See More on Facebook

Experts from across globe join forces

Scientists from US, UK, China make notable progress as drugs go through clinical trials.

Written by

Updated: February 4, 2020

As the novel coronavirus spreads through China, time is of the essence, and researchers around the world are joining forces to find a speedy cure.

While there is no effective medication or vaccine yet, scientists from the United States, the United Kingdom, China and elsewhere are making substantial progress and many existing drugs are being tested in clinical trials for potency against the coronavirus.

The World Laureates Association Shanghai Center said it has gathered a team of experts, including Nobel laureates in chemistry Roger Kornberg and Michael Levitt, antibody expert Richard Lerner and biologist Raymond Dewk, to help investigate the virus and propose new solutions.

“They’re willing to actively exert international scientific talent to support China in combating the epidemic,” the center said in a statement on Monday.

Promising drugs

There are two ways of treating a viral infection. One is using small molecule drugs that can stop the virus from replicating by interfering with its proteins. The other way is to use antibodies that bind to the virus and cause it to self-destruct, according to the World Health Organization.

Zhong Nanshan, one of the leading experts tackling the outbreak in China, told Xinhua News Agency on Sunday that there are at least seven small molecule drugs going through clinical trials in China.

On Sunday, Beijing’s China-Japan Friendship Hospital said it will begin clinical trials on 270 moderately ill patients infected with the virus in Wuhan, Hubei province, using an experimental drug from the US called remdesivir, which was originally developed as an Ebola cure.

China’s Center for Drug Evaluation of the National Medical Products Administration approved the trials on Sunday to be carried out from Monday to April 27, its website said.

The drug is developed by US biotech company Gilead Sciences. It was provided to a 35-year-old man in the US infected with the novel coronavirus, and his symptoms noticeably improved within a day with no obvious side effects, according to a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week.

The US drugmaker said last week it is working closely with health authorities in China and around the world to respond to the latest outbreak.

Qian Jiahua, chief scientist at the drug evaluation center, told Chinese science news outlet Intellectual that the clinical trial period in China can be shortened if remdesivir produces the impressive results seen in multiple test patients. “I think we should move with caution before mass administering it to a demographic as diverse and complex as the Chinese people,” he said.

Zeng Weigen, a doctor at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, said remdesivir has proved to be effective on one US patient with symptoms of pneumonia, but it will require more clinical trials to confirm its potency against the virus.

Scientists are also testing a cocktail of flu and HIV drugs that has showed potential in curbing the coronavirus. Thailand’s Ministry of Health said on Sunday that Thai doctors have seen apparent success treating a 71-year-old woman infected with the virus.

Combination cure

They used a combination of the flu drug oseltamivir with lopinavir and ritonavir-antivirals used to treat HIV. The patient’s health significantly improved and she tested negative for the virus 48 hours after it was administered.

Hospitals in Beijing have reportedly been using the same HIV drugs as part of treatment for the novel coronavirus, though it is unclear if they have been successful.

Zhang Dingyu, president of Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, said at a news briefing on Sunday that HIV drugs like lopinavir have kept severely ill patients at his hospital from worsening.

Since the outbreak, the National Institutes of Health in the US along with around a dozen US biotech companies, have announced vaccine or drug development initiatives for the novel coronavirus.

Mark Denison, a virologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, told the journal Science that remdesivir has to be administered early in order to have significant impact on the disease.

US biotech companies such as Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Vir Biotechnology have announced they are creating such antibodies to target the novel coronavirus, but it will likely take months before they can carry out clinical trials.

Chinese and US researchers are also working together to develop a vaccine against the virus. The researchers include experts from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, the University of Texas, and Shanghai’s Fudan University.

Song Zhiheng, deputy director of Zhejiang province’s Science and Technology Department, said scientists have isolated 10 viral strains that can be used to create vaccines.

