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Coronavirus research: who got the priority label from the government

Here are some of the companies involved in projects that have been fast-tracked by the UK authorities


Several players in the pharma sector are doing their part in tackling the coronavirus pandemic by developing new treatment, re-purposing existing formulations, studying vaccines and building new equipment.

READ: Coronavirus: what’s happening in the labs of pharma companies worldwide

Late on Tuesday, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock announced a new programme to allow the start of trials in weeks rather than months.

The first batch of the ACCORD (Accelerating COVID-19 Research & Development platform) includes six drugs.

Two of these are part of AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) pipeline: Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor, previously approved for a different indication, and a drug candidate in phase II of trials targeting interleukin 33 (IL-33).

The treatments will be trialled to see their effect on 'cytokine storms', common in severe Covid-19 cases.

A 'cytokine storm' is an uncontrolled immune response resulting in excessive production of substances believed to be associated with severe lung damage.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has also identified 31 studies which have are considered priority by the government. Here are some of the companies involved:

  • Gilead Sciences INC (NASDAQ:GILD) is assessing whether its antiviral medication remdesivir is effective in treating patients with moderate and severe symptoms.
  • The University of Dundee is testing brensocatib, a treatment originally designed for long-term lung conditions. The project is funded by Insmed Incorporated (NASDAQ:INSM), the developer of the drug.
  • Swiss giant Roche is trialling arthritis treatment Actemra in patients with pneumonia brought by Covid-19.
  • Fellow Swiss conglomerate Novartis is evaluating canakinumab, a fully-human antibody, and ruxolitinib, a treatment for bone marrow disorders.
  • Respiratory drug developer Synairgen PLC (LON:SNG) is testing its candidate SNG001, a formulation based on an interferon beta, a naturally occurring protein which orchestrates the body's antiviral responses.

The University of Oxford is conducting three projects, which received a total of £6mln in public funding.

  • The ‘PRINCIPLE’ trial, testing the anti-malarial drug Plaquenil-Hydroxychloroquine marketed by Zentiva Pharma. Software firm Emis Group PLC (LON:EMIS) is involved in holding data.
  • The ‘RECOVERY’ trial, involving several drugs: Lopinavir-Ritonavir (commonly used to treat HIV), Dexamethasone (a type of steroid, which is used in a range of conditions typically to reduce inflammation), Hydroxychloroquine (related to an anti-malarial drug), Azithromycin (a commonly used antibiotic), Tocilizumab (an anti-inflammatory treatment given by injection). Feedback PLC’s (LON:FDBK) management tool Bleepa was also identified as being a secure solution to register and identify patients suitable for the RECOVERY trial.
  • The development of an adenovirus vaccine candidate, led by the Jenner Institute in partnership with Cobra Biologics, Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, Pall Life Sciences, Halix, Alchemab, Kymab, Innovate UK, Fujifilm, the Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre and Oxford Biomedica PLC (LON:OXB).

The latter entered human trials last week, when it was also announced the government would provide another £20mln to boost the research.

--Adds information on ACCORD--

Quick facts: Gilead Sciences, Inc.

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