The $95 billion biotech Gilead just announced plans to test a promising potential coronavirus treatment in 1,000 people

Daniel O'Day Gilead CEO, formerly of Roche

Ruben Sprich / Reuters

Daniel O'Day, the CEO of Gilead.

  • Gilead Sciences is accelerating its efforts to test a potential treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the growing coronavirus outbreak. The company just announced plans for two late-stage clinical studies.
  • The California biotech will enroll approximately 1,000 patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 across Asian countries and other areas with high rates of cases, the company stated Wednesday.
  • The two trials will test an antiviral medication called remdesivir, a therapy that has been previously tested against the Ebola virus. The late-stage trials are primarily focused on assessing the drug's efficacy, rather than just safety.
  • Other studies of remdesivir are ongoing in China. A Gilead executive said these additional trials will "give us a more expansive breadth of data globally on the drug's profile in a short amount of time."
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The $95 billion biotech Gilead Sciences is accelerating its effort to test a promising potential drug to treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the spreading coronavirus outbreak.

Gilead announced Wednesday plans for two late-stage clinical trials. The studies will assess different doses and treatment courses of the experimental antiviral medication, remdesivir, in about 1,000 patients with COVID-19.

A sense of urgency has been placed on the drug industry to identify and develop vaccines and treatments to halt the coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 2,700 people and sickened more than 81,000. Since originating in China, the virus has spread to at least 40 other countries, encompassing six continents.

The efforts build on other ongoing tests of the drug in China and the US. Gilead said these new studies will start enrolling patients in March "across Asian countries, as well as other countries globally with high numbers of diagnosed cases."

Gilead said we're likely to get the first results from some of those earlier studies in April.

The National Institutes of Health's infectious disease unit recently started a trial of remdesivir in the US with COVID-19 patients.

Read more: The US is gearing up to test the first coronavirus treatments and vaccines. Here's how 6 top drugmakers are racing to tackle an outbreak that's spreading around the world.

"Gilead's primary focus is on rapidly determining the safety and efficacy of remdesivir as a potential treatment for COVID-19, and this complementary array of studies helps to give us a more expansive breadth of data globally on the drug's profile in a short amount of time," said Merdad Parsey, Gilead's chief medical officer, in a statement.

Health officials and experts have emphasized the potential for remdesivir. A single case reported in The New England Journal of Medicine has stirred initial excitement about the drug's potential.

"There is only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy and that's remdesivir," Bruce Aylward, an assistant director-general of the World Health Organization, said at a recent press conference, CNN reported.

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