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.