If you are just discovering this site and are looking for some hope for a resolution to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the second entry on the subject. Start here for some background and a whole lot of other reasons for hope including developments in diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.
Since my last post, here is what I’ve seen happening in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry:
One of the most important things in getting control over the situation is knowing who is and is not infected. The easier this is, the faster we know how we’re doing and the more strategic we can be with our measures to isolate and fight the pandemic. There are a lot of things happening on the diagnostics front. Here’s a sample:
In Ottawa, Spartan Bioscience has developed a rapid and portable test kit that can give results in an hour. The government has put in an order for 40,000 kits/month.
At Rutgers University in New Jersey, a team has just had their saliva-based Coronavirus test approved by the FDA. This is particularly exciting as it makes the sample process much easier than most of the current tests which require a quite invasive naso-pharangeal swab.
Ford and Thermo Fisher have partnered to deliver sample collection kits and will be working on PPE (masks & gowns). If there’s one thing I’ve been happy to see these days is the amount of collaboration within and across industries. This is a fantastic example.
Cytodyn is testing a product called Leronlimab. Early results are positive with a severely ill patient being extubated and other moderately-ill patients being able to be taken off oxygen after having received the drug. These are still very early results and the data pool is small,
GlaxoSmithKline has provided US$250 million to Vir, a US biotech company who is working on a product to neutralize the virus. So far, in studies outside of the human body it’s been very effective.
Last time we talked about Gilead’s Remdesavir which is currently in trials. The results, so far are quite positive with 2/3 of people receiving the treatment improving afterward as reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. However, it is important to pay attention to this quote from the article: “The paper’s author called the findings “hopeful,” but cautioned that it is difficult to interpret the results since they do not include comparison to a control group, as would be the case in a randomized clinical trial. In addition, the patient numbers were small, the details being disclosed are limited, and the follow-up time was relatively short.” It doesn’t mean it isn’t working, but that to properly prove that it’s effective, more testing is needed.
Speaking of more testing being needed, I should point out that as people look at performance of the BCG vaccine, the data is looking less conclusive. Like the data above, it may well be as effective as they say. However the data we currently have has so many variables in it that it is impossible to find a correlation. There’s more in this excellent article here. This doesn’t mean you should give up hope, but it does mean any hope must be tempered with a bit of skepticism and a bit of “wait and see”.
The most effective solution, of course, will be if an effective vaccine is found. There is a great deal of effort going on in this respect as I shared previously. Since then there’s even more information:
Johnson & Johnson has identified a leading candidate for a vaccine. They also have two additional ‘backup candidates’ identified and have obtained funding to expand their production capacity within and outside the US.
Pfizer and BioNTech will begin testing their vaccines in humans by the end of this month.
In an incredible collaboration, two of the biggest vaccine manufacturers, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur have announced that they will be working together on a vaccine, hoping to get that in to clinical trials late this year with availability by late 2021.
As you can see, the industry continues to be putting a great deal of work in to finding a solution. Like any other problem-solving exercise there’s a bit of trial and error and we really need to prove that something is safe and effective before releasing it to the general public as failing to do that can lead to disastrous results. But my feeling is that with so much work progressing on so many fronts, and with so much private and public money being provided, the chances of there being a solution discovered and developed quickly is really high.
So take heart and keep following your local isolation and social distancing measures. Your doing that is what buys these companies the time to develop and bring these solutions in to production and what keeps all of us alive while we wait.
Stay safe, folks.