The development of a coronavirus vaccine is one of the most highly discussed and anticipated medical events across the globe. Hundreds of pharmaceutical and biotech teams are racing the clock, and each other, to develop vaccines and treatments capable of saving lives and preventing another outbreak of COVID-19. Here are the main players to keep in mind.
Moderna’s mRNA Vaccine
At the end of April, Moderna announced its coronavirus vaccine was approved for further evaluation. Known as mRNA-1273, the vaccine’s phase 2 study is set to begin in late May or early June to evaluate the safety, adverse reactions, and immune responses of the vaccinations given to participants in phase 1.
Moderna intends to enroll 600 healthy adults and older adults in two cohorts for phase 2 of its clinical trial. Participants will receive a placebo or a different dose of the vaccine candidate, then be followed through 12 months. This means the clinical trial’s third phase could begin as soon as the fall.
Pfizer’s BNT162 Vaccine
U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, in partnership with German drug maker BioNTech, announced at the end of April that the first human participants in the United States have been dosed with a potential vaccine known as BNT162.
BNT162 contains genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA. This genetic code sends cells a message that helps them build an immune response to the COVID-19 virus. BNT162 actually exists in four different forms, each representing different mRNA formats and target antigens.
According to Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, Dr. Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer hopes to shatter the 12-18 month waiting period for a COVID-19 vaccine by making millions of doses of BNT162 available by the end of 2020, with “hundreds of millions” of doses distributed in 2021.
Gilead Science’s Remdesivir Treatment
Remdesivir was originally formulated to treat people with Ebola but failed to demonstrate positive results. However, lab studies indicate that Remdesivir can effectively inhibit the growth of similar viruses like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV), and even the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).
The FDA granted emergency use authorization for Gilead’s Remdesivir drug on May 1 after the NIAID released clinical trial results showing patients who took Remdesivir recovered faster than patients who didn’t take the drug. Clinical trials are still ongoing to determine just how effective Remdesivir is in stopping the coronavirus from replicating.
Gilead aims to produce more than 140,000 rounds of its 10-day treatment regimen before June, and more than 1 million rounds by the end of 2020.
Eli Lilly’s Baricitinib Treatment
Baricitinib, marketed as OLUMIANT® is currently approved in more than 65 countries as a treatment for adults with moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis. In initial clinical trials for the treatment of RA, Baricitinib was found to reduce or interrupt the passage of the virus into target cells, as well as to minimize the release of inflammatory agents.
Based on this anti-inflammatory activity, Baricitinib may be able to halt the inflammatory cascade seen in the progression of COVID-19. Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co is working with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) to study Baricitinib as an arm in NIAID’s Adaptive COVID-19 Treatment Trial.
This study plans to investigate the safety and efficacy of Baricitinib as a potential treatment for hospitalized patients diagnosed with COVID-19.