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Eric Ostertag reaching the end of the line as Poseida chief, will become executive chairman; Alector exec named CEO of Pfizer-backed LNP biotech

Eric Ostertag
→ The Poseida adventure takes another turn as CEO Eric Ostertag dives into the role of executive chairman and CBO Mark Gergen steers the ship starting Feb. 1. Ostertag talked through Poseida’s early proof-of-concept data with its PSMA-target

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Eric Ostertag

→ The Poseida adventure takes another turn as CEO Eric Ostertag dives into the role of executive chairman and CBO Mark Gergen steers the ship starting Feb. 1. Ostertag talked through Poseida’s early proof-of-concept data with its PSMA-targeting CAR-T for prostate cancer patients in August 2021, and the San Diego biotech followed that up by inking a $3.6 billion-plus gene therapy deal with Takeda in October.

The next month, Poseida shuttered its P-BCMA-101 autologous program, with Ostertag noting that autologous CAR-T is “going the way of the dinosaur.”

Ostertag founded Poseida in 2015 and had been its lone CEO, while Gergen — who came on board in 2018 after COO stints at Halozyme and Mirati — has been president and CBO since July 2020.

Shehnaaz Suliman

Shehnaaz Suliman has been named CEO of ReCode Therapeutics, which is developing therapies for cystic fibrosis and primary ciliary dyskinesia using its lipid nanoparticle (LNP) delivery platform. She succeeds David Lockhart, who will continue as president but take on the role of CSO instead. A Gilead and Roche vet, Suliman is a chief executive for the first time after three years as Alector’s president and COO, and she’s also a board member at Ultragenyx and 10x Genomics. From 2017-19, Suliman was SVP, corporate development and strategy for Theravance Biopharma. ReCode has piled up the cash with a pair of $80 million financing rounds, including a Pfizer-backed Series B in October 2021.

→ While its Covid-19 pill molnupiravir grabs headlines in the advent of the Rob Davis era, Merck has named Marc Levesque VP, immunology discovery and head of the drug giant’s Exploratory Science Center in Cambridge, MA, a spokesperson tells Peer Review. Levesque hails from AbbVie, where he was medical director, immunology clinical development and later the senior director, immunology.

David Jimenez

J&J has enlisted longtime vet David Jimenez as president of Janssen Immunology, taking over a business that includes such drugs as Tremfya and Stelara. Jimenez, who started out as a sales rep at J&J in the late 1990s, was Janssen’s president of infectious diseases from 2018-20 and had served as president of the pulmonary hypertension business since 2020.

Nirogy Therapeutics — co-founded by Ron DePinho and launched almost a year ago with a modest Series A to push its small molecule lactate transport inhibitor into the clinic — has tapped Simon Pedder as CEO. His predecessor, Vincent Sandanayaka, will now be Nirogy’s president and CSO. Pedder, the former head of the hepatitis franchise at Roche and the ex-CEO of Cellectar Biosciences, ended a six-year association with Athenex, where he was chief business and strategy officer.

Riccardo Braglia

→ Some big changes are coming Helsinn’s way and it’s starting with a CEO change. The family-owned business, run by the Braglia family, is now changing hands from Riccardo Braglia to Giorgio Calderari. Calderari has been with the company for the last 36 years and served in a variety of positions such as group general manager. COO and chief manufacturing officer. Meanwhile, Braglia will step into his dad’s old role as executive chairman.

For the rest of the family, Gabriele Braglia, founder and father to Riccardo Braglia, has been named “honorary chairman,” while his grandson, Gabriele Edoardo Braglia, joins the board of directors. Additionally, Siddharth Kaul, who hails from P&G and Novartis, is also joining the board.

Robert Paul is ditching his CMO title at Alector in favor of a new CEO hat at Nine Square Therapeutics — the company created in 2020 by Apple Tree Partners and UCSF scientists Matthew Jacobson, Steve Altschuler and Lani Wu. Paul started in his role as CMO of Alector back in 2016 and before that had a nearly eight-year career at Genentech in a variety of roles in the company’s medical and neuroscience clinical development organizations.

Lucinda Crabtree

→ It won’t take effect until March 31, but Andrew Oakley has decided to retire as CFO of Autolus, and SVP of finance Lucinda Crabtree is all set to replace Oakley at Christian Itin’s T cell therapy shop. Oakley, the obe-cel developer’s CFO since 2018, has also been the finance chief at Actelion (from 2003-13), NovImmune, Vectura Group and Sosei Group Corporation. Crabtree, a former business analyst at AstraZeneca, first arrived at Autolus in January 2020 as head of investor relations after her time at Woodford Investment Management.

