Till now there is no proven treatment/vaccine for coronavirus infection, which is induced by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). And, the US health officials have stated that development of a vaccine for COVID-19 would take a minimum of 12-18 months. However, finding an effective drug treatment for this infectious disease quickly is the need of the hour. According to Johns Hopkins University, the virus has infected over 2.6 million people and claimed more than 1,83,820 lives across the world so far.
As the companies across the world are trying to find the best possible treatment for the deadly COVID-19 and performing clinical trials, everyone is keenly watching the race to deliver vaccine/treatment that could avoid future coronavirus infections.
In this article, we will acquaint you with two different stories related to the development of COVID-19 treatment.
Gilead Plummets After Statement on Data from Remdesivir Study
According to some media reports, shares of American biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc. fell after a report, quoting a draft document, was accidentally published by the World Health Organization, mentioning that the antiviral drug remdesivir failed to improve the condition of COVID-19 patients or lessen the presence of virus in the bloodstream in phase 3 clinical studies.
As dozens of treatments are being developed for COVID-19, remdesivir is one of the most closely watched therapies that are being tested as a potential treatment for COVID-19 patients.
Remdesivir, developed in part to fight Ebola, showed promise in laboratory tests against SARS and MERS as well as the potential to inhibit SARS-CoV-2. Remdesivir is not approved as an investigational compound, and its safety and efficacy for COVID-19 treatment are still unknown.
But was it really a failure? What Gilead has to say about this?
After reporting by media that the company’s experimental drug being tested for severe cases of COVID-19 failed to show a positive result, Gilead Sciences stated that-
Data from the first clinical study assessing the investigational antiviral remdesivir in patients with severe COVID-19 disease in China was prematurely published on the website of WHO, and this has been removed now, as the investigators of the study did not give consent for the publication of the findings.
Moreover, Gilead mentioned that there was early termination of the study due to insufficient enrollment of patients and, consequently, it was underpowered to facilitate statistically significant decisions.
As per the information available on the statement provided by the company, there are multiple ongoing Phase 3 clinical studies that are designed to provide the extra information that is required for the determination of the potential for remdesivir as a COVID-19 treatment.
The outcomes will help in advising whom and when to treat, and how prolonged would be the treatment with remdesivir. Gilead added that either the clinical studies are completely enrolled for the initial analysis or remain on track to completely enroll in the foreseeable future.
The Company added that it anticipates sharing outcomes at the end of April from the open-label clinical study of remdesivir in critically ill COVID-19 patients.
The China-led study, which was headed by Bin Cao, had not enough patients. The study was earlier designed to start with 450 patients but was unable to find enough patients due to aggressive lockdowns across the regions.
On 23 April 2020, stock of Gilead Sciences fell by 4.34% to USD 77.78.
The fluctuations in the share price of Gilead over the past week demonstrate just how challenging it is to wager on development for treatments for COVID-19.
But there is still hope!
Australia-based Mesoblast Reveals Remarkable Trial Results
Melbourne-headquartered ASX-listed health care company, Mesoblast Limited (ASX:MSB) is a frontrunner in developing innovative cellular medicines worldwide. The Company has a strong emerging drug pipeline with a robust and extensive global intellectual property (IP) with its compounds under clinical research.
Early Success with Outstanding Results
Mesoblast revealed positive outcomes from its Phase 2/3 trial of remestemcel-L.
The Company mentioned stem cell treatment has drastically increased survival rates in trials for the patients suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) due to COVID-19 and on the ventilator. Mesoblast has been conducting the clinical trials of its allogeneic mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy remestemcel-L with New York City's Mt Sinai hospital, and the early signs show promising outcomes.
The study reveals that in the sample size of 12 patients, ten patients (83%) have survived after the mesenchymal stem cell (MSCs) treatment compared to a 12% survival rate in ventilator-dependent COVID-19 patients treated with standard of care at two major referral hospital networks in the US city.
Moreover, Mesoblast disclosed that 75% of the patients (9 out of 12) were able to come off from ventilator support within a median of ten days, compared to a 9% rate for patients treated with standard of care during March and April.
It is noteworthy to mention that seven of the patients having COVID-19 induced ARDS symptoms, who were treated with remestemcel-L within five days under emergency compassionate use, have now been discharged from the hospital.
Post announcement, the share price of MSB skyrocketed by 38.931% to close the day’s trade at $2.730 on 24 April 2020. With a market cap of $1.06 billion, the Company has ~537.27 million outstanding shares on ASX.
It seems a challenge to develop vaccine/treatment for COVID-19 for many pharmaceutical and biotech giants; however, we should still be positive and put our hopes on, with the efforts being made by them. Also, as one ASX-listed stem cell and regenerative medicine development company came up with a treatment that potentially boosts the survival rate of critically ill COVID-19 patients, global access to a clinically proven therapy or treatment does not seem too far.