Pan-European consortium seeks big pharma partner for COVID-19 shot

Leukocare is working with Italy's ReiThera and Belgium's Univercells on a vaccine based on a so-called non-replicating adenoviral vector, the same technology that AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have used. (Reuters/File Photo)
Leukocare is working with Italy's ReiThera and Belgium's Univercells on a vaccine based on a so-called non-replicating adenoviral vector, the same technology that AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have used. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 15 February 2021

Pan-European consortium seeks big pharma partner for COVID-19 shot

Leukocare is working with Italy's ReiThera and Belgium's Univercells on a vaccine based on a so-called non-replicating adenoviral vector, the same technology that AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have used. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • eukocare is working with Italy's ReiThera and Belgium's Univercells on a vaccine based on a so-called non-replicating adenoviral vector

BERLIN: A pan-European consortium developing a COVID-19 vaccine is in talks with big pharma to support the late-stage development of its shot and ramp up manufacturing, the head of German biotech firm Leukocare told Reuters.

Leukocare is working with Italy's ReiThera and Belgium's Univercells on a vaccine based on a so-called non-replicating adenoviral vector, the same technology that AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have used.

Chief Executive Michael Scholl said the companies were talking to potential big pharma partners about whether they could provide additional manufacturing capacity, as well as help to advance their candidate through Phase III clinical trials.

"We as a consortium are definitely open and are also discussing with big pharma partners about how to leverage us," he said.

ReiThera, which developed the vaccine, has said it has capacity to produce some 100 million doses per year. The company secured 81 million euros ($98 million) in Italian funding last month after the government described results of a Phase I trial as encouraging.

The consortium hopes to start a mid-stage trial this month and move to late-stage testing in May, Scholl said.

Fellow German biotechs BioNTech and CureVac have partnered with Pfizer and Bayer respectively to help bring their vaccine candidates to market.

Getting a bigger player on board was not a pre-requisite for starting Phase III testing, but would be beneficial for the clinical trial process, Scholl said.

One question facing the next crop of COVID-19 vaccine developers is whether it remains ethical to offer a placebo to participants in late-stage trials, Scholl said, adding talks with regulators were ongoing.

Leukocare has helped develop a highly-stable liquid formulation of the vaccine, which can be stored at between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius for at least 12 months.

The company is also working with other COVID-19 vaccine makers, including those whose shots are already approved and others still in clinical trials, Scholl said.

This includes trying to solve questions, such as whether it is possible to stabilise vaccines at higher temperatures so they are easier to store and distribute, he said.

The company is also exploring an alternative type of vaccine packaging that would do away for the need to have glass vials, Scholl said, declining to give further details as the company is still in talks with regulators.


Egyptian prime minister discusses industry localization with US firm Bechtel

According to a statement issued by the Egyptian government, Madbouly said that the Bechtel delegation’s visit to Egypt was part of a strategy to enhance Egyptian-American cooperation. (AFP/File Photo)
According to a statement issued by the Egyptian government, Madbouly said that the Bechtel delegation’s visit to Egypt was part of a strategy to enhance Egyptian-American cooperation. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 56 min 4 sec ago

Egyptian prime minister discusses industry localization with US firm Bechtel

According to a statement issued by the Egyptian government, Madbouly said that the Bechtel delegation’s visit to Egypt was part of a strategy to enhance Egyptian-American cooperation. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Mostafa Madbouly said the country was currently localizing industrial production with the aim of rendering it more sustainable

CAIRO: Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly held discussions with US construction firm Bechtel on ways to increase the use of local products and components in the development of projects in Egypt.

According to a statement issued by the Egyptian government, Madbouly said that the Bechtel delegation’s visit to Egypt was part of a strategy to enhance Egyptian-American cooperation across a number of sectors.

The prime minister said there were several projects in Egypt being developed in cooperation with American companies, like the petrochemical complex in the Ain Sokhna area. He added that he is following up on these megaprojects.

Madbouly also said that he welcomed the cooperation proposed by Bechtel in constructing a sixth metro line and in managing new cities.

Bechtel’s Infrastructure Global Business Unit President Shaun Kenny expressed his enthusiasm to work with the Egyptian government on megaprojects currently being implemented, especially the metro line.

The Egyptian prime minister stated that the country is currently localizing its industrial production with the aim of rendering it more sustainable.


Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals bid to buy Alameda Healthcare halted

Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals Group said its bid to acquire Alameda Healthcare through a sale and purchase agreement of shares has been halted. (Cleopatra Hospitals Group)
Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals Group said its bid to acquire Alameda Healthcare through a sale and purchase agreement of shares has been halted. (Cleopatra Hospitals Group)
Updated 10 May 2021

Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals bid to buy Alameda Healthcare halted

Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals Group said its bid to acquire Alameda Healthcare through a sale and purchase agreement of shares has been halted. (Cleopatra Hospitals Group)
  • The proposed deal was originally announced by Cleopatra in late December 2020

RIYADH: Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals Group said its bid to acquire Alameda Healthcare through a sale and purchase agreement of shares has been halted.

It made the disclosure in a filing to the Egyptian Stock Exchange on Monday.

The proposed deal was originally announced by Cleopatra in late December 2020, with an estimated value of about $500 million.

But it was quickly followed by an announcement from the Egyptian Competition Authority saying that it did not agree in principle to the acquisition.

It highlighted the potential consolidation of Cleopatra’s dominance over hospitals around Cairo and Giza.

Alameda Healthcare’s network includes four tertiary care hospitals in Cairo, two of which are currently being constructed. Once the facilities are fully commissioned Alameda Healthcare will have a capacity of 890 beds, according to its website. The network also includes facilities in Kuwait and London, outpatient clinics, diagnostic centers, specialist centers, pharmacies, and a rehabilitation center.


