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3 Small Biotechs Provide Coronavirus Drug Development Updates

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With World Health Organization (WHO) declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, faster development of medicines/vaccines is the need of the hour. We note that COVID-19 has already infected more than 118,000 people and the death toll has crossed 4,200, globally. In the United States, the virus has infected more than 1,000 people and claimed 28 lives.

To prevent and treat COVID-19, biotech companies have accelerated their efforts to develop vaccines and treatments. Three small biotechs came up with updates on their coronavirus efforts on Wednesday.

Vir Biotechnology (VIR - Free Report)

Vir Biotechnology announced a joint research project with the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Vaccine Research Center (VRC). The entities will work jointly to identify combinations of antibodies against coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19 disease), SARS and MERS. Vir Biotechnology’s stock was up 13% on Wednesday in response to the news. Earlier this month, Vir Biotechnology announced a collaboration with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals to develop RNAi therapeutics targeting SARS-CoV-2. Earlier, Vir Biotechnology had claimed that it has identified two antibodies that bind to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2

RedHill Biopharma (RDHL - Free Report)

RedHill said it is pursuing an “exploratory program” to evaluate its proprietary new chemical entities (NCE), opaganib and RHB-107, individually and in combination with hydroxychloroquine (a DMARD) and other compounds for treating COVID-19. The decision was based on pre-clinical data and literature indicating potential anti-viral activity of the NCEs.

Kamada (KMDA - Free Report)

Kamada announced plans to use its proven hyper-immunoglobulin (IgG) platform technology to develop an Anti-Corona (COVID-19) immunoglobulin as a potential therapy for severely ill coronavirus patients.



While RedHill carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), Vir Biotechnology and Kamada are #3 Ranked stocks. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Biotechs Race to Make Treatments/Vaccines

Several other small biotechs are also working to make new antibodies, drugs, and vaccines to prevent and treat COVID-19.

Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (“CEPI”), a public-private nonprofit organization, has provided funding of around $24 million to biotechs like Moderna (MRNA - Free Report) , Novavax (NVAX - Free Report) CureVac and Inovio Pharmaceuticals to have potential vaccine candidates in early-stage clinical studies within a few months. Moderna has also collaborated with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and has already shipped the first batch of its potential COVID-19 vaccine to NIAID for phase I testing.

Smaller biotechs like Vaxart, Inovio and Novavax are making an effort to leverage their existing vaccine technology/platform to develop COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

Several big drugmakers like J&J (JNJ - Free Report) , Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline have expressed interest in developing a vaccine for COVID-19. Some of these companies are testing if their existing/pipeline vaccines for flu or infectious diseases like SARS (also caused by a coronavirus) could prove to be effective in halting COVID-19’s spread.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization recommended Gilead’s (GILD - Free Report) investigational antiviral candidate, remdesivir as partial remedy for coronavirus though it has yet not been proven that the candidate can treat the disease. The leading biotech, last month, initiated two phase III studies, which will evaluate two dosing regimens of remdesivir in adults diagnosed with COVID-19. Regeneron signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for manufacturing antibodies targeting SARS-CoV-2. 

AbbVie is working with global health authorities to determine the efficacy of its HIV medicine, Kaletra/Aluvia against COVID-19. The company said it is coordinating with European and U.S. health authorities to support clinical studies on Kaletra/Aluvia for COVID-19 treatment.

Last week, President Donald Trump asked pharmaceutical companies working on making vaccines or treatments for coronavirus to accelerate development.However, none of these vaccines/treatments are expected to be available before a year’s time.

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