Eli Lilly & Company LLY announced that it is halting enrollment in most ongoing studies and will delay new study starts in order to allow doctors and healthcare facilities to focus on efforts to combat the coronavirus disease, COVID-19. However, ongoing studies where patients are already enrolled will continue.
The coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 16,000 people globally, has compelled healthcare systems to prioritize caring for the COVID-19 patients while limiting other activities. Along the same lines, Lilly laboratories have diverted resources to conduct diagnostic testing for COVID-19 patients and are researching potential treatments for the disease.
Meanwhile, Lilly said it is keeping its previously issued 2020 financial guidance intact. The drugmaker expects no delay in the timeline of the ongoing late-stage studies, except those on mirikizumab for gastrointestinal (GI) indications
However, delaying starts of studies and pausing enrollments in ongoing studies will delay the potential approval and launch of these candidates, which, in turn could hurt Lilly’s future profits.
Lilly currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can seethe complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
The coronavirus pandemic has created havoc on the stock market with the S&P 500 Index losing about a third of its value. There is a rising concern about the impact of the outbreak on first-quarter earnings due to supply-chain disruptions caused by the same. In mid-February, AstraZeneca AZN raised alarm bells about the outbreak weighing on its earnings in 2020. Many others are expected to follow suit. On the other hand, drug/biotech companies making treatments/vaccines for the disease should make huge profits once their products get approval and are marketed.
Several drug/biotech companies are working on making new antibodies, drugs and vaccines to combat the disease. Gilead’s GILD investigational antiviral candidate, remdesivir, is being evaluated in phase III studies to treat COVID-19. Regeneron REGN has identified hundreds of virus-neutralizing, fully human antibodies, from which it will select the top two antibodies to develop a cocktail treatment to treat or prevent COVID-19.
Notably, hydroxychloroquine and a related drug, chloroquine, are currently being evaluated in studies for the treatment of COVID-19. Chloroquine is already approved for treating malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Studies are underway to determine the efficacy of using chloroquine to treat COVID-19.
CEPI has provided funding of around $24 million to small biotechs like Moderna, Novavax, CureVac and Inovio to have potential vaccine candidates in early-stage clinical studies within a few months.
Several big drugmakers like J&J JNJ, Sanofi SNY and GlaxoSmithKline GSK have expressed interest in developing a vaccine for COVID-19. Others like Pfizer, Biogen and Lilly have signed collaborations with smaller biotechs to co-develop antibody therapies to treat COVID-19.
Smaller biotechs like Vaxart, Kamada, Inovio, Vir Biotechnology and Novavax are making an effort to leverage their existing technology/platform to identify antibodies/targets that can be developed into potential vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. Meanwhile, the FDA has granted Emergency Use Authorization to Roche’s test to detect SARS-CoV-2.
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