Healthcare Roundup – Amazon says nearly 20,000 workers got COVID-19, FDA OKs emergency use of Beckman test

Published on: October 2, 2020
Author: Amy Liu

Amazon says nearly 20,000 workers got COVID-19 this year

An (NASDAQ:AMZN) report on COVID-19 in its workforce says that 19,816 of its workers contracted the disease this year.

That comes through an analysis of data on “all 1,372,000 Amazon and Whole Foods Market front-line employees across the U.S. employed at any time from March 1 to Sept. 19, 2020.”

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Compared to the general population using Johns Hopkins data, Amazon says it would have expected to see 33,952 cases in its workforce, rather than the 19,816 positive or presumed positive results, or 42% lower than expected.

The report may add support to the company’s argument that it’s seeing lower spread internally than what’s seen in outside communities, even as some workers argue that rates in warehouses can exceed that in the general population.

Amazon said it assembled an internal team with varied skills to leave their day jobs and focus on the testing initiative, along with hiring a world-class laboratory team. That’s resulted in thousands of tests a day, growing to 50,000 tests a day by November, across 650 sites.

FDA OKs emergency use of Beckman test for inflammation biomarker in COVID-19

The FDA grants emergency use authorization to Danaher (NYSE:DHR) unit Beckman Coulter’s Access Interleukin-6 (IL-6) immunoassay designed to detect levels of the pro-inflammatory protein to aid doctors in identifying a severe inflammatory response (cytokine storm) and determining the risk of intubation with mechanical ventilation in COVID-19 patients.

Joshua Hayden, Ph.D., DABCC, Chief of Chemistry, Norton Healthcare says, “Our goal is to keep patients off the ventilator as that’s the best way to help COVID-19 patients. IL-6 can help us treat the patient before they need a ventilator. The side effect of this is that we are able to reduce the number of patients on ventilators to preserve capacity if needed in a hospital. Any time you can have more objective measures, such as testing with IL-6 to predict which patients are going to get worse, it is helpful. I highly encourage places that have to make rationing decisions to use markers such as IL-6 to assist them.”

Sinovac inks inks COVID vaccine doses pact with Brazil’s Sao Paulo govt.

The government of Brazil’s Sao Paulo state signed a $90M contract to receive 46M doses of a potential vaccine from Sinovac Biotech (NASDAQ:SVA)

The agreement makes formal part of an existing arrangement in which Sinovac agreed to deliver 60M doses by the end of February.

Sao Paulo Governor João Doria said in a press conference that the state and Sinovac have a verbal agreement regarding the delivery of the remaining 14M doses.Doria, said he expects to start rolling out the vaccine in December.

First rolling review of COVID-19 vaccine data underway in Europe

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has begun its first rolling review of COVID-19 vaccine data on AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) and the University of Oxford’s candidate AZD1222/ChAdOx1. The review committee will be evaluating the first batch of nonclinical data from lab studies so it is premature to expect a conclusion on safety and effectiveness.

A rolling review is way of accelerating the process. The FDA uses the same approach for high priority medicines and vaccines.

Selected tickers: Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), BioNTech SE (NASDAQ:BNTX), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Merck (NYSE:MRK), Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA), Sanofi (NASDAQ:SNY), GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK), Dynavax (NASDAQ:DVAX), Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX)

Antares Pharma inks deal with Ferring Pharma for Nocdurna in U.S.

Antares Pharma (NASDAQ:ATRS) has entered into an exclusive license agreement with Ferring Pharmaceuticals for the marketed product NOCDURNA (desmopressin acetate), which is indicated for the treatment of nocturia due to nocturnal polyuria in adults who awaken at least two times per night to urinate, in the U.S.

Under the terms of the agreement, Ferring received an upfront payment of $5M upon execution, will be paid an additional $2.5M at one year from execution and is eligible for tiered royalties and additional commercial milestone payments totaling up to $17.5M.

Product launch is expected later in Q4.

NOCDURNA is patent-protected with Orange Book-listed patents in the U.S. with varying expirations through 2030.

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