- Pfizer has a promising drug in development that targets the novel coronavirus’s ability to replicate.
- The new drug could help save patients experiencing mild-to-moderate COVID-19 cases, but extensive human testing is still needed.
- The pharmaceutical giant is also working on adapting additional drugs for severe COVID-19 cases, as well as four distinct vaccine candidates for the new disease.
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The novel coronavirus tuned out the be a much bigger problem than some governments had anticipated. Nearly 1.6 million people have been infected by COVID-19 so far, and almost 100,000 patients died fighting it as of Friday morning. These numbers will worsen in the coming weeks. As more cases are detected, more at-risk patients will develop complications and die. But things are improving in various countries, as social distancing measures are starting to work.
The main problem with the new virus is that there’s no therapy for it, though plenty of potential cures are already in testing around the world. Some have shown promise in limited tests but need further scientific data. Others are vaccines that might eradicate the disease, but they need to pass through proper regulatory hoops that verify their efficacy and safety. Pharmaceutical company Phizer already has a promising new drug against coronavirus, and it’s adapting other existing medicines for COVID-19. On top of that, the company is working on four different vaccines and said it’ll provide assistance with manufacturing others if outside companies’ vaccines turn out to be better choices against the coronavirus, and if they need additional manufacturing capacity.
Pfizer has assembled a team of 50 researchers to work on the virus. These people haven’t even met in person to work on COVID-19 therapies, as they’ve been brought on the effort from different departments.
Pfizer’s experimental drug doesn’t have a name yet, but it’s already showing promise at stopping the new coronavirus from replicating. The drug can block a protease, a key enzyme that lets the virus replicate. If it works, the virus could slow or stop the spread of the virus in patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms, The Wall Street Journal reports. Testing on humans won’t start until August.
The company is apparently hopeful the treatment will work and has already purchased the raw materials needed to manufacture the medicine.
Separately, Pfizer has been looking at its rheumatoid-arthritis drug Xeljanz for COVID-19 patients. The drug is in testing in Italy and the trial will end in July. The drug’s purpose is to reduce the immune response in severe COVID-19 cases where the immune response is out of control and can endanger the life of a patient. Roche is working on a similar anti-inflammatory drug called Actemra that has shown promise in patients who develop respiratory problems.
Additionally, Pfizer will test one of its antibiotics in coronavirus therapy that might be familiar to some people. Azithromycin, Zithromax or Z-Pak is the drug you’ve heard about on TV as a potential cure for COVID-19 if combined with hydroxychloroquine. Antibiotics will not kill the virus per se, but they may be required in some cases where patients may contract bacterial infections.
The pharma giant will also work with the U.K.-based Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to investigate whether COVID-19 patients are at risk of developing pneumococcal pneumonia and whether the combination could lead to a more severe COVID-19 case.
Finally, Pfizer is working with German company BioNTech on an mRNA vaccine for COVID-19, with clinical tests set to start at the end of April. That’s the same kind of novel vaccine technology as Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which is one of the first vaccines to have hit human trials. Three other Pfizer vaccine candidates will also begin testing in the coming weeks.
Pfizer and Roche’s efforts against the COVID-19 are part of a worldwide race to find cures for the new ailment. Some 140 therapies or vaccines are already in development, and about a dozen of them are in clinical trials, according to Informa Pharma Intelligence data cited by The Journal.