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Looking to 2022 as the end of coronavirus and forward progress in paediatric cancer care

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Good afternoon, health colleagues, and a warm Christmas welcome to the last European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) update of 2021. For all of those just itching for some additional reading, do check out the work below published on paediatric cancer by EAPM, writes EAPM Executive Director Dr. Denis Horgan. 

Movement in paediatric cancer care

Authors from a dozen countries have contributed original research and review articles on disease development, causes, patient maintenance and therapeutic strategies in response to the creation of this topic. It has been compiled in partnership with a number of journals, including Cancers, Journal of Personalised, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, and in collaboration with the Fondation Botnar, the Swiss philanthropic champion of the use of AI and digital technologies to improve the health and wellbeing of children and young people in growing urban environments. The topic provides a unique insight into current efforts – notably in pediatric cancer precision medicine – in developed and developing countries to deploy original thinking and meticulous data use across frontier science, reflecting only a microcosm of the current applications of oncogenomics in this bustling space of clinical translation.

The research reported here ranges from studies exploring cutting-edge technology in new areas of diagnosis to pragmatic comparisons of distinct methodologies in treatment. Overall it amounts to an attempt to benchmark the global factor of how to bring personalised medicine into the healthcare system and map this against best practice in different areas, related particularly to paediatrics in developing countries. 

Here is the link for the series of articles. 

A big thank you from EAPM to our partners

Along with the continuing crisis and woes of the coronavirus pandemic, 2021 has been a year that has seen much success and achievement in improvising early diagnosis and treatment for patients in terms of health policy development, despite the challenges that COVID-19 has put in everyone’s way, so now is the time to offer a big thank you to all of EAPM’s partners, it couldn’t have been done without you. 

Paris waiting in the wings

2022 is right around the corner — which means France is eagerly awaiting to take over the rotating Council presidency. For the outgoing president, Slovenia, the end is near. The country of 2 million was ambitious to push the EU’s Artificial Intelligence forward, but will rather be remembered for clinching a deal between the 27 EU states on two widely discussed tech rulebooks, the Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act (DMA/DSA). Slovenia followed Portugal as president of the EU Council and — to many — was considered somewhat of a placeholder ahead of the French presidency. 

The country, however, defied the odds and brokered deals on digital competition, content moderation and cybersecurity texts between the 27 EU states, and on data-sharing and roaming texts with Parliament negotiators. partial compromise on half of the bill.

Google with pandemic data

Information collected online by US search giant Google helped economists and decision-makers keep track of what shoppers were buying goods and how businesses were faring during pandemic-induced lockdowns. Staffers at the International Monetary Fund have managed to develop high-frequency indicators from that Google data to track how the economy is doing in almost real-time.

Pharmaceutical gaps 

This week is the deadline for citizens and interested parties to tell the Commission where they see gaps in pharmaceutical legislation. As part of a major review — and overhaul — of Europe’s pharmaceutical legislation, including incentives for drugmakers to develop certain therapies, the Commission has invited feedback from across the sector.

These regulations have not been updated in 20 years, during which time a host of new treatments have journeyed from the lab to the bedside, including cell and gene therapies and novel biologicals. Crunches in supply chains have emerged in the meantime. And the effectiveness of antibiotics is in jeopardy as microbes become increasingly resistant to these drugs. “The number of cell and gene therapy developers and clinical trials in Europe is declining, but the pharmaceutical legislation revision is a huge opportunity for policymakers to re-establish the future of medicine in Europe,” said Paige Bischoff, senior vice president of global public affairs at the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine. 

This group wants to see GMO requirements made fit for purpose, and true access for patients to cell and gene therapies across the bloc.The Commission will review the feedback and finalize its legislative proposals next year. 

European Medicine Agency: Cooke urges COVID-19 vaccine makers to boost capacity 

Europe’s COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers have delivered around 2.3 billion doses after boosting production capacity significantly this year — but they still need to do more, according to the head of the European Medicines Agency. Emer Cooke, speaking at the agency’s final press briefing of the year, said the agency has “worked tirelessly to help companies to increase their manufacturing capacity”. In the first quarter of this year, the EU had capacity to manufacture 100 million doses a month, she said. “Now we’re in a position to manufacture 300 million doses in Europe each month.”

Nonetheless, Cooke called on manufacturers to do more.

“This upward trend can and must continue,” she said. “Increasing supply means that we can support global access in addition to European access.”

Faced with the dual wave from both Delta and Omicron variants, Cooke said that with five vaccines and six treatments, “we’re in a stronger position than this time last year”. The European Commission authorized the use of Novavax’s jab on Monday (20 December) following the EMA’s recommendation.

Pandemic to end in 2022, WHO predicts 

The global pandemic should come to an end next year, according to officials at the World Health Organization (WHO.

“2022 must be the end of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking today at the organization’s last planned briefing of the year on the coronavirus.

Tedros said he believed the pandemic will end next year because, two years into the situation, “we know the virus very well and we have all the tools [to fight it]”.

He said WHO projections show that vaccine supplies should be sufficient to vaccinate the entire global adult population and to give boosters to high-risk populations by the first quarter of 2022.

The big issues to overcome were “implementing all the tools effectively” and notably, “taking care of equity.”

“Unless we vaccinated the whole world, I don’t think we can end this pandemic,” he concluded.

“My concern is whether we have the stamina to end it,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead COVID-19, at the WHO Health Emergencies Program, adding: “I believe we can.”

Meanwhile, the WHO is still monitoring whether disease from Omicron is as severe as previous variants such as Delta. This data is still “uncertain,” said Van Kerkhove.

CDC struggles to track US COVID cases as Omicron looms

As the world experiences new, more transmissible COVID-19 variants, scientists and health officials in the US are still struggling to gather accurate and timely domestic data to help inform policy decisions to safeguard Americans.

Continuing gaps in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s data collection programme, which almost two years into the pandemic still relies on state health departments who use a mix of often incompatible and outdated state systems to identify cases, impedes the nation’s understanding of where and how fast the virus is spreading, according to more than a dozen state and federal officials involved in tracking cases.

“I think we’ve done a horrible job from day one in data tracking for the pandemic,” said Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research and former advisory board member of the COVID Tracking Project, a team that worked to collect and synthesize local COVID-19 during the peak of the pandemic. “We’re not tracking all the things that we need to to get a handle on what’s going on. It is embarrassing.”

Meanwhile, other Western countries have tapped into their modern health systems that can easily track patient data and seamlessly share epidemiologic information across a broad spectrum of health care facilities and public health departments. Because of the lack of accurate and timely domestic data, Biden health officials over the last eight months have increasingly relied on international sources to respond to domestic surges in part because they believe the information is more reliable, the officials said.

At the federal level, the CDC could not visualize how COVID-19 was spreading across the country because it relied almost entirely on the states to provide it with epidemiological data. The CDC requires every state to report specific virus and disease information to its scientists who then study the data, track trends and create policy recommendations based on their analyses. But with state data backlogged and missing critical components, the CDC simply could not get a clear picture of how the virus was spreading.

Good news to finish – Reasons to be cheerful on Omicron

A number of factors suggest there may be some ground for a little optimism concerning the Omicron variant, though scientists are careful to add the key caveat that we are only at the beginning of our dealings with the latest strain of the disease. 

And that is all from EAPM for 2021 – have a safe and wonderful Christmas and New Year, and see you in 2022!

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