Biotech Firm Launches Lassa Vaccine Trial in West Africa
A biotechnology company, INOVIO, says the first participant in Lassa vaccine trial has been dosed in a Phase 1B clinical trial for INO-4500, its DNA vaccine candidate for Lassa fever.
The clinical trial is being done in Ghana, the firm says, adding that INOVIO is focused on bringing to market precisely-designed DNA medicines to treat and protect people from infectious diseases and cancer.
The Phase 1B clinical trial (LSV-002), ongoing at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Accra, Ghana, is the first vaccine clinical trial for Lassa Fever to be conducted in West Africa, where the infection is endemic.
The lead clinical Principal Investigator for LSV-002 is Professor Dr. Kwadwo A. Koram, an expert and specialist in tropical medicines and epidemiologist with more than 20 years of research experience, including malaria vaccines.
INO-4500 was also the first vaccine candidate for Lassa fever to enter human trials, PUNCH Healthwise reports.
Already, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, has tweeted his commendation.
Said Ihekweazu, “Fantastic news. The urgency of now. A vaccine for Lassa fever. We have worked very hard with WHO, CEPI vaccines, ACEGID, BNITM_de and many others to put this on the global health agenda. We will keep pushing.”
According to a press release by the biotechnology company, INOVIO is advancing INO-4500 with full funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global partnership that leverages funding from public, private, philanthropic and civil society organisations to support research projects to develop vaccines against emerging infectious diseases.
INOVIO previously received a $56m grant from CEPI in 2018, under which the company is developing vaccine candidates for Lassa Fever and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
“INOVIO and CEPI are committed to making a vaccine available as soon as possible for emergency use as a stockpile product post-Phase 2 testing,” the press release stated.
The statement notes that INOVIO’s Phase 1B clinical trial, LSV-002, will enroll approximately 220 adult participants who are 18 – 50 years old, with the primary endpoints of evaluating safety and immunogenicity in an African population.
The dosing regimen involves two vaccinations at zero and 28 days with either 1.0 mg or 2.0 mg dosing levels. In addition to providing valuable insights on the INO-4500 safety and immunogenicity profile, this trial will inform dose selection for subsequent Phase 2 studies in West Africa.
Lassa fever is an animal-borne, acute hemorrhagic viral illness primarily observed in parts of West Africa.
Infection is spread through contact with infected rodents, as well as person-to-person transmission via bodily fluids (primarily in health care settings).
The disease can cause a range of outcomes, including fever, vomiting, and swelling of the face, pain in the chest, back and abdomen, bleeding of various parts of the body including the eyes and nose and death.
Lassa virus infection in West Africa is estimated to affect 100,000 to 300,000 people annually, and is responsible for 10 – 16 percent of hospital admissions in the region. The virus is responsible for approximately 5,000 deaths annually.
Because of difficulties in diagnosing Lassa fever, the lack of standardised surveillance assays, and the remote nature of many of the areas in West Africa where outbreaks typically occur, the numbers of reported cases and deaths are very likely significantly lower than the actual numbers of cases and deaths.
Though the majority (about 80 percent) of Lassa virus-infected persons are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, the infection can be quite serious to fatal in others. The case-fatality among patients hospitalized for Lassa fever is about 15 – 20 percent and, in some epidemics, case-fatality has reached 50 percent in hospitalized patients.
Up until now, there are no licensed vaccines or treatments specifically for Lassa fever.
Flutterwave, 9PSB Partner to Boost Growth of Inclusive Financial Services in Nigeria
Flutterwave, Africa’s leading payments technology company and Nigeria’s very first payment service bank, 9PSB on Monday entered into a partnership agreement that will help facilitate seamless financial services for Nigerians.
In a joint statement issued by both companies, the partnership seeks to create a seamless payment ecosystem by aggregating and simplifying transactions for banking agents, merchants, and consumers.
The partnership will also support the drive for economic growth through empowerment of the SME sector, entrepreneurs in FinTech and other industries, as well as contribute to the transformation of the informal sector to formal.
Speaking at the MoU signing ceremony, held at the 9PSB head office in Lagos, the Chief Executive Officer, 9PSB, Branka Mracajac remarked that the collaboration between 9PSB and Flutterwave represents an important milestone in making banking services accessible to all.
According to her, the partnership supports both companies’ commitment to expand accessibility and serve as last-mile delivery of solutions to the unbanked, under-banked and underserved. She said, “9PSB, being focused on the presence in unserved, rural, and remote areas, has a unique business model that provides Agent Banking as a Service to our partners to drive financial inclusion. Expanding on our promise to deliver relevant products, with this partnership, our existing agents, partners, and customers will have a single point of entry to enjoy various products and services provided by Flutterwave.”
With this partnership, Flutterwave and 9PSB are jointly launching a suite of products to enable other corporate entities, FinTech, technology and other industries to take advantage of the robust end-to-end system available for payments, collections, and transactions for both the banked and financially excluded Nigerians.
Commenting on the choice of 9PSB as its settlement bank, Founder and CEO, Flutterwave, Olugbenga Agboola noted that both companies share the same vision and are committed to one goal of powering seamless financial services. “At Flutterwave, we believe in an ecosystem of shared value that transforms and impacts society. We are showcasing the power of strategic partnership and cross-sectoral collaboration in advancing Nigeria’s financial ecosystem,” he said.
