A facility for the testing of a treatment for the fast spreading coronavirus pandemic is being planned to be started within the next few months by Eli Lilly, the company’s CEO David Ricks announced during a television interview.
Making the announcement, Ricks said that it has joined hands for this purpose with the privately held AbCellera Biologics. Together the two companies are trying to develop a medicine for COVID-19 – the disease that is caused by the novel coronavirus that was recently declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). So far more than 137,000 people have been infected by the virus all across the world with the United States and Italy reporting at least 1,700 cases as of Friday.
“The speed at which [pharma research] is unfolding is unprecedented in our industry. Literally, AbCellera started this work 11 days ago,” Ricks said. “We hope to be in a clinical trial this summer.”
Ricks explained that antibodies of the first patients of the US who had recovered from the illness was screened and isolated by AbCellera as a start of this process. The role of Eli Lilly will be top help in the process of replicating the antibodies to examine whether they are able to respond to the virus and then use it to produce and manufacture a drug, he explained further.
“We’re partnering to find the best one, scale up production and bring it to the marketplace,” he said.
Ricks added that more than one medicine for the most ill patients could be required for a potential COVID-19 treatment. As and when the drug is developed and made available, it would be first used on patients admitted in the intensive care units of hospitals. However it could also be available outside of hospital facilities and can be used as a preventative treatment for those infected people who are most at risk.
Stressing on the importance of development of a treatment, the chief executives said that the development and commercial availability of a vaccine for coronavirus would take more time than development of a treatment because of the need to first conduct tests on healthy people.
“We’re starting this because we believe it could work,” he said, “and by starting with the very material that helped someone survive, we think it’s a good starting place to find an antibody or a cocktail of antibodies that can be given to patients when they do become sick.”
There are also other drug companies that are trying to develop a treatment that can at least slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
Drug developer Vir Biotechnology Inc and Biogen have also announced a partnership struck together for the development of proteins that can fight the virus which is known as monoclonal antibodies.
Tests for its experimental therapy remdesivir in treating COVID-19 are also being carried out by drug maker Gilead and the company is expecting to announce the results of the clinical tests that that are currently ongoing within the next month.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)