What We’re Reading: Sickle Cell Gene Therapy Partnership; Global COVID-19 Cases on Decline; Storms Slow Vaccine Rollout

February 17, 2021
AJMC Staff

Novartis is teaming up with the Gates Foundation to develop a gene therapy for sickle cell disease; the World Health Organization reports a drop in global cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); storms hinder vaccine rollout across the United States.

Novartis, Gates Foundation to Research Gene Therapy for Sickle Cell Disease

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Novartis are collaborating to discover and develop a one-step, one-time gene therapy treatment to cure sickle cell disease, STAT News reports. Although the cause of sickle cell disease is understood and the people it affects are known, a cure has been difficult to pin down. Through a 3-year partnership, the companies aim to create a treatment that is affordable and simple enough to treat individuals anywhere in the world, including sub-Saharan Africa, where disease prevalence is high. Current gene therapy approaches are complex and expensive, and they create treatments for patients one at a time. With an initial funding amount of $7.28 million, the companies ultimately hope to create an off-the-shelf product.

Global Rate of New COVID-19 Cases Declines

In the past week, the rate of new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases has declined by 16% around the world, according to the World Health Organization. This decline comes even as more virulent strains of COVID-19 have caused new outbreaks in some regions, The Washington Post reports. In addition to the decline in cases, over the past week there has been a 10% reduction in the number of deaths worldwide, with the greatest drop in cases seen in Europe and the Americas. In the United States alone, the number of new infections decreased by nearly 24% in the past week.

Storms Slow US Vaccine Rollout

Deadly storms across the country hampered COVID-19 vaccination efforts on Tuesday, forcing appointment cancellations and delaying vaccine deliveries, according to the Associated Press. The surge of bad weather comes as the federal government rolled out new vaccination sites targeting hard-hit communities and seeks to boost the amount of vaccine sent to states to 13.5 million doses per week. Currently, the United States administers an average of 1.7 million doses per day, but the bad weather halted vaccinations in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Tennessee, and Missouri and is expected to disrupt shipments from facilities in Tennessee and Kentucky.