Coronavirus pharma news roundup – 22/05/20

Trials for vaccines and drugs to fight coronavirus dominated the news this week as funding ramped up and several pharma firms announced positive signs from their studies. Here are the biggest COVID-19 stories of the past seven days. 

  • AstraZeneca has said that it will be able to produce a billion doses of its potential COVID-19 vaccine by 2021 after receiving more than $1 billion from the US government to support development and production.
  • Moderna is looking to raise $1.34bn for late-stage trials of its own COVID-19 vaccine, after the company reported results showing people taking the jab are capable of producing neutralising antibodies against the virus that causes the disease. In an interview Professor Colin Pouton told pharmaphorum he was ‘optimistic’ about COVID vaccines because of the company’s data.
  • Canada has joined the race to find a vaccine after its national drug regulator cleared a plan to begin studying the front-running candidate, an adenovirus-based vaccine developed jointly by China’s CanSino Biological and the National Research Council of Canada.
  • The world’s largest trial into hydroxychloroquine as a preventive treatment for COVID-19 has begun in the UK. Meanwhile, President Trump’s big agreement with a new US drugmaker to supply drugs for COVID-19 has been overshadowed by his admission he is taking the drug as a preventive measure.
  • Shares in Sorrento Therapeutics rose 158% after it revealed plans to start human trials of an antibody therapy that achieved complete inhibition of the coronavirus in preclinical studies.
  • US biotech BioSig Technologies’ subsidiary ViralClear has been cleared by the FDA to start a phase 2 trial of its antiviral drug merimepodib in patients who are severely ill with COVID-19.
  • The disruption caused by the coronavirus crisis hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of European venture capitalists to make funding available to healthcare companies, says a new report.
  • The COVID-19 crisis is causing a surge in interest in ‘virtual trials’ where the bulk of the data is collected using digital technology and often from a patient’s own home.
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted that the UK’s contact tracing will be in place next month, but the NHS’ smartphone app will only play a minor role at that time.

Join us on 27 May for the next webinar in our monthly COVID-19 briefing series, in partnership with IQVIA. Our expert panel will analyse the UK government’s response to the pandemic and ask how pharma can prepare for the ‘new normal’ after the pandemic.