In the News: Drug Companies Race to Address Coronavirus

Monday, January 27, 2020

An outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, China, has captured international attention, killing 82 in China (as of January 27 reports) and creating travel restrictions for millions in an attempt to contain the spread of the contagion.

Despite these efforts, the virus has spread outside of China. At least five cases of the Wuhan strain of the virus (now being referred to as 2019 novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV) have been confirmed in the U.S., although they have been contained and risk in the U.S. is considered relatively low. To help deal with this pandemic, drug companies and research organizations are quickly working to find a way to treat coronavirus and MERS-CoV, according to an article in Pharmaceutical Technology.

Virus Background

Human coronaviruses present like the common cold with mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract symptoms. Occasionally, they can also cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, like pneumonia and bronchitis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer coronavirus resources and note that there are currently “no specific treatments for illnesses caused by coronaviruses.”

Five Drugs in the Works

According to Pharmaceutical Technology, there are five major drugs in the pipeline that have potential address the Wuhan outbreak:

  1. Noravax’s MERS coronavirus vaccine candidate, developed using the company’s recombinant nanoparticle vaccine technology, is designed to primarily bind to the major surface spike (S) protein.
  2. Invio’s INO-4700, a potential intramuscular coronavirus vaccine, is in development. It uses investigational DNA immunotherapy and demonstrated high immune responses against MERS-CoV in 94% of patients in the early-stage clinical trial in July 2019.
  3. Biocryst’s Galidesivir, an antiviral coronavirus treatment, is currently in advanced stage development. It is a nucleoside RNA polymerase inhibitor that disrupts the process of viral replication and has already shown benefits in patients with Ebola, Zika, and other deadly diseases.
  4. AbbVie’s Lopinavir HIV protease inhibitor is being studied along with ritonavir for treatment of MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. The combo is believed to act on the intracellular processes of coronavirus replication.
  5. Regeneron’s REGN3048-3051 is being studied against coronavirus infection by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), as both the antibodies bind to the S-protein of MERS coronavirus.

To learn more, read the full article.

To keep up with news on the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak and guidance for different regions, visit the World Health Organization’s resource page or find a variety of novel coronavirus society guideline links continually updated on the UpToDate open access resource page.

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