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Gilead Brings Likely Coronavirus Cure, Pharma Rallies on R&D

Ritujay Ghosh

Shares of Gilead Science Inc. GILD rallied on Apr 16, on media reports that severe coronavirus patients were responding positively to the company’s experimental treatment, remdesivir. According to STAT, a new health-oriented news website, a large number of COVID-19 patients at Chicago hospital being treated with this antiviral medication for trial have witnessed rapid recoveries.

A large number of biotech companies have been working on developing drugs and vaccine for the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 2,100,000 and claimed 147,000 lives. Also, pharmaceutical giants are going for partnerships to speed up development of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.

Gilead Shows Ray of Hope

Per STAT, almost all the patients at a Chicago hospital being treated for COVID-19 have been discharged in a less than a week. All these patients were given the experimental treatment, remdesivir. Other institutions too are using the medication for trial. On Thursday, shares of Gilead jumped 2.6% on the positive development.

Although the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any treatment or drug for coronavirus, pharmaceutical companies have been trying a number of candidates on patients with mixed results. On Mar 29, the FDA granted an emergency use authorization to hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate to treat COVID-19 patients.

Pharmaceutical Companies Speed Up R&D

A number of drugmakers and biotech companies are initiating development of drugs, vaccine and therapies to get a grip over the rapidly spreading virus. Many companies that are initiating development of vaccine and therapies are being funded by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority — division of the Department of Health and Human Services — and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — division of the National Institutes of Health.

Substantial progress has been made over the past few weeks with many pharmaceuticalcompanies coming up with impressive reports. Earlier this week, pharmaceutical giants Sanofi SNY and GlaxoSmithKline plc GSK joined forces to expedite the development of a vaccine for the Wuhan virus. Shares of Sanofi gained 2.2% while GlaxoSmithKline jumped 4.5% on Thursday.

If successful, the vaccine would be available in the second half of 2021. Sanofi sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), while GlaxoSmithKline and Gilead each carries a Zacks Rank # 3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Also, Moderna, Inc. MRNA recently announced that it has begun a phase 1 trial of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, enrolling subjects at the highest dose. The trial has three arms that are administering doses of 25 mcg, 100 mcg and 250 mcg. Moderna gained 9% at the close of trading on Apr 16 and currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

Earlier this month, Amgen, Inc. AMGN collaborated with Adaptive Biotechnologies Corporation ADPT to discover and develop antibodies that can be used to treat and prevent coronavirus. The collaboration brings together Adaptive’s immune medicine platform for the identification of virus-neutralizing antibodies with Amgen’s expertise in immunology and novel antibody therapy development. Amgen, which currently has a Zacks Rank #3, gained 4.1% on Apr 16.

Last month, Dynavax Technologies Corporation DVAX entered into a partnership with Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to fight the novel coronavirus. Dynavax will make the company’s proprietary toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) agonist adjuvant, CpG 1018, available for the development of effective vaccines against COVID-19. Dynavax presently sports a Zacks Rank #1 and rallied 9.1% yesterday at close.

Johnson & Johnson JNJ too has been working on a coronavirus vaccine since January. Last month, the pharmaceutical giant said that it has identified a lead COVID-19 vaccine candidate and two backups through research, which will progress into the initial manufacturing steps. Johnson & Johnson has a Zacks Rank #3 and added 1.4% on Thursday.

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