Note: Researching this subject, I came across an interesting comment. A virologist researcher at UNC said he has spent his life researching virus and treatment. He never expected to see a situation like today where his research could save lives. And Moderna, the biotech company testing a vaccine, and Gilead Science both started looking for possible solutions when the genome for the CoVid-19 was published on Jan 12. Within 60 days both had trials started. Our healthcare research is the best in the world. The CDC is the best in the world. We will win this war in a record-breaking time frame.
Gilead Science, a major biopharmaceutical research company, developed an anti-viral drug a decade ago. The intent was to treat Ebola. During the research, it showed potential in treating SARS and MERS coronavirus. Gilead started testing for Ebola with promise results. It was included in a large study involving 4 different anti-viral medicines and published in 2019. It worked but two other drugs had higher survival rates treating Ebola so it was shelved.
The generic name is remdesivir and it is now being tested in five Covid-19 clinical trials that have been set up at breakneck speed. It’s been delivered through a FDA compassionate use program to some patients, including the first case in the United States. The first trial results are expected next month. It is already known from Ebola testing that it is safe for human use.
“There’s only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy,” Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organization said last month. “And that’s remdesivir.”
The first US patient, a 35 year old male, was admitted to a Washington hospital in good shape. A few days later he developed more severe respiratory problems. The doctors feared the worst. The CDC suggested they try remdesivir. Gilead arranged with the FDA a compassionate use authorization and rushed the drug to the patient. The day after an IV drip, he started to recover. It is to soon to assume the drug worked, but it set up the authorization by the FDA for a trial study.
Researchers at Gilead and the National Institue of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) show remdesivir inhibits the replication of MERS coronavirus by deception. These viruses have a genome that consists of a strand of RNA. To make copies of themselves, they rely on a molecule called a polymerase to string together the individual building blocks of the viral genome. These are like the “letters” that we think of composing DNA. Remdesivir mimics the “letter A” for the amino acid adenosine. The polymerase molecule accidently substitutes remdesivir into the string causing the replication to end. The CoVid-19 virus can not replicate stopping the spread of the infection.
Remdesivir does not kill the virus but stops the spread allowing the body’s immune system to kill the remaining virus. But to do this it must be given early in the infection process, preferably before ICU. Given late, the remaining virus can still overwhelm the body’s immune system and damage the lungs. It is also given by IV into the bloodstream. It still has to reach the lungs in a high enough concentration to stop the spread of the disease.
Gilead scientists started planning on its use since the first reports appeared out of Wuhan in December. And when Chinese scientists published the virus’ genome, Gilead zeroed in on the portion that contained the recipe for the replication machinery — the polymerase. They saw it was nearly identical to the version in SARS — evidence that remdesivir might work against this virus as well.
The 5 trials are aimed at a different severity level of patients. Two studies in China: one study testing on severe patients and one on mild to moderate patients. One NIAID study in America, and two Gilead studies in other countries. These are testing at different patient severity and dosing levels.
Gilead in the past prices its drug extremely expensive. Its hepatitis C drug Harvoni costs $100,000 to $200,000 for 12 weeks or 24 weeks treatment. If the trial is successful, it is expected to be used first in the most severe cases. As supply increases, its will include mild to moderate cases. Let’s hope that Gilead Science feels the political pressure and prices the medicine at just an expensive price.
Virologists said they were keeping an eye on other candidates pursued by researchers at Vanderbilt, UNC, and Emory University.
This crisis is remarkable at which the speed American Healthcare Companies are proceeding. Quietly, Abbvie Labs CoVid-19 test was approved this week. This makes 5 USA companies making a test for CoVid-19. Give them 30 days and they will produce enough supply to test all suspected patients.
This viral research is funded by NIH (National Institue of Health) grants at Universities and Government Labs. We need to keep funding science research with taxpayer funds. One problem with an increase in on-line college classes is what happens with the University Research Professors.