Biotech Companies Are Testing Drugs, Working on Vaccines to Combat Coronavirus

Nation/World
Travelers wearing face masks arrive from various provinces at the Beijing Railway Station on February 3, 2020. (Credit: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images)

Travelers wearing face masks arrive from various provinces at the Beijing Railway Station on February 3, 2020.
(Credit: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images)

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There is no cure for the deadly Wuhan coronavirus, but several big biotech companies are hoping they can treat the symptoms with existing antiviral medications.

Gilead Sciences, a biopharmaceutical firm with an experimental drug called remdesivir that is used to treat the Ebola virus, said late Friday it is working with Chinese health authorities to see if the medication can combat the symptoms of coronavirus.

The company said in a statement that remdesivir has demonstrated some success in treating MERS and SARS, two viruses similar to the Wuhan coronavirus, in animals.

Remdesivir has also been used for emergency treatment of patients with Ebola. But the drug has not yet been officially licensed or approved for treatment by any global health organization, Gilead added.

Investors were nonetheless encouraged. Shares of Gilead rose more than 5% Monday.

Gilead is not the only drug firm hoping to find a successful treatment for the coronavirus. Big Pharma rivals Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline are also working on vaccines.

Biotech company AbbVie has said that they have seen promising results for treating the Wuhan coronavirus with a mixture of two of its HIV medications and Tamiflu, which is produced in a joint venture by Swiss pharma giant Roche and Japan’s Chugai Pharmaceutical Co.

Smaller drug producers Moderna, Inovio Pharmaceuticals and Novavax are also working on treatments. Their stocks have all surged in the past month.

It may be more than a year until a vaccine is available, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said.

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