Steven Bellon

Carl Decicco has retired as CSO of Flagship’s Foghorn Therapeutics as Steven Bellon succeeds him at the Cigall Kadoch-founded biotech that concentrates on the chromatin regulatory system. Decicco became CSO late in 2018 after a 16-year career at Bristol Myers Squibb, where he was head of discovery. In June 2016, Bellon was selected as Foghorn’s head of discovery, and earlier at Constellation Pharmaceuticals, he served as executive director and head of structural biology, lead discovery and project management. Foghorn made some noise in the 2020 IPO boom with a $120 million offering.

Yan Moore

→ Another Flagship company, Omega Therapeutics — a startup focused on epigenetic medicines that launched in September 2019 and scored $126 million from a Series C in March 2021 — has tapped Yan Moore as CMO. Moore brings Big Pharma experience from Bristol Myers, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi, and he was previously Ipsen’s SVP, head of oncology therapeutic area since 2018. He has also been CMO and SVP, clinical development with Anchiano, which merged with Chemomab last year.

Matthew Klein

→ Peer Review has been apprised of leadership moves at PTC Therapeutics, where Matthew Klein and Lee Golden have earned promotions. Klein, now COO, first arrived at PTC in 2019 as global head of gene & mitochondrial therapies, becoming chief development officer in 2020. Golden climbs to CMO after his stint as PTC’s head of global clinical development. Golden’s previous CMO post was with Espero BioPharma and he’s also the former SVP, therapeutic business unit head, CV, pulmonary and CNS at Mesoblast. PTC remains undaunted with its Duchenne therapy Translarna even after a Phase II fail almost a year ago.

Martha Rook

Daphne Koller’s gang at insitro has unloaded several appointments, starting with Martha Rook (chief technical operations officer), who had held the same post at Flagship’s Sigilon and finished her 13 years at MilliporeSigma as VP, head of gene editing & novel modalities. Elsewhere, Jevan Soo Lenox (chief people officer) is a McKinsey vet who was previously the chief people and culture officer of online stylist Stitch Fix; Ellen Berg (VP, biomarker sciences) got her start as a senior scientist at AbbVie and jumps on board from Eurofins Discovery, where she was CSO of translational biology; and finally, Theofanis Karaletsos (VP, data science/machine learning) is a founding member of Uber AI Labs who had been working as a staff research scientist at Facebook, where insitro poached VP of product Tom Stocky in September.

→ The last time we saw Iovance in Peer Review, then-CEO Maria Fardis sprinted out the door as the lifileucel saga dragged on with the FDA’s request for more potency assay data in May 2021. Perhaps the appointment of an FDA lifer can expedite things as Iovance brings in Raj Puri as EVP, regulatory strategy and translational medicine sometime in Q1. Puri has 33 years of experience with the agency, 19 of those as the director of the Division of Cellular and Gene Therapies (DCGT) in the Office of Tissues and Advanced Therapies. Lifileucel keeps churning out data in the runup to a BLA submission for the tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy that’s been pushed back to this year.

James Tursi

James Tursi has been appointed EVP, global R&D of Endo, which just announced a change in marketing strategy from Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway to everyday folks in its Dupuytren’s contracture ads. The GSK vet will finish up his time as CSO of Ferring Pharmaceuticals and start work at Endo on Jan. 18. Tursi also spent nearly two years at Antares Pharma as R&D chief and CMO, and he’s a member of the board of directors at Agile Therapeutics.

Sohanya Cheng

→ With first-year CEO Richard Paulson at the controls, cancer-focused Karyopharm has promoted Sohanya Cheng to chief commercial officer. Seven months ago, Karyopharm brought Cheng on board as SVP of sales and commercial operations after a short stay at Arrowhead as VP of marketing and more than a decade at Amgen. It’ll be her job to devise commercialization strategies surrounding multiple myeloma drug Xpovio (selinexor), which received a controversial rubber stamp in 2019 and an additional approval in combination with bortezomib and dexamethasone in late 2020.

Dave Morris

→ A couple months after Valo Health called off its merger with SPAC partner Khosla Ventures, David Berry’s Flagship biotech has pegged Dave Morris as CMO. During his days at Novartis, Morris — who just completed a two-year run as CMO of Enterprise Therapeutics — was global head of clinical operations, analytics, and regions, and he was also operating partner of the Novartis Venture Fund. A year ago this week, Valo pulled in a $190 million Series B that ballooned to $300 million in March with additional funding from Koch Disruptive Technologies.

