Top 3 Things to Know About Coronavirus Treatments

March 10, 2020

Discover the latest news on COVID-19 vaccine and drug development.

As the cases of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) surge in the U.S., the race is on to develop vaccines and treatments to combat the virus.

As of March 10, there are 730 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and 26 deaths, according to the CDC. The number of cases are expected to increase as testing kits become more available: 4 million additional test kits should be available by the end of the week, according to Anthony S Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

Here are the top 3 things to know about coronavirus drug and vaccine development:

1. Researchers around the globe are rushing to develop a vaccine to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but the development and approval process could take 18 months, Fauci says.

The good news is that vaccine researchers are pursuing different types of vaccines-shots developed from new technologies that not only are faster to make than traditional inoculations but might prove more potent, Associated Press reported.

“Until we test them in humans we have absolutely no idea what the immune response will be,” Judith O’Donnell, infectious disease chief at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, tells AP. “Having a lot of different vaccines-with a lot of different theories behind the science of generating immunity-all on a parallel track really ultimately gives us the best chance of getting something successful.”

Related: FDA, FTC warns suppliers of fraudulent COVID-19 products

The Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle is getting ready to test 45 volunteers with different doses of shots co-developed by NIH and Moderna Inc. And Inovio Pharmaceuticals will start safety tests of its vaccine candidate in April in the US, followed by a similar study in China and South Korea.

2. Gilead Sciences initiated 2 Phase 3 clinical studies to evaluate the safety and efficacy of its antiviral drug remdesivir in adults diagnosed with COVID-19.
Starting this month, the randomized, open-label, multicenter studies will enroll approximately 1,000 patients at medical centers primarily across Asian countries, as well as other countries globally with high numbers of diagnosed cases, Gilead says in a press release.

“The initiation of these studies follows the FDA’s rapid review and acceptance of Gilead’s investigational new drug (IND) filing for remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19,” Gilead says.

The new clinical studies expand the pharma maker’s ongoing research into remdesivir, which includes two clinical trials in China’s Hubei province as well as the recently initiated clinical trial in the US led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Gilead expects results from the China trials in April.

“The speed with which remdesivir has moved into clinical development for this coronavirus reflects the pressing need for treatment options and the shared commitment of industry, governments, global health organizations, and healthcare providers to respond to this public health threat with the highest urgency,” says Merdad Parsey, MD, PhD, chief medical officer, at Gilead Sciences.

3. Abbvie is collaborating with health authorities and institutions globally on the experimental use of its HIV medicine, lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra/Aluvia) to treat COVID-19.

"We are committed to helping in any way we can to address the COVID-19 public health crisis, which is why we responded quickly to the Chinese authorities' request for Aluvia in late January," says Richard A. Gonzalez, chairman and CEO of AbbVie, in a press release. "We are working with global health authorities to ensure we meet the need of COVID-19 patients, conduct the appropriate clinical trials to evaluate its efficacy and ensure uninterrupted supply of the drug Kaletra/Aluvia for HIV patients around the world."

AbbVie is working with European health authorities, FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.