A quick summary of major pharma players looking for COVID-19 solutions:

While most of the global population is under lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, many laboratories in the pharma industry are striving to tackle the pandemic.

Some companies are repurposing or developing treatment, others are focusing on vaccines, tests or technology to deliver drugs in the body.

Existing drugs being repurposed

  • Gilead Sciences Inc’s (NASDAQ:GILD) antiviral medication remdesivir is undergoing the final phase of clinical trials, with results expected by the beginning of May.
  • AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) is assessing the efficacy of Calquence, normally used for blood cancer.
  • Sanofi is focusing on Plaquenil/Hydroxychloroquine, used for malaria, and rheumatoid arthritis treatment Kevzara in conjunction with Regeneron.
  • Another repurposed arthritis treatment is Swiss giant Roche’s Actemra, with clinical results expected between June and July.
  • Ergomed PLC (LON:ERGO) is running trials for two antibodies, namilumab (IZN-101) and siltuximab. Interim data on the latter showed that 33% of patients saw clinical improvement, with a reduced need for oxygen support, while 43% stabilised.
  • Respiratory drug developer Synairgen PLC (LON:SNG) is testing its candidate SNG001, a formulation based on a interferon beta, a naturally occurring protein which orchestrates the body’s antiviral responses.
  • CytoDyn Inc begun the first human trials for leronlimab (PRO 140), initially designed to treat HIV, in mid-April.

New treatment

  • GlaxoSmithKline PLC (LON:GSK) and Vir Biotechnology Inc (NASDAQ:VIR) are cooperating to research coronaviruses using Vir’s antibody platform technology.
  • Tiziana Life Sciences PLC (LON:TILS) has developed a handheld inhaler that will allow the rapid delivery of TZLS-501, its drug to treat inflammation of the lung caused by the coronavirus.
  • The NHS is preparing to test the blood of coronavirus survivors to see if it can be used to treat patients.
  • Other groups are working on antibodies from people who have recovered, such as Takeda, Mount Sinai and Hopkins. The results can be used by vaccine developers as they will help understanding how the immune system works, said Tim Xu, investment associate at venture capital company Arix Bioscience PLC (LON:ARIX).

Vaccines

  • GlaxoSmithKline PLC (LON:GSK) and French rival Sanofi have agreed to develop a candidate that is scheduled to enter clinical trials in the second half of 2020 and be ready by 2021.
  • Biotech company Moderna Inc (NASDAQ:MRNA) developed a candidate in only 63 days, entering trials in March. If ready it could be available to some professional categories by autumn 2020.
  • Frontier IP Group PLC’s (LON:FIPP) portfolio company The Vaccine Group is working on formulations for animals to prevent coronaviruses from infecting humans againa.
  • German company CureVac was subject to a tug of war between the country’s government and Donald Trump, who prompted outrage by attempting to buy the low-cost coronavirus vaccine developer last month.
  • Other candidates are being studied by Inovio, the Shenzhen Geno-Immune Medical Institute, CanSino Biologicals and a partnership between Soligenix and the University of Hawaii.

Diagnostics and equipment

  • Several companies are focusing on serology tests, which target antibodies to see whether the person has had the virus. According to analysts at Credit Suisse, they are “critical” in understanding immunity and potentially lift restrictions. Abbott and Eurofins announced the launch of their tests in mid-April, while Roche is developing one scheduled to be ready in early May.
  • Novacyt PLC (LON:NCYT) has been one of the pioneers in swab testing, launching the first kit in February, followed by a second one, designed to deliver faster results, in March. It is manufacturing 4mln tests per month. It is also developing a new test that does not require certain extraction reagents which are lacking throughout the market.
  • Genedrive PLC (LON:GDR) has partnered with Cytiva to have tests ready by May.