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.
MTN Partners Fintechs as Talks With Banks Lingers
MTN has activated a number of new channel partnerships with fintech companies as the company continues meeting with the commercial banks on a new pricing structure agreement.
MTN’s initial meeting for the reduction of the charges held on Tuesday with the banks ended in a deadlock and is expected to continue until a new long-term agreement can be reached on a sustainable pricing structure going forward.
The telco said this in a statement on Thursday titled ‘Update on banking channel partners’ dispute and expansion of channel network’.
MTN customers were reconnected to banking channels after the banks blocked them on April 2.
This was agreed on the basis that MTN would revert to its previous cost of sales structures with banking partners, until a new long-term agreement could be reached on a sustainable pricing structure going forward.
The telecom company noted that it had been participating in a series of meetings with the banks since Tuesday, after the intervention of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, the Nigerian Communication Commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria.
According to the telco, the reduction in the banks’ commission on USSD airtime is ‘international standard and best practice as scale is built along distribution channels’.
“We will provide a further market update once these discussions have been concluded.
We are confident that partners in the banking sector will work with us to ensure this process concludes as quickly as possible to the benefit of the entire industry,” MTN said.
It said it had partnered with new fintechs to expand the range of channels available to customers, adding that the partnerships would remain in place.
“The new channel partners include Sparkle, Konga Pay, Barter By Flutter Wave, Jumia Pay, OPay, Kuda, Carbon, BillsnPay, MTN On Demand, MTN Xtratime airtime loans (*606#), myMTN Web http://mymtn.com.ng and Momo agent *223#,” the statement said.
The telco expressed optimism for a mutually acceptable solution that empowered all ecosystem participants.
Trove, Bamboo Assure Nigerian Investors Assets Are Safe Following SEC Warning
Trove and Bamboo, the two of the numerous fintech companies, facilitating investments in foreign assets for Nigerians in Nigeria have released statements to assured Nigerians that have invested through their platforms that their investments are safe.
The assurance came few hours after the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released a circular to warn the public against unregistered online investment and trading platforms facilitating access to foreign markets.
The SEC, in a circular titled, ‘Proliferation of Unregistered Online Investment and Trading Platforms Facilitating Access to Trading in Securities Listed in Foreign Markets’ stated that its attention has been “drawn to the existence of several providers of online investment and trading platforms which purportedly facilitate direct access of the investing public in the Federal Republic of Nigeria to securities of foreign Companies listed on Securities Exchanges registered in other jurisdictions. These platforms also claim to be operating in partnership with Capital Market operators (CMOs) registered with the Commission.”
“The Commission categorically states that by the provisions of Sections 67-70 of the Investments and Securities Act (ISA), 2007 and Rules 414 & 415 of the SEC Rules and Regulations, only foreign securities listed on any Exchange registered in Nigeria may be issued, sold or offered for sale or subscription to the Nigerian public. Accordingly, CMOs who work in concert with the referenced online platforms are hereby notified of the Commission’s position and advised to desist henceforth.
“The Commission enjoins the investing public to seek clarification as may be required via its established channels of communication on investment products advertised through conventional or online mediums.”
However, Trove immediately released a statement, saying “Our attention has been drawn to the SEC circular that was recently issued.
“Please be aware that we are and will remain committed to being in compliance with all local laws and regulations. We have always maintained good standing with all existing compliance requirements and regulatory frameworks.
“Be rest assured that your funds and equities are safe and secure with Trove.
“Since the memorandum, we have been liaising with the SEC to get more clarity on the circular. We are also engaging with top level executives at our local partner brokers. Additionally, we have involved legal professionals to manage the on-going mediation.
“From all indications, we anticipate everything would be resolved.
“Kindly note that your US funds and equities are held in custody by Drivewealth LLC, a regulated broker dealer in the US and protected by the SIPC, for up to $500,000.
“You can continue your trading activities as normal as we are still fully capable of carrying out our responsibilities as usual.
“Be rest assured that we are on top of all the happenings and would actively communicate with you all as things progress. Thanks for all your support and confidence”
Bamboo also responded in a similar version to calm thousands of investors on its platform.
Richmond Bassey, CEO, Bamboo, in a statement sent to all registered investors said “We are aware of the recently released SEC circular about trading in foreign markets.
“First off, we want to assure you that your assets on Bamboo remain safe and easily accessible to you.
“We are already in discussions with the SEC and our broker partner and are fully committed to working with them to ensure your interests as our users are fully protected.
“We want to reassure you that there’s nothing to be concerned about. We are still able to carry out all our operations and will continue to do so. Should the situation change, we will inform and advise you on the best course of action.
“Thank you for your continued faith and trust in us. We will continue to put in all the hard work to serve you. Thank you.”
Konga Gives Free Bluetooth Headset in a Fresh Promo
Konga, a leading e-commerce company in Nigeria, has commenced a fresh promo tagged #AO2Promo for every Samsung Galaxy AO2 ordered.
Self-acclaimed Nigeria’s largest online mall said customers that ordered Samsung Galaxy AO2 on Kong will receive a free Bluetooth headset.
“What are you waiting for? FREE BLUETOOTH HEADSET is set for you.
“Just order your Samsung Galaxy A02 today on Konga & get a free Bluetooth Headset,” the company stated in a tweet.
In March, the e-commerce company announced Battle of the Brands to treat shoppers to the biggest deals and offers from top brands dominating segments.
Speaking on Battle of the Brands, Kenny Oriola, Vice President, Konga Online, said “Battle of the Brands is a time to decide who the best brands offering the biggest deals in the market are. Our customers have long waited for this campaign and many of them have expressed huge anticipation to see what each brand has to offer. As a top brand, you certainly do not want to disappoint your loyal customers.
“This is the time to show off the biggest deals and best offers as that is what shoppers are looking forward to. As a globally-renowned brand, you deserve to be seen on Battle of the Brands. We expect to see shoppers treated to a number of exclusive offers, mouth-watering deals, huge price slashes or even new products from the brands we have lined up for this campaign. Therefore, we are putting all our assets at the disposal of these brands in order to ensure that potential shoppers are satisfied,’’ he stated.
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