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Coronavirus vaccine: UK, Germany start trial; Indian pharma will also play a big role6 min read . Updated: 23 Apr 2020, 03:25 PM ISTAgencies
- Though there are now around 150 development projects worldwide, the German and British plans are among only five clinical trials on humans
- India, one of the largest producers of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, has seen a spurt in demand in recent weeks
The race to develop an effective vaccine against the novel coronavirus gathered pace this week, as clinical trials on humans were approved in Germany and launched in the UK.
Though there are now around 150 development projects worldwide, the German and British plans are among only five clinical trials on humans which have been approved across the globe. Indian pharmaceutical companies, well-known for producing affordable low-cost medicines, will play an important role in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Indian pharmaceutical firms will play important role in fight against COVID-19 pandemic
Indian pharmaceutical companies, well-known for producing affordable low-cost medicines, will play an important role in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic that has affected over 2.5 million people across the world, India’s top diplomat here has said.
India's Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu also underlined that as global strategic partners, India and the US are prepared to face this public health crisis together.
India, one of the largest producers of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, has seen a spurt in demand in recent weeks. India has sent the drug to over 50 countries over the last few days, including the United States, he said on Tuesday.
Hydroxychloroquine has been identified by the US Food and Drug Administration as a possible treatment for the COVID-19 and it is being tested on more than 1,500 coronavirus patients in New York.
Six vaccines in human trial, WHO says
The World Health Organization said there are 83 coronavirus vaccines in development globally, with six candidates -- half of them in China -- already in human trials, as drugmakers race to find a cure for the deadly pathogen. That’s an improvement from April 13, when the WHO said there were 70 vaccines in development, with three candidates in human trials.
Germany takes a 'significant step' in making a vaccine 'available as soon as possible'
In Germany, meanwhile, the PEI said its approval of the Biontech trial marked a "significant step" in making a vaccine "available as soon as possible".
In the first phase, it will see "200 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 55 years" vaccinated with variants of the vaccine, while the second phase could see the inclusion of volunteers who belonged to high-risk groups.
On Wednesday, Biontech CEO Ugur Sahin told a press conference that tests would begin "at the end of April".
He added that the firm expected to have collected first data by "the end of June or beginning of July".
Biontech also said that they and Pfizer hoped to gain regulatory approval soon to test the same vaccine candidate in the US.
The PEI meanwhile claimed that "further clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccine candidates will start in Germany in the next few months".
UK start trials of coronavirus vaccines
In Britain, volunteers in a trial at the University of Oxford are set to be given on Thursday the first dose of a potential vaccine based on a virus found in chimpanzees.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, German regulatory body PEI green-lighted the country's first trials on human volunteers for a vaccine developed by German firm Biontech and US giant Pfizer.
The Oxford trial, run by the university's Jenner Institute, will involve 510 volunteers aged between 18 and 55 in the first phase.
Research director Professor Sarah Gilbert estimated that it has around an 80 percent chance of being successful.
The institute aims to develop a million doses of the vaccine by September, so as to distribute it as quickly as possible after approval.
The Oxford trial is part of a nationwide effort in the UK which since Friday has been spearheaded by a government taskforce.
Counting the biggest winners of the $7.2 billion US coronavirus battle
The US government has awarded $7.2 billion in contracts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, including one that would pay a little-known Massachusetts biotech firm more than its reported revenue for the last three years combined.
The award to Moderna Inc. is just one example of the thousands of federal contracts awarded by the Trump administration to fight the coronavirus, according to a review of federal data compiled by Bloomberg Government. Some companies have secured nine-figure deals to supply thousands of ventilators, face masks, hospital capacity and other critical services needed to manage the outbreak.
Amsterdam-based Royal Philips NV has so far been the top corporate recipient with some $661.4 million in agreements. The vast majority of that sum came on April 8 via a $646.7 million contract to procure ventilators from the health technology giant’s Philips Electronics North America unit.
Health and Human Services last week awarded seven contracts worth a combined $1.4 billion to secure thousands of ventilators, which are needed to treat the most severe cases. Among the awards were a $350 million pact with a U.S. affiliate of Asahi Kasei Corp., a $552 million accord with Hamilton Medical Inc. and a $408 million purchase from Vyaire Holding Co. Each of those companies have other, smaller virus-related contracts, lifting the total value of their government work.
The search for a vaccine to counter the disease spurred other large awards, in addition to Moderna’s. In late March, Johnson & Johnson Inc.’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit signed a $456.2 million deal for Covid-19 vaccine development, plus a $148.4 million award for anti-viral therapies. Shares of the parent company have risen 2.6% this year compared to the broader S&P 500 Index’s 15% decline.
3M Co. and Honeywell International Inc. each won multiple contracts totaling more than $180 million apiece, mostly to replenish scant supplies of N95 respirator masks. Other mask-procurement deals include a $55.5 million award to Panthera Worldwide LLC and contracts totaling nearly $46 million with Draegerwerk AG & Co. for masks and other medical gear.
The Department of Defense on Tuesday detailed contracts totaling $133 million for 39 million N95 masks made by 3M, Honeywell and a unit of Owens & Minor Inc. over the next 90 days. Those contracts are not reflected in the Bloomberg Government contracting data due to reporting delays.
Vaccine could be available this year, says UK scientist
Two scientists who are leading the charge for a vaccine in the UK have been speaking about their projects.
Professor Sarah Gilbert is head of a team at the University of Oxford. Trials, which have had 5,000 volunteers, are set to begin on Thursday, the BBC reported.
"We just start with two people on the first day, to make sure that everything is well with them, and also that all the procedures are working for the trial and that we are ready to move on to larger numbers."
Professor Robin Shattock, who leads Imperial College London's effort, said if either project provides the "right signal in terms of safety and efficacy", a vaccine could be available for the UK's front-line workers and the most vulnerable before the end of the year.
But he said it would be next year before it could be rolled out around the world.
However, Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said that the development of a "highly effective" vaccine or drug could be the only solution but he warned one was unlikely to arrive in the next calendar year, but an antibody test - could be available in the "pretty near future".