Erin Colgan

→ It’s not lost on Peer Review that as Season 4 of “Cobra Kai” dominates Netflix, Boston cancer player Sensei Biotherapeutics has handed out promotions to Erin Colgan and Robert Pierce. Colgan, the new CFO and a nine-year Vertex alum, had been Sensei’s SVP of finance and administration and joined the team in July 2020 from Intarcia. Pierce has made the climb to chief R&D officer after nearly two years as the CSO of John Celebi’s squad. Once the scientific director of the immunopathology lab at Fred Hutch, Pierce was the CMO/CSO at OncoSec, and during his six years at Merck, he was a medical lead for Keytruda’s trials in merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) and cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL).

→ Liquid biopsy company Bluestar Genomics has pulled in David Mullarkey as CEO, taking over for acting CEO and CSO Samuel Levy (Levy will continue in his role as CSO). Mullarkey comes from another CEO stint at Omniome, where he raised over $150 million. Prior to that, Mullarkey was president and COO of Ariosa Diagnostics and held roles at J&J, Eli Lilly, Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Dow Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Arndt Rolfs

→ Ex-Centogene chief Arndt Rolfs has been named CEO of US-German digital healthcare and diagnostics company Arcensus as of Jan. 1, succeeding Michael Schlenk. In December 2020, Rolfs stepped down at Centogene and was replaced by Andrin Oswald, who’s been on a medical leave of absence “for a period of at least four weeks” that began just before the holidays.

Brian Lestini

→ Back in April, Peer Review told you about Brian Lestini taking the CMO job at Waltham, MA-based Pyramid Biosciences, and this week he’s worked his way up to CEO. While at Bristol Myers, Lestini had a front-row seat to such drugs as Opdivo and relatlimab as VP, oncology development before joining Pyramid Biosciences. His predecessor, co-founder Kollol Pal, will settle into the CSO post as lead candidate PBI-200 —a tropomyosin receptor kinase (TRK) inhibitor — moves through Phase I trials for such oncology targets as primary and metastatic brain cancers.

Rosemary Harrison

Rosemary Harrison has landed at T cell therapy biotech TCR² Therapeutics as chief business and strategy officer. Harrison had spent a year as SVP of corporate development and strategy at Trillium and was a key player in the $2.2 billion Pfizer buyout that was completed in November — and the drug giant wasn’t through on the M&A front, with the acquisition of Arena a month ago. From 2015-18, Harrison was head of portfolio management and strategic planning at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research.

Sue Dillon’s Centyrin-focused Aro Biotherapeutics has brought in Sukumar Sakamuri as chief technology officer. Sakamuri, who co-founded immuno-oncology company Tollnine, was previously VP and head of chemistry at Ambrx since October 2018. Dillon and co-founder Karyn O’Neil started 2021 with an $88 million raise led by Johnson & Johnson Innovation.

Adam Taich

Adam Taich has been named CBO of proteomics player SomaLogic, which reverse merged with CM Life Sciences II — the second SPAC from Eli Casdin and Keith Meister — back in March. Taich stepped away from Thermo Fisher Scientific after 19 years, closing out his career there as VP and general manager of the molecular biology business.

Yvonne McGrath

→ Immuno-oncology biotech iTeos Therapeutics has promoted Yvonne McGrath to CSO. McGrath has served as VP of R&D since June 2020, and prior to that, she was CSO at Complix. EOS-448, iTeos’ anti-TIGIT monoclonal antibody that Hal Barron is rolling the dice on at GSK in a deal worth $625 million upfront, is in early-stage trials.

Thomas Adams

→ San Diego’s Cardiff Oncology has installed Tod Smeal as CSO and Charles Monahan as SVP, regulatory affairs. Smeal changes direction here after a quick stop as chief scientist of Hexagon Bio, and the longtime Pfizer vet has also been Eli Lilly’s CSO of cancer biology. Monahan was previously the head of regulatory affairs with Erytech Pharma and has held regulatory posts at companies such as Millennium, Aveo Pharmaceuticals and Eleven Biotherapeutics.

The Cardiff Oncology family is also mourning the loss of former CEO Thomas Adams, who died Jan. 9 at age 78. Adams was chief executive when the company was known as Trovagene from June 2018 until it rebranded to Cardiff Oncology in May 2020 under current CEO Mark Erlander. From May until December 2020, Adams served as Cardiff Oncology’s executive chairman. Hepion Pharmaceuticals, where Adams had held a seat on the board since 2014, announced his death on Wednesday.

→ Gene silencing company NeuBase Therapeutics has reeled in Todd Branning as CFO. Branning joins the company after a stint as CFO at Takeda spinout Phathom Pharmaceuticals. Branning has also served as SVP, CFO at Amneal Pharmaceuticals and Teva. Earlier in his career, Branning had roles at Allergan, PricewaterhouseCoopers, PPG Industries and Merck.

