A cure for COVID-19 may have been found
The pharmaceutical company, Gilead's new antiviral may be the first drug to demonstrate clinical success against Covid-19. according to a report published by Leerink research.
'Remdesivir', the antiviral in question, was first developed by Gilead and the U.S. government in the mid-2010s in response to the Ebola pandemic. While the drug showed initial promise against Ebola during animal testing and Phase 1 human trials in 2015, the drug proved to be less effective in the Phase 3 study implemented in the Democratic Republic of Congo and was largely abandoned.
The emergence of the new strain of Coronavirus, called the SARS-CoV-2 which is responsible for the Covid-19 disease, however, has led to Gilead revisiting the experiments that were conducted with the drug earlier this decade.
The current plan of action
Gilead has already begun supplying the drug to hundreds of patients in Washington state, where over 30 deaths have already been recorded. These drugs will be administered to the patients through expanded access, also called 'compassionate use', a provision which allows drugs, which haven't passed clinical trials, to be used on critically sick patients with individuals FDA approval.
Besides this Gilead is working with the Chinese government and the American NIH to conduct clinical trials which are expected to yield results by early April. While Gilead and its collaborators are hopeful of these trials, it is important to remember that the drug had shown initial success even in the case of Ebola, which led to massive stockpiling of the drug and major investments to augment Gilead's supply chain and manufacturing capacities. In fact, it is the excess drugs which were generated during this process that are being used in the clinical trials.
If the drugs prove to be effective, Gilead will be expected to produce enormous quantities of the drug to effectively meet the high demand from both the governments and the affected patients. In response to this possibility, Gilead is investing heavily in its supply chain and manufacturing. In conversation with reporters at a briefing in Washington, DC earlier this week, O'Day claimed, "We're investing tens of millions of dollars today, hundreds of millions of dollars in the very near future to scale up manufacturing facilities - both at Gilead and through a variety of partners - to make this happen."
Gilead is in fact not the only pharmaceutical company which is currently developing a drug against SARS-CoV-2. Abbvie Inc., and Regeneron are competitors that are actively involved in producing a drug to tackle the crisis as well; however, Gilead is currently furthest along in the drug development pipeline according to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases.