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Vaccine hopes, the shifting biopharma workplace & Blueprint’s Dx deal: a BioCentury Podcast

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New data for the vaccine candidate from Oxford and AstraZeneca have stoked enthusiasm that countermeasures against COVID-19 are within reach. On the latest edition of the BioCentury This Week podcast, BioCentury editors discuss the latest readout from one of the COVID-19 vaccine front-runners, how biopharma companies are managing back to work and Blueprint’s diagnostic deal with Roche.

Senior Editor Lauren Martz explains results from AstraZeneca plc (LSE:AZN; NYSE:AZN) and the University of Oxford, who she says will likely move forward with a two-dose schedule for their adenoviral vaccine following a Phase I/II readout, a decision that could shift timelines, availability and tolerability of the vaccine (see “Two-dose Schedule, Infection Levels May Shift Timelines for AZ-Oxford Vaccine”).

Washington Editor Steve Usdin cautions that companies developing countermeasures in general run the risk a backlash because they are overpromising on timelines for vaccines and therapies. That leaves the companies at risk of under-delivering, Usdin says, by setting expectations that the products are going to be available in the early fall in quantities large enough to have a significant impact in the battle against COVID-19.

Editor in Chief Simone Fishburn previews BioCentury’s latest survey, which polled member companies of the COVID R&D Alliance on how they are managing back to work, what they’re seeing in their workforce and how they’re managing productivity.

She says the take-home message is that this period could preface a significant change in how biopharma’s business gets done. On the upside, the companies are seeing efficiencies of virtual work even as lab work in clinical trials and sales and marketing are lagging. But concern is mounting over stress levels in their workforces, and allowing flexible hours for employees, as they navigate the perpetual work-from-home environment, is one of the main solutions for managing employee welfare (see “COVID-19 Foreshadows a Change in How Business is Done”).

Associate Editor Stephen Hansen analyzes the year’s largest licensing deal thus far. Blueprint Medicines Corp. (NASDAQ:BPMC) has secured the resources it needs to sustain itself financially, he says, while gaining access to the diagnostic capabilities of Roche (SIX:ROG; OTCQX:RHHBY), a key driver for commercializing its targeted therapies for genetically-defined populations. The deal is the latest example of an emerging trend where biotechs partner with pharmas or big biotechs rather than opting for a takeout, thanks in part to their access to capital (see “Roche Deal Clears Path for Blueprint’s Financial Independence”).

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