Rafal Kaminski

Angelini Pharma kicked off the M&A festivities in 2021 by purchasing Arvelle Therapeutics, and the Italian biotech starts 2022 by picking up Rafal Kaminski as CSO. Kaminski spent 11 years at UCB, then left for Roche to be the Swiss pharma’s vice director, head neurosymptomatic domains, neuroscience and rare diseases. For the last two years, Kaminski led R&D and was CSO of Warsaw-based OncoArendi Therapeutics.

Melanie Gloria

→ The crew at Los Angeles-based Acelyrin isn’t messing around as Sean Harper and Beth Seidenberg at Westlake Village Partners led a $250 million Series B in November, and the biotech has added another Horizon vet to its ranks with COO Melanie Gloria. Since 2018, Gloria had been with Tim Walbert’s team and served as SVP of development operations; prior to that, she was in clinical program development with Abbott and then AbbVie. Gloria needs no introduction to the Acelyrin C-suite: CEO Shao-Lee Lin, president Robert Carey and CMO Paul Peloso have all worked with her at Horizon.

Ciara Kennedy

Ciara Kennedy has added to her list of titles, chairing the board at Aristea Therapeutics while the San Diego inflammatory disease startup also grabs Fabio Magrini as executive medical director. Kennedy, the ex-Amplyx chief, is now the president and CEO of Sorriso Pharmaceuticals. Heading over to Aristea from Genentech, where he was principal medical director, neuroimmunology and medical director, neuroscience, Magrini’s other Big Pharma experience ranges from Pfizer to Eli Lilly.

Star Seyedkazemi

Star Seyedkazemi has taken on the role of chief development officer at much-maligned Adverum Biotechnologies, reeling from a diabetic macular edema patient who experienced vision loss in one treated eye and mired in safety issues that further materialized in 2021. Seyedkazemi was previously VP, portfolio management for research and development at Pliant Therapeutics after serving as Allergan’s associate VP, clinical development.

Minori Rosales

Sesen Bio, coming off a rocky year with its bladder cancer drug Vicineum that featured a CRL and alleged serious misconduct in its 130-person study, has brought on Minori Rosales as chief development officer (effective Jan. 24) and Stephanie Vigue as director of finance (effective Jan. 17). Rosales most recently served as VP, clinical research at MacroGenics, and before that, she was a VP at MedImmune. Vigue most recently served as corporate accounting manager/interim controller at The Fi Company, and has also served as manager, corporate accounting at Spectrum Pharmaceuticals.

Currax Pharmaceuticals, which late last year hired Novo Nordisk vet Ed Cinca, has snagged Michael Kyle as SVP, CMO — who will lead the company’s exploration of smoking cessation opportunities through the CX-101 program. Kyle comes aboard from Jiangsu Hengrui Pharmaceuticals, where he was head of development. Kyle has also held roles at Pfizer as US medical director of established products, medical affairs; CMO, Pfizer Consumer Health; and VP, head of global clinical services and operations of Upjohn.

Gwendolyn Binder

→ There are two promotions to discuss at Penn spinout Cabaletta Bio: First, Gwendolyn Binder’s title has changed from EVP to president of science and technology. She joined Cabaletta in the company’s infancy after nearly eight years as head of translational sciences and later chief technology officer of Adaptimmune. Meanwhile, Arun Das — the erstwhile executive director of new product planning and business development — moves on up to CBO.

→ Shanghai-based CAR-T player JW Therapeutics, which raised $300 million in its IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in November 2020, has announced two appointments this week: Shaun Paul Cordoba in the newly-created CSO role, and Raymond Hage as SVP of corporate development. Before joining JW, Cordoba was the executive director of synthetic biology and cell signaling at Autolus. Hage, the founder of Hapten Sciences, has also served as SVP of commercial operations and COO of Novavax.

Stephen Smolinski

→ With a pipeline that includes AVTX-002 for such indications as Covid-19 ARDS and inflammatory bowel syndrome, Avalo Therapeutics has locked in Stephen Smolinski as chief commercial officer. Smolinski comes to Avalo from Sobi, where was the head of US Gamifant and global immunology strategic marketing. He’s been a CCO before at Selecta Biosciences and he was head of Sanofi Genzyme’s North American rheumatology business unit at one of several stops where he gained Big Pharma commercial experience (Roche/Genentech, Bristol Myers and J&J).

Dominic Labriola has been appointed SVP and chief data and analytics officer at Pennsylvania-based NASH player Madrigal Pharmaceuticals. Before joining Madrigal, Labriola spent more than two decades at Bristol Myers as head of global biometric sciences.

Philip Dana

Philip Dana has signed on as chief human resources officer of Bayer gene therapy sub AskBio, joining the likes of Jude Samulski and Kathy High on the team. Dana spent the last two years leading HR at Dendreon. After bringing AskBio into the fold, Bayer bought Vividion for $2 billion last August and struck a CRISPR deal with Mammoth just this week.