Saudi Kafalah small business loan program expands rapidly in Q1

Some 215 private sector business women benefited from the scheme during the first quarter of this year, compared to 64 during the year-earlier period. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Some 215 private sector business women benefited from the scheme during the first quarter of this year, compared to 64 during the year-earlier period. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 10 May 2021

Saudi Kafalah small business loan program expands rapidly in Q1

Some 215 private sector business women benefited from the scheme during the first quarter of this year, compared to 64 during the year-earlier period. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Businesses in Riyadh, the Eastern Region and Makkah claimed the lion’s share of assistance

RIYADH: The Saudi SMEs loan guarantee program ‘Kafalah’ helped 1621 businesses during the first quarter of 2021 — up 162 percent year-on-year, Al Eqtisadiah reported.

Guarantees increased by about 150 percent to SR2.9 billion and financing reached SR3.6 billion, the newspaper said.

Some 215 private sector business women benefited from the scheme during the first quarter of this year, compared to 64 during the year-earlier period.

The value of guarantees during the first quarter amounted to SR142 million and the value of financing reached SR157 million.

The most prominent sectors benefiting included the wholesale and retail trade, construction, accommodation services, food, and manufacturing industries, according to Kafalah.

Businesses in Riyadh, the Eastern Region and Makkah claimed the lion’s share of assistance.

The program will mostly target the tourism and entertainment sectors this year, in addition to the communications and information technology sectors, said Kafalah Director-General Homam Bin Abdulaziz Hashem.

The program was founded in 2006 as a joint initiative between the Kingdom’s ministry of finance and Saudi commercial banks to help overcome SME financing constraints.


A bamboo bat? That’s just not cricket old boy

A bamboo bat? That’s just not cricket old boy
Updated 10 May 2021

A bamboo bat? That’s just not cricket old boy

A bamboo bat? That’s just not cricket old boy
  • Faster growing Bamboo seen as a more sustainable alternative to Willow

Cricket is a sport defined by tradition, but change may be in store after research suggested bamboo could be an attractive alternative to willow in the manufacture of bats.
The Cambridge University study said its prototype bamboo bat was cheaper to produce, more sustainable and stronger than traditional willow blades and could grow the game worldwide.
The article, published in the Journal of Sports Engineering and Technology on Sunday, also found the laminated bamboo bat possessed a larger sweet spot, making it “a batsman’s dream.”
Willow trees take 15 years to mature enough to produce cricket bats, whereas bamboo only requires five to six years and abounds in China, South America and southeast Asia as well as cricket-obsessed India.
Bamboo bats could increase participation in lower-income countries thanks to lower production costs and make cricket much more sustainable without compromising quality, the study claimed.
Co-author Ben Tinkler-Davies said: “Whether you’re playing or spectating, you wouldn’t notice much of a difference.
“Because laminated bamboo is so strong, we’re very confident we can make a bamboo bat light enough, even for today’s fast-scoring, short forms of the game.”
The study found that bamboo is 22 percent stiffer than willow and that its sweet spot performed 19 percent better.
The prototype bat’s sweet spot — the point where the ball is hit most effectively — is larger than a traditional bat’s and located closer to the toe.
That allows it to transfer more energy to the ball, the researchers said.
Bamboo bats would be “a batsman’s dream,” according to co-author Darshil Shah, who played cricket for Thailand at youth level.
“The sweet spot on a bamboo bat makes it much easier to hit a four off a yorker for starters, but it’s exciting for all kinds of strokes,” he added.
Bamboo’s higher density means that the bat’s shape would have to be redesigned to make a lighter product before batsmen can blast bowlers with their new weapon.
The London-based Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) — the conservative custodian of cricket’s laws — must approve any change to the material used to make bats.
Cricketers have long experimented with different types of bat, from the length of the handle to thickness of the blade and weight, to try to gain a competitive edge.
In 1979, Australia’s Dennis Lillee caused controversy by using an aluminum bat, which was then banned.
Cricket’s current laws — brought in after the Lillee incident — state that bats must be made of wood, but bamboo is a type of grass.
“Playing with a bamboo bat would be within the spirit of the game because it’s a plant-based material. Cane, a type of grass, is already used in the handle,” said Shah.
“Tradition is important but think about how much cricket bats, pads, gloves and helmets have already evolved.
“If we can go back to having thinner blades but made from bamboo, while improving performance, outreach and sustainability, then why not?“


Saudi-owned ACWA Power starts to build Africa’s biggest renewables project

Saudi-owned ACWA Power starts to build Africa’s biggest renewables project
Updated 10 May 2021

Saudi-owned ACWA Power starts to build Africa’s biggest renewables project

Saudi-owned ACWA Power starts to build Africa’s biggest renewables project
  • ACWA Power’s co-shareholders in the $825 million project that will have the capacity to generate 100MW of power

DUBAI: ACWA Power has started construction on the Redstone concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in South Africa, the biggest renewables project on the continent.

ACWA Power’s co-shareholders in the $825 million project that will have the capacity to generate 100MW of power, include the Central Energy Fund, Pele Green Energy and the local community.
Located in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, the Redstone plant will be equipped with a 12-hour thermal storage system that will deliver clean and reliable electricity to nearly 200,000 households round the clock, the company said. Commencement of operations is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2023.
“Redstone CSP adds another superlative to our budding record in South Africa, being the largest renewable energy investment to date,” said CEO Paddy Padmanathan. “As grid links are improved, the ingenuity of the private sector together with the great support of experienced finance partners has the potential to spark lasting impact for local communities and address the threats of climate change.”
Redstone CSP will displace an estimated 440 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year, ACWA said.