Lu Shan, a medical professor at the University of Massachusetts, told China News Weekly that SARS and the novel coronavirus shared many similarities, and by building on previous vaccine research on SARS, vaccine development for the new virus should see some progress soon.

Enjoyed this story? Share it.

China Daily
About the Author: China Daily covers domestic and world news through nine print editions and digital media worldwide.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia

Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

China pledges international pandemic aid

 Producers of medical goods urged to meet demand from affected countries. China has pledged to do its best to offer aid to countries and international organisations affected by COVID-19 to help contain the outbreak, and businesses are being urged to boost production of epidemic prevention materials to meet demand from abroad. The announcement was made at a meeting of the leading group of China’s coronavirus response, chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday. Relevant departments and local authorities must step up co-ordination to closely monitor and analyse the quick spread of the outbreak outside China and roll out more targeted measures to prevent the import and export of infection, the group said in a statement. It is important to further

By China Daily
March 13, 2020

Back to work in Beijing, with tough measures in place

 Mandatory quarantine for those coming from overseas; some Wuhan businesses may reopen. As most of China attempts to return to normalcy after an extensive lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the capital Beijing has been carefully trying to strike a balance between having people restart work while also trying to keep out imported infections, and yesterday ordered a mandatory quarantine for all international arrivals. This comes as the Hubei government announced that some businesses in Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicentre, would gradually be allowed to reopen. On Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan, his first visit to the city since the outbreak, a sign that the crisis could finally be easing after the government’s toug

By The Straits Times
March 12, 2020

Xi vows victory over coronavirus in Wuhan

President expresses condolences to families of people who died in epidemic. President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday that prevention and control of the novel coronavirus outbreak remains the top priority and most important task, even amid the recent positive signs. Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remark during his inspection tour in the outbreak’s epicentre, Wuhan, capital of Hubei province. The spread of the novel coronavirus has been basically curbed in Hubei and Wuhan, Xi said, adding that initial success has been made in stabilising the situation and turning the tide in Hubei and Wuhan. Xi encouraged local residents and front-line worke

By China Daily
March 11, 2020

China sets example in fighting virus

Epidemic reveals inadequacies in global governance; Beijing says it’s ready to help. China’s response to novel coronavirus pneumonia has set an example for the world in coping with the contagion and offered experience in advancing global public health governance, officials and experts said. The COVID-19 outbreak has also raised the alarm about global public health security and reminded countries that co-operation and co-ordination are needed to deal with challenges as infectious diseases can rapidly escalate into global emergencies, they said. There is a growing positive momentum in epidemic control nationwide thanks to the “comprehensive, thorough and rigorous” measures that China has taken to contain the virus, they said, noting that the daily

By China Daily
March 10, 2020

More than 800,000 people return Beijing under quarantine

“There’s still a risk of an outbreak of the disease with people coming to Beijing from other cities and countries,” Zhang Tongjun, deputy head of a group for prevention and control work in the city’s residential communities, said during an afternoon conference. About 827,000 people who came back to Beijing from outside the city are still in a 14-day quarantine to see if they had been infected with the novel coronavirus, an official said on Friday. “There’s still a risk of an outbreak of the disease with people coming to Beijing from other cities and countries,” Zhang Tongjun, deputy head of a group for prevention and control work in the city’s residential communities, said during an afternoon conference. Z

By China Daily
March 9, 2020

South Korea declares third city as special care zone as cases spike

President Moon receives letter of support from North Korean leader as infected cases cross 6,000. South Korea has declared a third city a “special care zone” to boost its capability to fight a spike in coronavirus infections, with cases nationwide soaring beyond 6,000. The death toll stands at 42, mostly the elderly with underlying health conditions, while 88 people have recovered, including 47 discharged yesterday. The care zone announcement came as the presidential Blue House revealed that South Korean President Moon Jae-in received a letter on Wednesday from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressing support and comfort to the people battling the coronavirus outbreak, adding that he is confident they will “prevail in this fight wit

By The Straits Times
March 6, 2020