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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
Moderna
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
CureVac
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)
Sanofi 
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
Chengdu-based
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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