Coronavirus pharma news roundup – 17/04/20

As Europe and the US mooted easing lockdown restrictions this week, pharma ramped up its testing of vaccines and antiviral drugs – but there are signs that the virus is starting to bite into the industry’s projected growth. Here we round up the biggest pharma news stories surrounding the virus this week.

  • AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly have joined the ranks of drugmakers trying to repurpose existing drugs for use in COVID-19 patients. A trial of Lilly’s JAK inhibitor Olumiant (baricitinib) – approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis – is due to start later this month. AZ meanwhile is planning to start a trial of its BTK inhibitor Calquence (acalabrutinib).
  • Two of the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturers, Sanofi and GSK, have announced they are teaming up to develop an adjuvanted coronavirus vaccine candidate, combining technology from both companies.
  • Former GlaxoSmithKline chief executive Sir Andrew Witty will lead the push to develop vaccines for COVID-19 at the World Health Organization (WHO), taking a leave of absence from his current role at US group UnitedHealth’s Optum health services business.
  • The first study of Gilead’s remdesivir in COVID-19 revealed little. Two-thirds of coronavirus patients treated with the antiviral drug remdesivir seemed to get a clinical benefit, but it’s still far too early to say if it is effective.
  • Later in the week, two investigator-led phase 3 trials for remdesivir were halted because they weren’t able to enrol enough participants. Gilead shares slid as a result.
  • Sanofi is collaborating with US start-up Luminostics to develop a smartphone-based self-diagnosis test for COVID-19 that could give a result within 30 minutes.
  • Roche announced it is developing a new antibody test for COVID-19, with a planned launch date in early May.
  • The Folding@Home project, which taps into spare processing power from home computers and consoles to find new drugs, is being directed towards the search for antivirals that could treat COVID-19.
  • Johnson & Johnson has kicked off the first-quarter results season with a healthy lift in sales and earnings, but pegged back its annual growth forecasts due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.
  • The UK government has confirmed it plans to use a contact tracing app that will warn people if they have been in contact with someone infected with the coronavirus. – with the aim to try to curb the spread of the virus and make it easier for the country to move out of lockdown before the economy is crippled.

pharmaphorum, in partnership with IQVIA will be taking a deep dive into the impact of COVID-19 on UK and Ireland pharma and biotech. Tune into our webinar on 23 April, 12.30pm BST.