APIE Therapeutics is bringing on two new execs to its leadership team with the appointments of Debra Bowes as CBO and Seth Hetherington as CMO. Bowes comes aboard with stints at Chevy Chase BioPartners (CEO), Maxcyte Cell Therapy (CBO), MedImmune, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer and Centocor. Meanwhile, Hetherington brings to the table experience from ReViral (CMO), Genocea Biosciences (CMO), Icagen (SVP of clinical and regulatory affairs), Inhibitex and GSK.

Ana Limón

→ Takeda vet Ana Limón has been appointed SVP of clinical development and global medical affairs at Oryzon Genomics. Limón, who started her career at Amgen, was head of the Takeda’s oncology pipeline, global medical affairs and spent the last year as senior director and global program leader at Deciphera.

ARCH Ventures is adding Kaye Foster as a venture partner. Foster currently serves as a senior advisor at Boston Consulting Group. Prior to her current role, Foster was VP of global human resources at Onyx Pharmaceuticals until its acquisition by Amgen. Before that, Foster was with J&J (global human resources leader) and Pfizer.

Ruth Krestin

→ French medtech Tissium has selected Ruth Krestin as VP of portfolio strategy. Krestin had held various roles in the last six years with AstraZeneca, including competitive intelligence director, cardiovascular, renal and metabolism (CVRM). Sofinnova led Tissium’s Series C last August that totaled $56.5 million (€50 million).

→ Pennsylvania biotech Annovis Bio — whose stock shot up 140% after seeing cognitive improvement scores increase by 30% last May for patients with either Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease — has brought on Eve Damiano as SVP of regulatory operations. In addition, the company has promoted Cheng Fang to the position of president of R&D. Damiano joins with experience from her times at Centocor, MedImmune, OraSure Technologies and Vicuron Pharmaceuticals. Meanwhile, Fang joined Annovis last May as VP of research.

→ Stem cell-focused BioRestorative Therapies has recruited Robert Paccasassi as VP of quality assurance/regulatory compliance. Paccasassi hails from Merck KGaA, where he served as director, corporate quality systems. Before that, Paccasassi had stints at Regeneron, Millennium and Biogen.

Paul Chu

→ San Diego-based Phanes Therapeutics has named Paul Chu as VP of business development. Chu joins the company from Huyabio International, where he served in the same role. Additionally, Chu has had similar roles at AiViva BioPharma, UroGen Pharma and Allergan.

→ CRO Parexel has tapped Wyatt Gotbetter as head of worldwide access consulting. Gotbetter hops aboard after a stint as a partner at Health Advances, Parexel’s independent strategic healthcare consulting unit. Before that, Gotbetter was head of new product commercialization at Biogen.

June Lee

→ Cardio biotech CinCor Pharma, which recently hit Nasdaq with an upsized IPO after a $143 million Series B in October, has elected June Lee to the board of directors. Lee, the founder and ex-CEO of Esker Therapeutics (now Alumis), is also on the boards of Tenaya Therapeutics, Eledon Pharmaceuticals and GenEdit.

→ J&J vet Arturo Molina has been added to the board of directors at Forma Therapeutics, the Watertown, MA biotech that’s developing its lead program etavopivat for sickle cell disease. Molina has been CMO of Sutro Biopharma since 2016.

→ As Peter Thompson resigns from the board of directors at New Jersey-based PMV Pharma, the door opens for Kirsten Flowers to join a board chaired by Rich Heyman. Flowers is Kura Oncology’s chief commercial officer and the ex-SVP of commercial operations at Array Biopharma.

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Spread & Containment

Monkeypox: demand for vaccines is outstripping supply – this is what’s causing the shortages

Chronic weaknesses in our global vaccine manufacturing and distribution systems may broadly be to blame.

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The smallpox vaccine is currently being used to protect against monkeypox. PhotobyTawat/ Shutterstock

Over 30,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in more than 80 countries worldwide in 2022. Most are in countries that have never previously reported monkeypox. While monkeypox is not as transmissible as many respiratory infections (such as COVID-19), it’s still important to curb the spread.

One way to control spread is by vaccinating vulnerable people. Fortunately, we already have vaccines which are very effective at preventing monkeypox. But as case numbers continue to rise, reports are emerging that demand for vaccines is outstripping supply in many parts of the world currently seeing an outbreak, including the US, UK and Europe.

Vaccine supply

There are a number of reasons why we are seeing shortages of the vaccine used to protect against monkeypox. Broadly, it’s due to chronic weaknesses in our global vaccine manufacturing and distribution systems, which make it especially difficult to supply the vaccines needed to protect against new infections and outbreaks.

