BREAKTHROUGHS BLOG

November 26, 2018

Research Roundup: Access to Medicines index released, clinical trial of injectable ARV, and Zika vaccine clears early trial

Ansley Kahn
Program Assistant
GHTC
PATH/Matthew Dakin

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According to a report released last week by the Access to Medicines Foundation, just five companies are carrying out 63 percent of the urgently needed research and development projects for priority health areas such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, Chagas disease, and leishmaniasis. This reliance on a small group of companies contributes to a fragile ecosystem, according to the report authors. A change in strategy for any of the companies could put access to medicines in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) at risk. The Access to Medicines index, an independent report released every two years, ranks the world’s 20 largest pharmaceutical companies based on their efforts to make their medicines available in LMICs. This year, GlaxoSmithKline—the developer of a single-dose drug to prevent malaria relapse—tops the list of companies in the overall ranking. 

Recruitment of women in Uganda has begun for a phase 3 clinical trial, which will assess if a long-acting injectable antiretroviral called Cabotegravir, administered every two months, is safe and effective as a form of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce an individual’s risk of contracting HIV when exposed to the virus. This recruitment is part of a large-scale, five-year trial that will be conducted in six additional countries—including Kenya, Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Swaziland—among approximately 3,200 HIV-negative individuals who are at a high risk of contracting the virus. If Cabotegravir proves to be safe and efficacious, it would offer a new alternative for individuals on PrEP other than taking daily oral pills.

A vaccine to prevent Zika virus infection was found to be safe and induce an immune response in an early stage trial, according to an announcement released on November 19 from developer Emergent BioSolutions Inc. and partner Valneva SE. The vaccine, VLA1601, was tested in two doses in 67 adult trial participants. The initial results contained analyses up to day 56, after the first vaccination. Final analysis will take place up to day 208 and is expected to be released in the first quarter of 2019. Emergent BioSolutions Inc. announced an exclusive worldwide licensing deal for Valneva SE’s Zika vaccine in July of last year.

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