20.03.2020 Europe

Biotech companies in race to find Covid-19 vaccine

By Isabelle Martinetti - RFI
© AFP/Thomas Samson
LISTEN MAR 20, 2020
© AFP/Thomas Samson

The novel coronavirus continues its expansion across the world with more than 255,000 cases and 10,000 deaths, as of mid-Friday. The figures rise every hour. Racing against that clock, some 20 biotechnology companies and organisations, mostly in the US, Europe and China, are working to find a vaccine and treatment for Covid-19.

Massachussets-based company Moderna is testing its first vaccines against Covid-19 in the US and has taken the lead - for now...

While Chinese scientists are researching multiple types of vaccines simultaneously in hospitals and universities across the country.

•    United States
Vaccine: "mRNA-1273"
1st clinical test in Seattle on March 16th on 45 healthy patients

Forecast: Available in 12-18 months if efficient 
(Source: Food and Drug administration/FDA)
Gilead Sciences
"Remdesivir" could be the first treatment on the market 

Used to treat Ebola but not efficient
Forecast: Available in the coming months
(Source: Bruce Aylward, World Health Organization/WHO)

Inovio Pharmaceuticals
DNA vaccine
Fist clinical tests in April in the US, then in China and South Korea 

Forecast: delivering 1 million doses by the end of the year

(Source: J. Joseph Kimn, CEO Inovio)
•    Germany
DNA vaccine
The European Commission offered 80 million euros to CureVac on 17 March to develop the vaccine

A candidate vaccine could be provided within a few months 

(Source: CEO, CureVac)
•    France
Pasteur Institute 
Use of measles vaccine 

Forecast: first vaccine by fall 2020
Pasteur institute to be given 5 million euros to develop vaccine

(Source: Pasteur Institute)
In cooperation with US Health Ministry
DNA vaccine
Possible clinical test within 12-18 months 
(Source: David Loew, Vice-president Sanofi Pasteur)

IHU – Institut hospitalo-universitaire
Treatment with chloroquine (anti-malaria drug)
Has been testing since 9 March on 24 patients; after 6 days, only 25% of patients are still infected (Source: Pr. Didier Raoult, IHU Director)

French Health ministry expresses methodological concerns but has given green light to larger clinical tests

Sanofi has offered 300,000 anti-malaria doses if proven efficient

•    China
Clover Biopharmaceuticals
Partnership with GSK (Bratford, UK)
GSK will provide Clover with its proprietary adjuvants

Chinese scientists researching multiple types of vaccines simultaneously

Some have entered animal trials (mice)
Forecast: first clinical trials in late April 2020
(Source: Chinese National Health Commission)
•    Japan
Fujifilm Biotechnologies
Flu shot treatment Avigan
Tested on board of the Diamond Princess ship cruise when in quarantine

Clinical tests on 200 patients in Wuhan and Shenzen, China

(Source: Chinese National Health Commission)

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