Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Appears More Effective than Pfizer-BioNTech and More Related News
In the last week, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases has dropped by more than 20,000 to approximately 130,000 cases a day in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University. That’s good news, although there’s still concern about new variants and surges in the fall and winter. Here’s more COVID-19 news.
Real-World Vaccine Effectiveness Study: Pfizer-BioNTech 88.8%; Moderna 96.3%
A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine evaluated the real-world effectiveness of vaccines in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in approximately 5,000 health care staffers in 25 states. Although the general thought is that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines are about the same in efficacy, the study found that the Moderna vaccine has a slightly higher effectiveness.
Another study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also found that although the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine’s efficacy against hospitalization dropped from 91% to 77% four months after the second dose, the Moderna vaccine did not show the same drop. And a final analysis of Moderna vaccine from a placebo-controlled clinical trial demonstrated 98% efficacy at preventing severe disease.
The likely reasons for the difference are that the Moderna vaccine came in higher doses. Also, the Moderna shots were typically given four weeks apart, compared to three for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Some researchers speculate that having the shots closer together was similar to having only a single dose. However, it’s important to note that both vaccines are extremely effective at preventing hospitalization and death, and even with the drop with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, it appears to be very effective.
U.S. Buying 500 Million Pfizer-BioNTech Doses to Donate to Lower-Income Countries
The Biden Administration announced they plan to acquire 500 million more doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which will be donated to lower-income countries. This is an expansion of an existing agreement. The total number of doses for these donations will now be 1 billion.
According to Pfizer, the shots will be allocated to 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries and 55 member states of the African Union. The first 500 million doses began distribution in August, with a total of 1 billion expected to be delivered by the end of September 2022. The first doses arrived in Rwanda in mid-August.
SAB Biotherapeutics Wins Additional $60.5 Million from BARDA and DoD
SAB Biotherapeutics was awarded an additional $60.5 million for a total of $200 million for its DiversitAb Rapid Response Antibody Program. The platform produces targeted, high-potency, fully-human polyclonal antibodies without the necessity of human donors. The award was granted by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs (OASD(HA)) and the Defense Health Agency (DHA).
“Our diverse and highly potent polyclonal antibodies are well-suited for treating rapidly mutating pathogens such as COVID-19,” said Eddie J. Sullivan, Co-Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of SAB Biotherapeutics. “The expanded scope of this collaboration supports our goal of expeditiously completing clinical development, commercial scale-up and regulatory review as we aim to secure approval to bring SAB-185 to COVID-19 patients.”
Gilead’s Remdesivir Shows 87% Reduction in Hospitalization or All-Cause Death
Gilead Sciences reported positive data from a Phase III trial of a three-day course of Veklury (remdesivir) for intravenous use for non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients at high risk for disease progression. In the study, the antiviral drug demonstrated a statistically significant 87% reduction in risk of COVID-19 related hospitalization or all-cause death by Day 28 compared to placebo. It also showed an 81% decrease in risk for medical visits for COVID-19 or all-cause death by Day 28. In particular, the drug appears to be most effective when used early in the disease.
Nano RED Approaches COVID-19 Prevention from A Different Perspective
Madison, Wisconsin-based Nano RED is a biotech startup that is approaching viral infection prevention with a different type of technology. Although very early in the game, the company is utilizing short hairpin RNA (shRNA) as a way to block potential viral binding sites. Basically, a therapeutic containing shRNA binds to the virus’s genetic material, neutralizing it.
“The goal is to prevent infection in the first place, but in individuals who are already affected, it binds to that same receptor and releases these shRNAs which interfere with translation of the SARS-COV-2 genome,” said Jonathan Ebben, co-founder of the company.
In studies, their shRNA cocktail can knock down part of the SARS-CoV-2 genome by 90%. Their platform was originally designed to deliver drugs to lung cancer cells, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, they pivoted, developing a separate program where they reprogrammed the virus's shell and reloaded it with shRNA. The research is still in preclinical studies.