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.
M-Pesa Rallonge, Financial Inclusion Takes Another Step
M-Pesa Rallonge service, M-Pesa is simultaneously facilitating the process of financial inclusion for all while also improving lives for the better
VodaCash, in partnership with Access Bank, launched its new service M-Pesa Rallonge this Tuesday, December 6th, 2022.
A joint press conference was hosted at Silikin Villag before officially launching the product. Pamela Ilunga, Deputy Managing Director of Vodacom Congo, and Hashim Mukudi, Managing Director of VodaCash, were present along with Access Bank Commercial Director, Adrien Chensham Mbele.
With the M-Pesa Rallonge service, M-Pesa is simultaneously facilitating the process of financial inclusion for all while also improving lives for the better. Currently, over 20% of the daily transactions are canceled due to insufficient balance. For customers, this can be frustrating, especially in emergency situations.
In her opening speech, Pamela Ilunga, Deputy Managing Director of Vodacom Congo, stated, “M-Pesa has been on a journey since its introduction in 2012. Undeniably, M-Pesa has been a solution to financial inclusion for the population of the DRC as well as complementing our different customers’ lifestyles. This has made us the mobile financial institution of choice.”
This partnership with Access Bank allows VodaCash to advance on its mission to provide accessible financial services to remote areas and ensure all Congolese have access to basic necessities. Initially, the focus was providing fundamental services such as domestic money transfers and the purchase of airtime. Over time, M-Pesa has expanded to include services such as forex, paying TV, and bills.
Hashim Mukudi, Managing Director of VodaCash, also announced that “several more collaborations with M-Pesa are coming up, each tailored towards advocating inclusivity and improving customers’ lifestyles, aligning with the 2030 SDGs ‘No poverty’ and ‘reducing equality’. “
Pamela Ilunga added, “At Vodacom, we believe that ‘Together We Can’. We can make an impact on the economy. We can participate in and promote the digital revolution that is currently taking place in the DRC. M-Pesa Rallonge is only the first of several more services we are developing to improve lives and facilitate access to financial services using eco-responsible processes.”
The Deputy Managing Director of Vodacom Congo closed her speech by commending their partner, Access Bank, for sharing the same vision of “responding to the real needs of the Congolese population to financial inclusion and providing a platform that will allow its customers to use this new product.”
Airtel Africa Receives $194 Million Loan Facility From IFC
Airtel Africa partners with IFC, a member of the World Bank Group to connect even more Africa
Africa’s leading telecommunications and mobile money services, Airtel Africa has signed a new $194 million credit facility with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a subsidiary of the World Bank.
According to the telecommunications giant, the new financing facility is in accordance with the company’s strategy to improve debt within its operating firms and support operations in key African markets.
The eight years tenor credit facility will help Airtel Africa support operations and investments in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Republic of Congo and Zambia.
Also, it would help provide more diversified access to local funding, the company stated in a statement signed by Simon O’Hara, Group Company Secretary and obtained by Investors King.
In line with IFC requirements for a loan facility, Airtel Africa is expected to deepen its Social and Environmental Sustainability and has put in place a dedicated Environmental and Social Action plan.
This, Airtel said would deepen its commitment to changing the lives of people in the communities in which it operates and provides clarity on how the Group can help address inequality and support economic growth in these communities.
Commenting on the facility, Segun Ogunsanya, Chief Executive Officer, Airtel Africa said: “I am very excited to announce the signing of this new facility with IFC. Not only does it align with our focus on improving our balance sheet through localising debt within our OpCos, but as we make progress on our sustainability journey it also supports our commitments and ability to meet strong ESG criteria. I look forward to working closely with IFC in the coming years as we explore further opportunities to support the economies and communities where we operate.”
On the part of IFC, Sérgio Pimenta, IFC Vice President for Africa, has this to say: “The COVID-19 pandemic has made mobile connectivity even more urgent for both social and economic development. Helping more people connect to affordable and fast internet networks is a priority for IFC in Africa, especially in the continent’s lower-income countries. The partnership with Airtel Africa will help achieve this.”
Property Tech Company, VENCO Secures $670,000 Pre-Seed Funding
The company stated that the fund will be deployed to scale its all-in-one technology platform
Nigeria property technology company, VENCO has secured $670,000 in an oversubscribed pre-seed funding round.
The company stated that the fund will be deployed to scale its all-in-one technology platform that manages collections, service charge administration, utilities, and visitor access, among other services associated with multi-unit property developments across Africa.
Founded by Chude Osiegbu (CEO), Reagan Mbitiru (CTO), and Uzochukwu Alor (COO), VENCO already has a growing presence in both Nigeria and Kenya with the plan to expand to other cities and countries in Africa.
The CEO, Chude Osiegbu stated that VENCO was used by 100 estates on about 4000 property units in 2021. He added that the startup is currently in 186 estates with about 12,000 property units and now has larger estates like Banana Island and 1004 in its roster.
Although Osiegbu noted that the company presently relies on subscription fees that it charges for the deployment of its software solution, he nevertheless stated that VENCO has a long-term plan to introduce a number of monetised operations.
He added that the startup already helped finance the purchase of prepaid energy meters for the Primewater View Gardens estate, and the Tejuosho Market, a shopping mall.
In the last 9 months, VENCO says it has recorded over 200 percent growth, currently in 6 cities in Nigeria and Kenya.
Dating from the beginning of this year, VENCO noted that it has processed more than $10 million in transaction value via its platform. The company added that it is already in talks with e-commerce platforms to enable easier access to merchants within and around the community.
Investors King learnt that some of the investors that participated in the pre-seed funding round include Zrosk Investment Management, Voltron Capital, Decimal Point Ventures, Fast Forward Fund, Tayo Oviosu (CEO of Paga), Odun Eweniyi (COO of Piggyvest), Oo Nwoye, Desigan Chinniah, Dakar Network Angels and Viktoria Business Angel Network.
Speaking at the event, Samson Esemuede, Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer at Zrosk Investment Management, said, “ We view VENCO as both a SaaS and a financial inclusion play with a potential for strong multiplicative impact across the continent.”
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