Health

Pharmalittle: Francis Collins to step down as NIH director;


Good morning, everyone, and how are you today? Gray skies are hovering over the Pharmalot campus, but our spirits remain as sunny as ever. As you may recall us noting previously, the Morning Mayor used to say that “every new day should be unwrapped like a precious gift.” So who cares about a few clouds? While you ponder the notion, feel free to join us for our usual cup of stimulation. Our choice today is salted caramel mocha, a touch of the Jersey Shore. And as always, here are the usual tidbits. Hope you have a smashing day and drop us a line when you run across something juicy…

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, who headed the U.S. government effort to map the human genetic code and two decades later became one of the most recognizable leaders in the battle against Covid-19, will leave his post by the end of this year, The Washington Post writes. After more than 12 years directing the nation’s premier biomedical research center, Collins, 71, will return to his lab at the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of NIH. He is the longest-tenured NIH director, having headed the agency through the Obama and Trump administrations and into the first year of the Biden presidency. No decision has been made on an interim director.

Research points to the dramatic decline of the Pfizer (PFE)-BioNTech (BNTX) Covid-19 vaccine’s protection against “breakthrough” coronavirus infections, The Los Angeles Times writes. The new study, one of the largest and longest to track the effectiveness of a vaccine in Americans, found that the vaccine’s ability to protect against infection stood at 88% in its first month, then fell to 47% after five months. The study, funded by Pfizer and published Monday in Lancet, also found the vaccine stayed close to 90% effective at preventing hospitalization for at least six months, and also provides strong new evidence that the waning immunity against infection probably would have occurred regardless of the Delta variant.

Behind the unvarnished enthusiasm over an experimental Covid-19 pill, questions are emerging about the cost of the treatment and the leverage the U.S. government may have to address excessive pricing, STAT explains. At issue is molnupiravir, which is being developed by Merck (MRK) and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. Top-line data showed the pill reduced the risk that newly diagnosed patients would be hospitalized by about 50%. The findings suggested the pill would make it much easier and less costly to treat Covid-19 patients, who might otherwise receive pricey drugs that must be infused. As a result, manufacturing terms and related patent applications are being scrutinized.

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