Bioscience Rushing to Develop Virus Vaccines and Treatments

Big pharma and small bioscience are taking on the coronavirus, some becoming collaborators, some going it alone.

At least 21 companies are working on a vaccine or treatment, according to MarketWatch. A few of the larger firms are financing the development themselves or with partners. The larger share are being funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is funding others.

Several of the companies are testing the efficacy of their existing drugs to treat COVID-19 directly or as therapies to reduce the severity of the virus.

Gilead Sciences, for example, is conducting clinical trials of its antiviral drug Remdesivir. The drug was made available in the US to 1,700 COVID-19 patients on a compassionate use basis. It showed promise, but the sample size was too small to draw broad conclusions. Now, Gilead is conducting several clinical trials in the US and elsewhere. A randomized, controlled clinical trial is underway in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus was first detected.

A vaccine under development by bioscience startup Heat Biologics in partnership with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is among the World Health Organization’s “draft landscape” of 41 candidate vaccines. A different vaccine based on DNA is in phase 1 clinical trial by Inovio Pharmaceuticals. Inovio was given a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to test a delivery device. It also received $9 million from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

Photo by Hakan Nural on Unsplash

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