Coronavirus pharma news roundup – 24/04/2020

Research into drugs that could treat or prevent COVID-19 continued full steam ahead this week as the industry puts all its resources into fighting the coronavirus pandemic. We highlight the biggest stories from the past seven days.

  • Novartis has announced plans to begin a large-scale trial of hydroxychloroquine in patients hospitalised with COVID-19, which could give a definitive answer about whether the medicine usually used against malaria also works against the coronavirus, while European regulators have urged caution over the cardiac side-effects of the drug.
  • Gilead shares haved jumped after a rethink of its trials for remdesivir – with the company increasing the size of its studies and tinkering with the endpoints, but reports of lacklustre trial results – which have been disputed by the company – still sent shares down.
  • Pfizer and BioNTech are in pole position to start the first human trial of a COVID-19 vaccine in Germany, after getting a green light from the country’s vaccine and biomedicines regulatory body.
  • The sixth COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial has begun at Oxford University as the UK government throws £42.5 million at candidates.
  • The US government has agreed to provide $483 million in federal funding to propel Modera’s coronavirus vaccine to FDA approval and ramp up production capacity.
  • Alexion has announced it will trial its rare disease drug Ultomiris in severe COVID-19 cases. The drug works by inhibiting the complement system, which is thought to play a role in the severe pneumonia that can occur in patients with serious SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infections.
  • A surge in sales for potential COVID-19 candidate Actemra has helped give Roche a solid first quarter, with the company also seeing good sales growth across its new drugs.
  • Stockpiling of drugs for chronic diseases like diabetes during the pandemic has lifted Eli Lilly’s first-quarter results, and caused it to raise profit predictions for the year.
  • A Belgian biotech has started producing tests to rapidly detect antibodies against coronavirus infections, after the CEO of big pharma rival Roche launched a withering attack on some of the other available options.
  • The FDA has backed the first COVID-19 diagnostic with a home collection option, reissuing a previous Emergency Use Authorisation for the LabCorp PCR test.
  • Thousands of patients have signed up to support a large-scale NHS trial for potential treatments for COVID-19 in the UK. With more than 5,000 patients at more than 130 NHS hospitals it will be the largest trial of its kind in the world.
  • UK digital health company Sensyne has launched a free coronavirus health monitor that people can use to monitor their own symptoms, as well as those of family members, loved ones or neighbours.
  • Healthtech startups Patchwork Health and Medics.Academy have joined forces to produce a tool to help newly-qualified doctors and returning retired doctors get trained for the effort against COVID-19.
  • A UK hospital Trust has rolled out a secure communication platform based on medical imaging to help manage its workflow of COVID-19 coronavirus cases.
  • With fake information about COVID-19 in abundance on social media and even news wires, a smartphone app called Healthinote has been launched to provide reliable information about the pandemic.