U.K. becomes first country to authorize Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use
The U.K. has become the first country in the world to approve the coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX), which has been shown to offer up to 95% protection against COVID-19.
The first 800,000 doses will be available in the U.K. from next week (another 40M doses are on order), with the jabs being rolled out at hospitals, vaccination centers, and in the community via GPs and pharmacists. Two doses three weeks apart are required for protection and will first be offered to frontline health care workers and nursing home residents, followed by older adults.
Calling the U.K. decision “a historic moment,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said, “we are focusing on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world.”
Other countries aren’t far behind: The U.S. and the EU also are vetting the Pfizer shot along with a similar vaccine made by competitor Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA), and a similar nod by the FDA is expected as early as next week.
British regulators also are considering another shot made by AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) and Oxford University.
Feds buy another 650K doses of Lilly COVID-19 med bamlanivimab
The U.S. government has agreed to acquire another 650K doses of Eli Lilly’s (NYSE:LLY) anti-SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody bamlanivimab (LY-CoV555) 700 mg for $812.5M ($1,250/dose). At least 350K will be delivered next month.
On November 9, the FDA authorized its emergency use during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Feds signed a contract in late October for 300K doses contingent on an emergency use nod.
Symbolic day for cannabis setting up with House vote on tap
Tomorrow could be a historic day for the cannabis sector if the House of Representatives votes to approve the MORE Act on cannabis legalization as expected. While the bill will be almost surely blocked by Mitch McConnell in the Senate, there is still some focus on the vote, according to Cowen.
“Key to watch in the House is whether re-elected Democrats vote against the MORE Act or if re-elected Republicans vote in favor of the bill. As the Democratic margin will shrink next year, these defections could tell us whether the MORE Act could pass next year,” observes Cowen analyst Jaret Seiberg.
Seiberg calls the cannabis Senate stall frustrating, but reminds that legislation typically takes years to pass. “Real efforts to legalize cannabis are only two or three years old. To get a House floor vote this soon is extraordinary and it only reinforces our view that it is just a question of when — not if — Congress legalizes cannabis,” he notes.
J&J acquires rights to gene therapy for vision loss disorder
Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) unit Janssen Pharmaceuticals has acquired global rights to privately held Hemera Biosciences‘ HMR59, a one-time intravitreally injected gene therapy designed to help preserve vision in patients with geographic atrophy, a late-stage and severe form of age-related macular degeneration.
According to Hemera, HMR59 increases the ability of retina cells to make a soluble form of a protective protein called CD59 which protects cells from a natural inflammatory cascade called complement associated with the body’s nonspecific immune response. Complement overactivity is believed to be the cause of macular degeneration.
Financial terms are not disclosed.
Merck unloaded stake in Moderna earlier this quarter
“Merck (NYSE:MRK) achieved a substantial gain on its direct holding in Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) over the life of the investment, particularly in 2020 given the substantial appreciation in Moderna’s stock price,” says the company in a statement.
Merck had invested a sizable amount in Moderna in 2018 via a preferred-equity stake.
A $20 stock at the start of 2020, Moderna nearly touched $180 earlier this week after positive results from its Covid-19 vaccine candidate. Shares pulled back to $141 yesterday. If Merck sold in the first half of Q4, that would mean a price somewhere between roughly $70 and $100.