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.
eCommerce Payment Transactions to Exceed $7.5 Trillion Globally by 2026, as Omnichannel Retail Momentum Accelerates
A new study from Juniper Research has found that the value of global eCommerce payment transactions will exceed $7.5 trillion by 2026, from $4.9 trillion in 2021. This growth rate of 55% over the next five years will be driven by retailers offering compelling omnichannel retail experiences that increase user eCommerce spend. Omnichannel retail is a model that provides end users with the ability to access retail services, including sales and customer support, via multiple channels.
The new research, eCommerce Payments: Emerging Trends, Opportunities & Market Forecasts 2022-2026, predicts that these channels, including online, mobile and physical retail locations, will be instrumental for future success. This is because users expect the same services to be available irrespective of the channel. Additionally, it found that there are increasing appetites for new payment methods within eCommerce checkouts, including Open Banking-facilitated payments and digital wallet one-click checkout buttons. Accordingly, it recommends that merchants ensure payment options match changing user expectations, or they will be rapidly left behind.
For more insights, download the free whitepaper: Omnichannel and the New eCommerce Payments Experience
Platforms Must Emulate China’s eCommerce Success
The research found that by 2026, China will account for over 37% of global eCommerce payments by transaction value, owing to its established and extensive eCommerce and payments landscape that provides greater convenience for users via easily accessible alternative payment methods.
Additionally, the research recommends prioritising digital wallets, Open Banking facilitated payments and cryptocurrencies to emulate the eCommerce success experienced in China. To do so, it recommends that platform providers partner with specialists in these specific emerging payment areas to keep pace with changing merchant expectations around acceptance types.
Physical Goods Dominate eCommerce Spend
The research forecasts that physical goods will account for 82% of the global eCommerce payments transaction value by 2026. It urges payment providers to support BNPL, an alternative payment method that integrates fixed instalment plans and flexible credit in eCommerce checkout options, to capitalise on the continuing growth of eCommerce due to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.
Africa Records Over 1,600 Weekly Cyber Attacks
An average of 1,615 cyber-attacks has been said to affect organisations in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and other African countries, making the continent the highest victims of the attacks, cybersecurity solutions provider, CheckPoint Software Technologies (CST) says.
The breaches in Africa, according to CST, represent a 15 percent increase from 2020. The firm also disclosed that 2021 recorded a 50 percent rise in overall attacks per week on corporate networks globally, compared to the year before. CST noted that Asia Pacific (APAC) comes second place, with an average of 1,299 weekly attacks per organisation (20 per cent increase), followed by Latin America with an average of 1,117 attacks weekly (37 per cent increase), Europe with 665 (65 per cent increase) and North America with 497 (57 per cent increase).
The sectors which recorded the highest number of cyber-attacks were Education/Research with an average of 1,468 attacks per organisation, each week (increase of 60 per cent from 2020), followed by Government/Military with 1,082 (40 per cent increase) and Healthcare with 752 (55 per cent increase).
CheckPoint stated that one major attack was botnet, launched in 2021. The cybersecurity firm explained that botnet is a network of malware-infected computers that can be wholly-controlled by a single command and control centre operated by a cybercriminal. the network itself, which can be composed of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of computers, is then used to further spread the malware and increase the size of the network.
“The malware type that impacts organisations the most in 2021 is the botnet with an average of over eight per cent organisations being impacted weekly (a nine per cent decrease from 2020), followed by banking malware at 4.6 per cent (a 26 per cent increase) and cryptominer at 4.2 per cent (a 22 per cent decrease), ransomware 1.9 per cent and mobile 1.2 per cent,” CheckPoint said.
Warning organisations, CheckPoint claimed that the increase in multi-vector attacks designed to infect multiple components of an IT infrastructure in 2021, is alarming, adding that such attacks are the biggest challenge facing security practitioners, requiring effective measures to be put in place, such as preventing the attacks before they happen and employing a security architecture that enables and facilitates a single, cohesive protection
The firm advised that all attack surfaces and vectors in the business must be secured via a single solution that provides broad cyber security coverage, particularly in today’s multi-hybrid environment where the perimeter is now everywhere. Organisations are also to segment their networks, and apply strong firewall and intrusion prevention safeguards between the network segments. This, CheckPoint advised, contains infections from propagating across the entire network.
It further stressed that, “While there isn’t a single silver-bullet technology that can protect organisations from all threats and all threat vectors, there are many great technologies available, such as machine learning, sandboxing, anomaly detection, content disarmament, and many more. Each of these technologies can be highly effective in specific scenarios, covering specific file types or attack vectors.”
The cybersecurity experts noted that two important components to consider are threat extraction (file sanitisation) and threat emulation (advanced sandboxing), explaining that each element provides distinct protection. When used together, the threat extraction and emulation offer a comprehensive solution for protection against unknown malware at the network level and directly on endpoint devices.
SeamlessHR, Nigerian HR-Tech Startup Secures $10M in Series A Funding Round
SeamlessHR, a Nigerian-based HR-Tech startup announced it has secured $10 million in a Series A funding round to expand operations to East African countries and surrounding markets.
The funding round was led by TLcom Capital. Other participants are Capria Ventures, Lateral Capital, Enza Capital, Ingressive Capital, and some private investors.
According to the company, the secured fund will take SeamlessHR closer to achieving its vision of helping African businesses become more productive and successful through its cloud-based human resources (HR) and payroll software.
The company also intends to launch products with functionalities around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Human Resources (HR) Data Analytics, this will strengthen the company’s position as Africa’s leading cloud HR and payroll platform.
SeamlessHR CEO, Emmanuel Okeleji said, “We are fanatical about customer success, and this funding will enable us to invest in the continuous optimisation of customer experience across all touchpoints, adding new features and functionalities to empower our customers even more.
Speaking on the new funding and SeamlessHR operations, Andreata Muforo, Partner at TLcom Capital said, “over the last few years, SeamlessHR has consistently demonstrated its ability to deliver a robust HR and payroll platform for Africa’s medium and large businesses”.
“The strong execution shown by Emmanuel and his team is a vital ingredient required to build a successful business, and as they expand their products to include embedded finance and launch their solutions to new markets, we’re proud to partner alongside them and strengthen their push to unlock more value within Africa’s B2B space.
“At TLcom, we believe SeamlessHR can be the preferred platform for businesses to digitise workplaces and support their personnel.”
Will Poole, co-founder & managing partner at Capria said, “SeamlessHR is addressing the needs of African enterprises in ways that the global giants can’t compete with by building customer-centric SaaS designed from the ground-up to address complexity unique to the continent.
“Now that they’ve proven they can address the needs of disparate countries across Africa, we are confident that they will be the solution provider of choice to support their customers that are expanding globally.”
SeamlessHR was founded in 2018 by Emmanuel Okeleji (CEO) and Deji Lana (CTO), the company presently has presence in Nigeria and Kenya.
Speaking on future plans, the CEO, Emmanuel Okeleji said, “we are building software solutions to optimize HR now, but in the future, we’ll go to other areas beyond HR. And we are positioned to build a global SaaS company because SaaS products can travel the world faster than, say, fintech. We’re beating global players in our local market and while we are not distracting ourselves now, we know we can play this game globally.”
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