The vaccine currently being used to protect against monkeypox is the smallpox vaccine, which works because the monkeypox virus is so closely related to smallpox.

Until now, the smallpox vaccine has been a niche product because it’s not been needed since smallpox was eradicated in 1980. Pharmaceutical companies can’t afford to manufacture vast numbers of doses just in case, and few governments can justify buying a vaccine that isn’t used. This means the vaccines currently being administered are from emergency stockpiles that were created to respond to an accidental (or deliberate) release of smallpox.


Read more: Monkeypox Q&A: how do you catch it and what are the risks? An expert explains


As such, there are limited stocks and production capacity globally, so demand is rapidly outstripping supply. Even the US, with one of the largest smallpox vaccine stockpiles, recently ordered 2.5 million additional doses in response to the monkeypox outbreak. But there are reports that the factory in Denmark which makes the world’s only smallpox vaccine approved for monkeypox is temporarily closed, which may further impact the world’s ability to source more vaccine doses. And unfortunately, transferring production to other facilities is not straightforward.

One particular problem for vaccine manufacturers is that it’s hard to predict when or where big outbreaks of infections may happen. Of course, there are some infections that we know consistently require a regular supply of vaccines – such as the influenza virus. But while 1 billion influenza vaccines are produced globally each year, it still takes approximately six months from picking the most important new strains to manufacturing and rolling out jabs.

So even with vaccines in high demand, it isn’t simple to manufacture more doses. This is why we are still striving to innovate ways to rapidly produce new vaccines affordably and at a very large scale.

Vaccines are inherently complicated to make. Because they are made from relatively fragile and complex biological materials (such as a virus), the product has to be exactly right every time. If the formula changes even slightly, it might not work as well – or even increase the risk of side-effects.

Adding to this challenge is the fact that different vaccine products may be manufactured by different methods. For example, the equipment needed to produce a viral vaccine (such as the smallpox vaccine used against monkeypox) will be very different to that used to make COVID-19 RNA vaccines. It’s also slow and expensive to test any necessary modifications or improvements that may be needed to make a vaccine safer and more effective.

Glass vials arranged in a row move through a conveyer belt, where they are filled with the vaccine.
It isn’t just as easy as making more vaccines to meet demand. wacomka/ Shutterstock

Surprisingly, even some simple processes common to all vaccines and other medicines – such as filling doses into vials for distribution to patients – still have a mismatch of capacity. Vaccines are usually manufactured in different locations to packaging facilities, raising logistical hurdles (such as strictly controlled refrigeration requirements) that can further delay distribution. These facilities are used for many different medicines and are usually fully booked years in advance; schedules that are still recovering from COVID-19 disruptions may now be experiencing urgent changes to package the smallpox vaccine from stockpiles.

It also isn’t just a case of developing new monkeypox vaccines that are easier to manufacture. Even with major recent scientific progress, it would take many months to develop a safe and effective new vaccine. For monkeypox, it’s far quicker and simpler to use the existing smallpox vaccine.

What can be done?

Smallpox vaccine production is likely to be increased to meet demand. But until this happens, many countries will have to make best use of what supplies they can access, and rely on other strategies to help curb the virus’s spread.

The most effective way to prevent monkeypox causing further harm is by using an integrated, locally led public health response – vaccines are just one part of this. Testing and contact tracing is vital. If enough infected people in a region can be identified and supported to isolate while they’re infectious, transmission can be blocked.

Given the vaccine shortages, we expect that people don’t need two vaccine doses to be protected against monkeypox. This is why vaccinating the most at-risk groups with one dose now, paired with other public health measures, is the most effective strategy for curbing the spread of monkeypox – especially while vaccine supplies are limited. Second doses can be administered to maximise immunity when supplies do become available.

The current monkeypox outbreak is yet another reminder of the importance of investing in global health, and ensuring there’s more equal access to vaccines and other medical interventions that can help prevent the spread of harmful diseases.

Alexander Edwards does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Economics

Is housing inventory growth really slowing down?

The problem with new listings declining now is what will happen if mortgage rates make a solid push lower.
The post Is housing inventory growth really…

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One of the most important housing market stories in recent weeks has been the decline in new listings, which has slowed the growth rate of total inventory. What does this mean? Some have said this is evidence of a soft landing for housing since we are in August and it doesn’t look like we are going to even get to the peak inventory levels we saw in 2019 this year, or even breach the lower levels of 2019 on the national data.

From the National Association of Realtors:

What I want to talk about is the concern I’ve had throughout this post-COVID-19 housing market: When will we get total inventory back into a range of 1.52 million to 1.93 million? Once that happens, I can finally take the savagely unhealthy housing market theme  off my talking points.

First let’s take a look at the data.

