JPM, Day 3: CureVac partner Bayer says not to discount its vaccine efforts, CROs better prepped for new wave and more

San Francisco
(Carly Helfand)

Welcome to Day 3 of the annual J.P. Morgan healthcare conference. Here's your need to know, as Bayer says CureVac is not just an also-ran in the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine race while Aridis’ CEO says the pandemic has lamentably not secured more interest in antibiotic R&D.  

Want more? Catch yesterday's news from Fierce Biotech and follow Fierce Pharma's coverage.

Wednesday 10 a.m. ET

COVID-19 threw a wrench in Imara’s plans. The company was testing a treatment for sickle cell disease—which occurs more often in people of African descent—during a pandemic that disproportionately affected communities of color. But it learned some lessons along the way that aren’t just useful for its own work, but for anyone working on drugs for diverse populations. Story.

Wednesday 9:00 a.m. ET

German biotech CureVac shouldn’t be discounted from being a major COVID-19 vaccine player despite being at the tail end of the race to market. “The unmatched need is enormous; we will need between 12 (billion) and 14 billion doses to get a full handle on the pandemic,” said Marianne De Backer, head of business development at Bayer, which last week partnered with the biotech for the vaccine. “So, we believe that every single company that is active in this field should continue to put all the effort in to curb this pandemic.” Story.

Wednesday 8:00 a.m. ET

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred enormous interest and innovation in vaccines, antivirals and anti-infective drugs and for obvious reasons. There’s another area that might have been buoyed by the threat of a new illness that had no specific treatments—but wasn’t. That area, of course, is antibiotics development. Aridis Pharmaceuticals CEO Vu Truong tells Fierce Biotech: “There is no question that investors on the street and Big Pharma partners have overlooked and undervalued infectious disease.” Interview.

Wednesday 7:00 a.m. ET

Contract research organization PPD said that while the pandemic is surging again across the world, lessons since March put the industry in a better position to keep trials going, as it says approvals for new vaccines haven’t and won’t lead to a letup in its COVID-19 trial work. Story.

Wednesday 6:00 a.m. ET

While Vir Biotechnology is lagging other major players in the COVID-19 antibody race, including Eli Lilly and Regeneron, both of which have emergency use authorization for their treatments, its CEO George Scangos, Ph.D., said Vir took a different approach that it hopes to prove will yield a more effective antibody treatment. Interview.