Virtually every industry has a role to play in the fight against coronavirus, but the pharmaceutical sector’s role is singular.
Stakeholders convened on a conference call Wednesday, discussing efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat coronavirus.
Stephen J. Ubl, President and CEO of PhRMA, described the industry as “working around the clock” to “beat the virus.”
Ubl cited work on similar viruses, ranging from MERS to HIV, over decades, expressing confidence for “approved treatments in a matter of months.”
Ubl also described “substantial risks” in the process, spotlighting the need for “large clinical trials” and “as many shots on goal as possible” regarding potential treatments and vaccines.
Representatives of various companies expressed hope that clinical trials could be imminent, stressing that decades of work with similar diseases offered precedent and reason for optimism.
Clement Lewin, an executive with Sanofi, is working on its own vaccine similar to a recombinant flu vaccine.
Lewin noted a SARS vaccine that had been developed but not deployed.
SARS ramped up in late 2002, disappearing by 2004.
“In previous epidemics, the disease went away and programs have been shelved,” Lewin said.
“There’s a tremendous sense of urgency,” Lewin said, noting the compressed time frame.
Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s head of worldwide research, said clinical testing for vaccines may start as soon as next month in China and the United States.
Pfizer, as widely reported, is moving quickly, collaborating with Germany’s BioNTech, using its mRNA-based drug development platform
Thomas Breuer, chief medical officer for GSK Vaccines, likewise expressed confidence that a vaccine could be deployed in 12 to 18 months.
GSK, a UK company known for its pandemic vaccine adjuvant platform technology, is working with a Chinese university.
Julie Kim, President of Plasma-Derived Therapies for Takeda, is working on a blood-based globulin “hyperimmune” treatment.
“It would be prepared from the plasma of donors,” Kim said, with “high antibodies.”
Kim expects relatively quick testings of efficacy, a position that has been reported widely. The holdup as of now: the lack of an antibody.
Daniel Skovronsky, Chief Scientific Officer and President of Lilly Research Laboratories, noted its own collaboration with the Indiana state board of health to expedite testing.
The goal: to alleviate that state’s “backlog” of testing. Indiana, as of Wednesday morning, had tested just 193 people, of which 30 were positive.