Redfin:

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Realtor.com:

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Altos Research:

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Clearly, we are seeing a slowdown in new listings as the data has been negative now for months. One thing that I have stressed is that higher mortgage rates can create a slowdown in demand and thus allow more inventory to accumulate through a weakness in demand. After March of this year when rates were rising, this was the case, especially when rates ranged between 5% to 6%. Inventory growth is happening much like we saw in 2014 — the last time total inventory grew — which was also the last time mortgage purchase application data went negative year over year. 

However, inventory accumulation due to weakness in demand is only one of many ways to see inventory increase. If you really want to see inventory grow to 2019, 2016, 2014 or even 2012 levels, you need a healthy amount of new listing growth each year. We aren’t talking forced sellers, foreclosures or even short sellers. With just traditional new listings and with higher rates and time, we should be able to hit peak 2019 inventory levels. 

The problem with new listings declining now is what will happen if mortgage rates make a solid push lower. At that point housing inventory could slow even more, pause, and in some cases fall again due to demand. If mortgage rates peaked at 6.25% or 6.50%, that means that the next big move should be lower and that is a risk to getting balance back into the system.

How low do rates need to go?

Mortgage rates have made a move of 1.25% in recent week and I have talked about how low they need to go to make a material shift in the markets. Looking at the most recent mortgage purchase application data, I haven’t seen anything yet to show that demand is coming back in the meaningful way. In fact the recent data shows that even though we saw a positive 1% move week to week, the year-over-year data is still down 19%.

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So as of now, the growth rate of inventory slowing down is a supply issue more than demand picking up in a meaningful way. This is why if rates do fall, we will have more supply and more choices for borrowers, who in some areas won’t have to get into a bidding war for a home. This is something I will be keeping an eye on for the rest of the year, since I do have all six of my recession red flags up, which historically means that rates and bond yields fall.

Two things that I believe are key for a soft landing are rates falling to get housing back in line and inflation growth falling so the Fed can stop with the rate hikes and start cutting rates if the economic data gets even worse.

Inflation!

The recent inflation data did surprise the downside a bit, sending the bond market rallying, stocks higher and mortgage rates falling.

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However, we are far from calling it a victory as inflation growth rate is still very high and we do have some variables that can create supply shortages, such as war and aggression by other countries. 

For today, people cheered the growth rate of inflation falling as they know this is the biggest driver of the Federal Reserve’s hawkish tone and more aggressive rate hikes. Also, in general, the mood of Americans is much better when gasoline prices are falling and not rising. However, we need much more aggressive monthly prints heading lower for the Fed to be convinced that inflation is no longer a concern. 

All in all, the decline in new listings does warrant a conversation on how much more growth we will see for the rest of the year. Inventory data is very seasonal and traditionally we see inventory start to fall in October as people start getting ready for the holidays and the New Year, and then in the spring and summer inventory pops up again.

I would remind everyone that the growth rate of inventory, working from all-time lows, was aggressive in the last few months, so some context is needed if we do see some weekly declines in inventory during the summer months. For now, this is due to a lack of new sellers rather than demand picking up. If demand starts to pick up due to falling rates, that is an entirely different conversation we will have, but we haven’t crossed that bridge yet. 

Just remember that American homeowners are just in much better shape these days.

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I know the professional grift online since October of 2021 was that a massive wave of millions of people were going to list their homes to sell at any cost to get out before the housing market crashed. 

However, homeowners don’t operate this way. A traditional home seller is a natural homebuyer, buying another property when they sell. They don’t sell their house to be homeless or purposely sell to rent at a higher cost for no good reason. If we get a job loss recession we can have a further discussion of credit risk profiles, but for now, it shouldn’t be too shocking that new listings are declining, except for the fact it’s happening sooner than later in the year.

The post Is housing inventory growth really slowing down? appeared first on HousingWire.

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US CPI eases substantially to 8.5% but the Fed yet to “hit the brakes”

US consumers received a welcome break from the meteoric rise in prices with the July CPI ‘easing’ more than anticipated to 8.5% Y-o-Y. The figure moderated…

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US consumers received a welcome break from the meteoric rise in prices with the July CPI ‘easing’ more than anticipated to 8.5% Y-o-Y.

The figure moderated from 9.1% in June owing to a fall in surging gasoline prices as the summer driving season came to a close.

Forecasts had suggested that the CPI may only fall to 8.7%.

Prices of key commodities such as corn, wheat and copper also declined by 20.4%, 27.7% and 13.5% compared to 3 months ago at the time of writing.

Buoyed by renewed optimism, the S&P 500 has risen by 2.1% thus far during today’s session.

Yet, the rate of inflation is still far above the Fed’s stated 2% target.

