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Interview: Rajeev Venkayya, president of Takeda Vaccine

Published on 19/01/15 at 07:45am
Rajeev Venkayya, president of Takeda Vaccines image
Rajeev Venkayya, president of Takeda Vaccine


Rajeev Venkayya is the president of the global vaccine business unit at Takeda Pharmaceuticals. He has served as special assistant to former US president George W. Bush and senior director for Biodefense at the White House, and then director of Vaccine Delivery at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Can you tell us about yourself and your role at Takeda

UK nurse with Ebola in ‘critical condition’

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A British nurse that was diagnosed with Ebola last week is said to be in a critical condition at the Royal Free Hospital London. 

Pauline Cafferkey arrived back in the UK on the 30 December from Sierra Leone where she had been volunteering with the charity Save the Children. 

A spokesperson for the hospital said it was “sorry to announce that the condition of Pauline Cafferkey has gradually deteriorated over the past two days”. 

New hope through Ebola vaccine trial

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A report in the Lancet medical journal has highlighted a treatment found to be well-tolerated in healthy Ugandan adults during a trial that will pave the way for a more potent version.

The Phase I trial comprised 108 adults from Kampala being given either an Ebola vaccine, a shot for the closely related Marburg virus, both medicines or a placebo.

The Ebola and Marburg vaccines were reported to generate a comparable response in tests involving Ugandan and American volunteers, revealing that they are (so far) safe and generate an immune response in both populations.

Government plans £6 billion precision medicine strategy

The government has committed to a £6 billion investment in scientific research and development as part of its science and innovation strategy for the UK.

It includes plans for a new research hub in precision medicine due to open in 2015. The new centre will extend the government’s Catapult network – the elite technology and innovation centres, the Catapults, that focus on sectors or challenges with large market potential and where the UK has a global research lead.

GSK Ebola vaccine gets EU support

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A newly-formed European consortium is to help advance the development of GlaxoSmithKline’s promising Ebola vaccine.

The consortium is backed by around $18 million from the European Commission and expects to receive an additional $1.7 million from the Swiss government.

It includes GSK and research partners from the University of Oxford, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois in Switzerland, and the Bernhard-Nocht Institute.

Merck Ebola vaccine shows promise

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Merck and NewLink Genetics’ experimental Ebola vaccine has shown no major side effects in its first trial according to the hospital conducting the study – although there were some cases of mild fever.

The VSV-ZEBOV vaccine was given to 34 volunteers at the request of the World Health Organisation (WHO), who were then kept under observation for one and a half hours following injection.

GSK Ebola vaccine ‘promising’ in early trials

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The first trial results for GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) Ebola vaccine candidate have shown that the medicine was well-tolerated and produced an immunological response in the participants.

The small Phase I study, conducted by the US National Institute of Health (NIH), only tested the vaccine on 20 healthy adults in America, but further trials in other countries are underway – including a trial in Mali assessing its safety and immune response in West African populations.

Takeda: we’re working on Ebola too

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The president of Takeda Vaccines has told Pharmafile that the Japanese firm has identified compounds that could help prevent infection of the Ebola virus.

Rajeev Venkayya who is the US Chicago-based head of its vaccines business unit was asked if – like GSK, J&J, ZMapp and Sihuan pharma – Takeda too was working on anything to prevent the disease or its spread.

Venkayya says: “We are looking very carefully at our pipeline, and we’ve identified potential candidates that might have an impact on the evolution of the infection and we’re currently evaluating those.”

Sanofi appoints an Ebola response co-ordinator

Published on: 19/11/14

Former director of the NIH Vaccine Research Center Dr Gary Nabel has been hired by Sanofi to spearhead its contribution towards the ‘global fight against Ebola’.

Nabel who is the firm’s chief scientific officer and senior VP, will be identifying how Sanofi can advance countermeasures to contain the current outbreak, and “prioritise and foster opportunities to develop novel treatments for the future”.

MSF starts trials of Ebola candidates

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Three experimental Ebola therapies will be tested at sites operated by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in West Africa, according to the medical charity which hopes to report data by February.

The trials were announced just after the death toll for Ebola passed the 5,100 mark, with more than 14,000 cases recorded centred particularly around Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.  Two will take place at centres in Guinea, with the location of the third yet to be decided. 

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