Health Initiative

Stephen Hahn, the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under former President Donald Trump, took on a new role as chief medical officer of a new health security initiative launched by Flagship Pioneering, a life sciences venture firm…

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Former FDA Head Takes on Exec Role at Flagship’s Preemptive Health Initiative

 

Stephen Hahn, the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under former President Donald Trump, has taken on a new role as chief medical officer of a new health security initiative launched by Flagship Pioneering, a life sciences venture firm that incubates and curates biopharma companies.

First announced Monday, Flagship’s Preemptive Medicine and Health Security initiative aimed at developing products that can help people before they get sick. This division will focus on infectious disease threats and pursue bold treatments for existing diseases, including cancer, obesity, and neurodegeneration. 

In a brief statement, Hahn, who served as commissioner from December 2019 until January 2021, said the importance of investing in innovation and preemptive medications has never been more apparent. 

“In my career I have been a doctor and a researcher foremost and it is an honor to join Flagship Pioneering in its efforts to prioritize innovation, particularly in its Preemptive Medicine and Health Security Initiative. The more we can embrace a “what if …” approach the better we can support and protect the health and well-being of people here in the U.S. and around the world,” Hahn said in a statement. 

During his time at the FDA, Hahn was at the forefront of the government’s effort to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. His office oversaw the regulatory authorization of antivirals, antibody therapeutics and vaccines, as well as diagnostics and other tools to battle the novel coronavirus. 

Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Hahn bore the brunt of verbal barbs aimed at the FDA by the former president for not rushing to authorize a vaccine for COVID-19 ahead of the November 2020 election. The second vaccine authorized by the FDA for COVID-19 was developed by Moderna, a Flagship company. 

Prior to his confirmation as FDA Commissioner, Hahn, a well-respected oncologist, served as chief medical executive of the vaunted The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Hahn was named deputy president and chief operating officer in 2017. In that role, he was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the cancer center, which includes managing more than 21,000 employees and a $5.2 billion operating budget. He was promoted to that position two years after joining MD Anderson as division head, department chair and professor of Radiation Oncology. Prior to MD Anderson, Hahn served as head of the radiation oncology department at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Flagship Founder and Chief Executive Officer Noubar Afeyan said the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down economies and caused the deaths of more than 3.8 million people across the world was an important reminder that health security is a top global priority. In addition, the ongoing pandemic brings into “stark focus” the importance of preemptive medications. 

Hahn, who helmed the FDA for three years and before that served as chief medical executive at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, has extensive experience overseeing clinical and administrative programs. Afeyan said the new division would benefit from Hahn’s experience as FDA Commissioner and help steer the Preemptive Medicine and Health Security initiative as it explores Flagship’s “growing number of explorations and companies in this emerging field.”

It is not unusual for former FDA heads to take prominent roles with companies. For example, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, Trump’s first FDA Commissioner, took a position on the Pfizer Board of Directors weeks after departing his government role. He has also taken positions on other boards since then, including Aetion, FasterCures and Illumina.

 

BioSpace source:

https://www.biospace.com/article/former-fda-head-stephen-hahn-takes-cmo-role-at-flagship-pioneering-preemptive-health-initiative-

 

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Five U.S. states had coronavirus infections even before first reported cases – study

At least seven people in five U.S. states were infected with the novel coronavirus weeks before those states reported their first cases, a new government study showed.

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Five U.S. states had coronavirus infections even before first reported cases – study

(Reuters) – At least seven people in five U.S. states were infected with the novel coronavirus weeks before those states reported their first cases, a new government study showed.

Participants who reported antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 were likely exposed to the virus at least several weeks before their sample was taken, as the antibodies do not appear until about two weeks after a person has been infected, the researchers said.

The latest results build on findings from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that suggested the novel coronavirus may have been circulating in the United States last December, well before the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed on Jan. 19, 2020.

A protective face mask lays, as the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, beside leaves at the lakefront in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., December 6, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon/File Photo

The positive samples came from Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and were part of a study of more than 24,000 blood samples taken for a National Institutes of Health research program between Jan. 2 and March 18, 2020.

Samples from participants in Illinois were collected on Jan. 7 and Massachusetts on Jan. 8, suggesting that the virus was present in those states as early as late December.

“This study allows us to uncover more information about the beginning of the U.S. epidemic,” said Josh Denny, one of the study authors.

The findings were published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

 

Reuters source:

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/five-us-states-had-coronavirus-infections-even-before-first-reported-cases-study-2021-06-15

 

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