National / Science & Health

Japan to join trial to test Ebola drug on COVID-19 patients

JIJI, Reuters

The National Center for Global Health and Medicine (NCGM) said Monday that it will join an international clinical trial on the use of remdesivir, which is being developed as a remedy for Ebola, to treat people infected with the new coronavirus.

Under the investigator-initiated study, the NCGM will begin administering the drug to COVID-19 patients as early as this month.

U.S. pharmaceutical firm Gilead Sciences Inc. initially aimed to develop the drug as a medication for Ebola. The drug has been reported to be effective in preventing the replication of viruses in previous studies.

In the clinical trial, led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, remdesivir will be administered to some 440 patients of pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus who are age 20 or older. A group of patients will be administered the anti-viral drug for up to 10 days, while another group will be given a placebo, and their symptoms will be compared on the 15th day.

“We want a treatment as soon as possible, but we need to select a medicine based on scientific procedures,” said Norio Omagari, head of the Disease Control and Prevention Center at the NCGM.

The NCGM will also conduct clinical research on existing drugs reported to be potentially effective against the new virus.

Alvesco, used to treat those with asthma, is expected to be tested on coronavirus-infected patients who have not developed pneumonia.

For pneumonia patients who do not meet the requirements to be given remdesivir, the center plans to administer Avigan, an anti-influenza medication, and Nafamostat, a treatment for acute pancreatitis, as part of its clinical research.

Meanwhile, Japanese biopharmaceutical firm Anges Inc. said Tuesday that it and Osaka University had completed development of a DNA vaccine against the new coronavirus and that it would begin testing it in animals soon.

Anges, a drug-discovery company launched out of Osaka University, announced its collaboration with the school on a coronavirus vaccine on March 5. DNA vaccines are produced using an inactivated virus and can be manufactured faster than protein-based vaccines, according to the company statement.

Takara Bio Co. is in charge of production of the vaccine, and Daicel Corp.’s gene-transfer technology is also being utilized, the statement said.

Global pharmaceutical companies are racing to develop vaccines and treatments for coronavirus, which has resulted in over 15,000 deaths.

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