As monkeypox spreads rapidly, a handful of biotechnologists spring into action – Endpoints News

At the beginning of the week, many people had never heard of monkeypox. By Friday, all that had changed, and now a handful of biotech companies are reaping the benefits.

EBS shares of Emergent Biosolutions rose more than 10% on Friday, four days after the company shelled out $225 million for rights to Chimerix’s smallpox vaccine. Chimerix $CMRX shares rose more than 3.8% on Friday. And Bavarian Nordic $BVNRY, which closed a $119 million deal with BARDA to provide the US government with freeze-dried doses of the Jynneos vaccine, rose nearly 2.5%.

The news comes just a couple of days after the first case of monkeypox was detected in the US, and on Friday the CDC revealed that they are monitoring at least six other Americans after they came into close contact. with an infected traveler earlier this month. Cases are rising in Europe, where Spain has now identified 30 cases and neighboring Portugal has reported 23.

Make no mistake, though: The current situation is nothing like Covid, according to Norman Baylor, who once headed the FDA’s Office of Vaccine Research and Review and now serves as a consultant.

“The good news is that we have a vaccine. Remember with Covid, we had nothing. We were starting from scratch,” he said.

Monkeypox has been around since 1958, when two outbreaks occurred in research monkey colonies (hence the name). However, the first human case was not reported until more than a decade later in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The United States saw an outbreak in 2003, after receiving a shipment of animals from Ghana, which was contained with testing and vaccination, according to the CDC.

Because monkeypox is similar to (but milder than) smallpox, currently approved smallpox vaccines like Chimerix’s Temblex should offer some protection against monkeypox, according to Daniel Kuritzkes, chief of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. In fact, most older adults are already vaccinated (routine vaccination ended in 1972 after the disease was eradicated in the US).

Although a large population remains unvaccinated, both Baylor and Kuritzkes doubt that the US needs to launch a widespread vaccination campaign to contain the current outbreak.

However, BARDA is paying Bavarian Nordic $119 million to exercise options for a freeze-dried stock of Jynneos, which covers both monkeypox and smallpox. Additional options for another 13 million doses through 2024 and 2025 would total $180 million.

Paul Chaplin, CEO of Bavarian Nordic, said in an interview with terminal news that the company has had a long-standing relationship with BARDA and is ready for whatever comes next.

BARDA’s new option for the Jynneos vaccine is part of a years-long collaboration with Bavarian Nordic to create a vaccine with a longer shelf life. So the new deal is pretty coincidental considering what’s going on in the world, Chaplin said.

However, he was quick to emphasize that Bavarian Nordic has an immediate reserve and the capacity to produce more. It has over a million doses currently in stock for BARDA, most of which are stored at its facilities in Denmark.

The company tends to sell Jynneos on an ongoing basis, usually making them to order, as there hasn’t been much interest in stockpiling them for smallpox. However, Chaplin said he expects to start supplying EU countries in the coming days and is manufacturing more doses as we speak, although he did not reveal any of the details.

“I think governments are taking the emergence of new infectious diseases very seriously. So I think that’s one thing, that it’s a positive sign,” he said. “There are a number of governments, Canada, the United States and, in fact, some countries in Europe [that] In fact, I have already bought Jynneos to store.”

Meanwhile, Emergent has picked up the rights to Tembexa, a smallpox treatment for all ages that was approved in 2021, with an early BARDA deal in the works. The company is eager for a comeback after a US House Select Subcommittee report revealed that around 400 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine were likely thrown away due to cross-contamination issues at its Baltimore plant.

If the US needs to roll out vaccines, the real question will be who gets them first, Baylor said. British authorities recently urged health workers and others who were exposed to get vaccinated, according to a Reuters report.

“The supply is not enough to distribute to everyone,” he said. “That would really need some discussion, and we haven’t gotten to that point yet.”

Aadia Rana, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, told Endpoints that it’s unclear if those who were vaccinated against smallpox in the past will need to be revaccinated. However, William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, noted that smallpox vaccines may provide long-term protection. However, like any vaccine, protection decreases over time.

“I’m really pretty sure that public health authorities in the US, Canada and in Europe will very quickly shut down these various chains of transmission and it’s an exotic event,” Schaffner said. “It’s another indication that we live together on a very small globe, and that strange infections can appear far away and suddenly appear in your neighborhood.”

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