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Weekly Biotech Update After WHO Declares Coronavirus a Pandemic

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With the number of people infected by the novel coronavirus crossing the 120,000-mark, the World Health Organization (“WHO”) declared Covid-19, the coronavirus infection, a pandemic on Mar 11. At the time of writing this article, the number of confirmed cases is 133,535. The disease has claimed 4,964 lives so far. Although the epicenter of the outbreak, China is registering fewer new cases of infection, European countries mainly Italy, France and Spain have witnessed a spurt in new cases. It is hard to detect as the infected people have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. The disease has spread to 110 countries in the past month, resulting in lockdown of cities, cancellation of public gatherings, travel restrictions and bloodbath in global stock markets.

As of the latest update, there have been 1,620 infection cases and 40 deaths due to Covid-19 in the United States. The U.S. capital declared a state of emergency during this week. However, the situation has slightly improved in China, with more than 64,000 people being discharged from hospitals after getting cured since Jan 20 seems to be a major relief. Lower number of new cases and majority of infected people getting cured in China suggests that containing the risk of spreading of this infection may lead to faster removal of the virus. Moreover, several large and small pharma companies have engaged themselves in developing a vaccine or treatments for Covid-19. Federal governments and other organization worldwide are coming forward to save more lives.

Here we provide progress of vaccines or therapies being developed by pharma/biotechs for Covid-19 during this week.

This week three large pharma companies got engaged in addressing the Covid-19 situation. The FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization to Roche’s (RHHBY - Free Report) cobas SARS-CoV-2 Test for faster detection of the infection. Moreover, AbbVie (ABBV - Free Report) collaborated with select health authorities and institutions globally to test the efficacy of its HIV drug, Kaletra against Covid-19. AbbVie stated that some sources have claimed that Kaletra has been effective in treating COVID-19 in China, however, it does not have clinical data to support the claim. Eli Lilly (LLY - Free Report) and privately-held AbCellera collaborated to jointly develop antibody products for the treatment and prevention of Covid-19.

Apart from these large cap companies, smaller biotechs namely CEL-SCI Corporation, Mesoblast Limited, RedHill Biopharma, Emergent BioSolutions and Kamada (KMDA - Free Report) announced their intent or initiated development of a treatment for the coronavirus. Mallinckrodt also announced that it is evaluating the potential role of inhaled nitric oxide as a supportive measure for treating patients infected with coronavirus and having associated pulmonary complications.

Meanwhile, Novovax and Inovio Pharmaceuticals, developing vaccines for COVID-19, have received additional grants to support their development. Moreover, Vir Biotechnology entered into a collaboration with Biogen to develop antibody for the disease.

Although several companies are joining the bandwagon, the availability of a tested and safe treatment is likely to be several months away. However, faster availability of a vaccine/therapy for Covid-19 is also important for the economy. A Bloomberg report suggests that the pandemic may cost the global economy to the tune of $2.7 trillion. The uncertainty due to coronavirus outbreak resulted in a massive sell-off in global stock markets.

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Roche Holding AG (RHHBY) - free report >>

Eli Lilly and Company (LLY) - free report >>

AbbVie Inc. (ABBV) - free report >>

Kamada Ltd. (KMDA) - free report >>

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