A paper published by the CBN—Financial Inclusion in Nigeria; Issues and Challenges, admits that there is global consensus on the importance of financial inclusion due to its key role in bringing integrity and stability into an economy’s financial system as well as its role in fighting poverty in a sustainable manner. The partnership between 9PSB and Flutterwave keys into various calls for interconnectivity and interoperability amongst stakeholders in the financial sector in accelerating the country’s financial inclusion drive to create prosperity and grow the economy.
HealthPlus Launches Digital ePharmacy and Access To Doctors
HealthPlus Limited, the largest and fastest-growing pharmacy chain across West Africa is set to revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry with the launch of Nigeria’s first ever e-Pharmacy. Nigerians can also now access a doctor or pharmacist instantly at a click.
Through the digitization of the Pharmacy and retail services, HealthPlus will now be transformed into a fully automated one-stop shop for Pharmacy Services Telemedicine Services Laboratory Services and, Beauty Consultation Services.
From the fully automated and interactive website, Nigerians can now access all the pharmacy services and consult a doctor right from the comfort of their homes or a click from their mobile phones.
According to Chidi Okoro, Chief Transformation Officer of HealthPlus Nigeria Limited, “we noticed a significant surge in online Pharmacy orders, and many customers organically resort to purchasing medicines online and getting them delivered at home. It is now considered not just the more convenient option, but the safer option as well.”
HealthPlus’ first-ever ePharmacy is in response to this shift and give Nigerians quicker access to the country’s best pharmaceutical care,
HealthPlus’ ePharmacy aims to deliver a user-friendly, all-inclusive online experience, that provides access to professional health care services using any device. HealthPlus ePharmacy is truly a ‘one-stop shop’ experience for health care services including telemedicine and laboratory services in partnership with healthcare providers such as MeCure.
In explaining the specialist nature of the ePharmacy platform, Chief Transformation Officer, Chidi Okoro also remarked that “our intention is to become the leading point of care for medicine use review, prescriptions management and pharmacist consultation services, by providing seamless end to end user experience. We will also be constantly updating our content with helpful information, articles, blogs, newsletters and company announcements.”
Amongst the new features, such as the “Speak To A Pharmacist” chat button on the site, the ePharmacy platform is interactive and gives better access to foster improved communication with our patients and customers. ‘
Afsane Jetha, CEO of Alta Semper Capital LLP, HealthPlus’s private equity investment partner, believes that this is another great stride in improving healthcare delivery in Nigeria by providing access to high-quality yet affordable medical and beauty supplies through a new and innovative platform. “We remain strongly committed to supporting the company strategically and financially in the years to come,” he assured.
YouTube To Generate Over $280 Million From US Premium Subscribers In 2021
YouTube Premium is starting to generate sustainable revenues from its paid ad-free subscription services. It took more than six years since relaunch to see significant growth.
A recent report projects that with an estimated 23.6 million unique users by the end of 2021, revenues are expected to climb to $282.96 million in the US alone, representing an impressive +18% Year-Over-Year (YoY) growth.
Premium subscriptions are projected to top 25 million unique users by the end of next year, exceeding $300 million in revenues. By the end of 2024, totalling $334.52 million with nearly 28 million sign-ups. The projected revenues are expected to keep a steady growth after 2023.
Video streaming services are gaining popularity, growth accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic
In addition to promising growth in the US, YouTube Premium services reached 50 million subscribers globally since September, beating an important milestone. YouTube Premium’s recent success can be attributed to both Covid-related, as well as non-Covid-related factors.
The global video streaming market is expected to expand at a 21% growth rate between 2021 and 2028 – highly driven by the increase in smartphone and internet usage. Live-streaming, music streaming, the adoption of cloud-based solutions could all be contributing factors.
The HelpCenter app’s co-founder Ernestas Petkevicius commented on the continuous growth of YouTube Premium:
“YouTube is playing in its own category. I do not see any competition for user-generated content which is now the main driver of tutoring, know-how, and news/comments. YouTube has lots of quality content and an army of creators who rely on the platform as their main source of income. Music services and ad-free mode are only an extra catalyst for revenue growth. YouTube has no competitors when it comes to these services, therefore, the revenue numbers potentially could be much bigger.”
In terms of market shares, 39% of the video streaming market is found to be driven by the US and Canada, which would explain the US-driven revenue growth of 18% Year-over-Year (YoY). What is more, subscription-model accounted for 43% revenue share of the total video streaming services in 2020.
Music streaming is another possible factor for revenue growth from premium sign-ups. Music streaming market in isolation is expected to reach a good 9.8% growth between 2021 and 2027.
And even though video streaming was popular prior to the pandemic, the extreme acceleration in growth has been due to the COVID-19 crisis. As many countries declared nationwide lockdowns, people stayed home more, thus increasing the use of digital services like social media, as well as online video streaming. Consumer engagement on social media video sharing platforms like YouTube grew significantly.
Whether this growth is driven by the all-encompassing features (ad-free videos, YouTube TV, music streaming for $11.99), changes in the consumer behavior, or technological advancements, revenues from YouTube Premium subscriptions in the US are expected to keep growing at a steady rate.
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