Countries around the world are racing to find a cure for the quickly spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) that is now in 46 countries, infecting 78,065 people (as of yesterday) and killing 2,770.  Person-to-person transmission is confirmed in several countries with new cases in the United States and Taiwan with no known source.

In the United States, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has authorized testing of the drug Remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences Inc., on people diagnosed with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The tests will be administered to approximately 1,000 patients in medical centers in Asia and other countries that have high number of cases.

“The initiation of these studies follows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) rapid review and acceptance of Gilead’s investigational new drug (IND) filing for remdesivir for treatment of COVID-19” according to Gilead Sciences press release.

Two clinical trials of this drug have started, one in Hubei, China led by China-Japan Friendship Hospital and another by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.  According to reports from UNMC, the earlier experimental treatment was done on an American volunteer who was one of the passengers on Diamond Princess Cruise ship that docked in Japan.  Since then, 13 more who repatriated from the Diamond Princess have been sent to the quarantine center at the UNMC.

Remdesivir was originally created to treat ebola virus and has been used to treat other respiratory viruses such as SARS and MERS.

Gilead Sciences press release states that “remdesivir is not yet licensed or approved anywhere globally and has not been demonstrated to be safe or effective for any use” in relation to COVID-19.

Last week two groups from Taiwan announced that they have been able to create 100 milligrams of remdesivir in 2 weeks with 97 percent purity.

Academic Sinica’s Institute of Chemistry led by CheinRong-jie and seven-member research team said, without raw materials, they were able to follow the steps laid out by the U.S. company and recreate the drug remdesivir which may have the potential to cure the coronavirus COVID-19.

Another team run by National Health Research Institute also announced that they’ve created more than 100 milligrams of remdesivir with 97% purity. The team lead by NHRI President Liang Kung-yee said the experimental drug is regarded as a potential remedy for the coronavirus.

It was reported that the drug was administered to a patient in Snohomish County, Washington with COVID-19 for “compassionate use” after his condition has worsened to pneumonia and he dramatically improved the next day.  This was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on January 31, 2020.

The impact of this disease on global health, global industries, and global economy is driving the race for the cure of a disease that is quickly becoming a pandemic. (L.N. Reklai)