Source: Investing.com

Core CPI which excludes volatile energy and food items from the main basket stayed unchanged at 5.9% Y-o-Y while increasing by 0.3% on a monthly basis, significantly below July expectations of 0.7%.

Pimco economists Tiffany Wilding and Allison Boxer noted that although headline inflation has eased, core CPI has stayed firm, and has even seen an uptick in related data released by the Fed’s regional institutions.

The July reading showed the sharpest Y-o-Y dip since March 2020, when CPI fell from 2.3% in February to 1.5% as the initial lockdowns took effect.

Source: Investing.com

American families continue to battle sky-high prices amid declining real wages. Simon Moore, a contributor at Forbes magazine adds that “price increases for many other areas of the economy still remain concerning for the Fed.”

The broad-based nature of inflation has meant essentials such as food, rent, and health services are continuing to see an uptick despite a lower aggregate number.

For instance, the Bank of America noted that the average monthly rent has risen by 16% for those in the youth demographics.

Source: TradingEconomics.com, US EIA

Jobs market

The substantial dip in the CPI has proved to be a bit of a surprise following the latest jobs report which registered an increase of 528,000 in July, with the unemployment rate falling to a low of 3.5%.

The labour market continues to remain unnaturally tight despite the Fed’s overall hawkishness, two consecutive quarters of GDP contraction, and reports of big-tech lay-offs earlier in the year.

A tighter job market usually implies more competition for talent, higher wages and ultimately more spending. More spending tends to push up consumer inflation necessitating rate hikes.

As of July 2022, the U.S economy has been able to replace the 22 million jobs that were lost amid covid lockdowns, leading to predictions of a “jobful recession.”

Economists argue that this unique situation may be fueled in part by ageing demographics and a sharp decline in immigration during the course of the pandemic.

Productivity data

A key concern for the Federal Reserve is falling labour productivity in the economy. The output per worker reduced for a second consecutive quarter to -4.6% Y-o-Y, having registered a fall of 7.4% in the first three months of the year.

Q1 marked the deepest cut in labour productivity since records began in 1948, 74 years ago. This was reinforced by the weakness in GDP data that contracted in both Q1 and Q2, contrasting with the positive signals from the headline jobs figures.

At the same time, unit labour costs increased 10.8% in Q2, although real wages have contracted 3.5% over the past year.

Can we expect a pause in rate hikes?

Bluford Putnam, Managing Director & Chief Economist, CME Group, wrote “…factors has changed course in the past six to 12 months and is no longer likely to be a source of future inflation”

Elevated goods demand due to the pandemic and ongoing lockdowns have eased markedly; supply chain disruptions will take time to alleviate completely but significant strides have been made in this regard; the gigantic fiscal stimulus injected during the covid crisis has largely run its course; central banks are finally reducing their balance sheets; while policymakers have embarked upon the withdrawal of rock-bottom interest rates.  These are all sources of price rise that have seemingly turned the corner.

In addition, gasoline prices are likely to ease for the foreseeable future, while WTI and Brent have fallen 4.7% and 2.4%, respectively over the past month.

However, Bill Adams of Comerica Bank has been reluctant to call a peak to inflation and expects that the US is at risk of “another energy price shock” over the winter.

The conduct of monetary policy has never been a clear-cut matter. The judgement of monetary authorities is paramount while projecting into the future has always been fraught with known and unknown unknowns. 

The relatively sharp decline in CPI, contracting GDP and tightness in the job market tell a muddled tale.

For the average householder, costs are punitive, and inflation is likely to stay sticky.

However, the New York Fed in its July survey of expectations found that inflation expectations of the ‘general public’ have followed gasoline and broader energy prices lower, with one year ahead expectations falling to 6.2%.

Since inflation expectations are central to the monetary policy equation, once again, we find that supply-side factors not under the control of central banks may have influenced public sentiment and consumer behaviour more so than simply tighter policies.

In light of the likely easing among key inflationary sources, CME’s FedWatch Tool reports that there is a 60.5% probability of a 50 bps hike in September, while there is a 39.5% chance of a third consecutive 75 bps hike.

This is in spite of the fact that Jerome Powell believes that the Fed has been able to achieve the neutral interest rate during its last meeting – a level where the economy is neither constrained into contraction nor incentivized to expand.

Putnam states that “any level of short-term rates that is below a reasonable view of inflation expectations remains accommodative”, resulting in the Fed taking “its foot off the accelerator, but it has not hit the brakes. “  

Moore points out that “Inflation is starting to fall, but still not by as much as the Fed would like and it may be some time before they can declare any sort of victory”

For now, all eyes will be on tomorrow’s Producer Price Index data and the likely passing of the controversial Inflation Reduction Act in the coming days.

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