As the World Health Organisation (WHO) announces the launch of their SOLIDARITY trial, we have a look at what clinical trials are in operation right now in the places that are currently receiving - or are set for - the biggest impact of the virus.
To recap, WHO’s project, which was announced at the end of last month, will involve a widespread study of all potential treatments for COVID-19 and will consist of data from all over the world (incl. Asia, South Africa, Europe, and the Americas). The organization will take part in reviewing evidence for treatments from the collected data, and is currently looking for cooperation from member countries to ensure that the passage of information is as quick and smooth as possible. While this approach will, in theory, quicken the spread of knowledge and thus quicken the development of a treatment, potential bureaucratic obstacles may hinder the project’s success.
That is why we, here at Citruslabs, have put together a breakdown of the main clinical trials that are in progress right now as a way letting everyone know what the current situation is - globally, not just nationally. It’s absolutely essential in these times of great uncertainty and doubt that everyone has access to a wider perspective on the situation. We must remind ourselves how we, as a species, are fighting hard against COVID-19.
While the country is the epicenter of the disease, the spread of the virus is now thankfully in decline due to strict but effective lockdown measures. The current amount of confirmed cases stands (as of 05/04/20) at around 81,669, with the reported amount of recoveries at a hopeful 76,964.
In terms of clinical research, the world owes a lot to the speedy transmission of initial data on the disease that has become the basis of trials now operating in the UK and the USA. According to Chinese media sources, phase 1 clinical trials are now underway for a potential vaccine produced by Cansino Biologics in association with a team based at the PLA Academy of Military Medical Sciences. The trial will involve around 100 volunteers, aged between 18-60, who reside in Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated. The aim of the trial is to trigger antibody generation that would, in theory, make patients immune to the disease.
Despite it still being early days, the fact that the science for a vaccine is present and is being followed through at such a fast pace means that we could see a long-term solution come from the country very soon.
Despite the government’s initial lack of action in terms of mass testing, which was recommended by the World Health Organisation, not long after the virus outbreak back in January, the UK government appears to be turning things around at a fast pace.
On Friday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that three national clinical trials are now in operation, covering each stage of the disease: primary care, hospital care, and critical care for the most seriously ill. The second of these trials, formally known as ‘Recovery’, is the largest of its kind in the world right now, with 926 patients currently involved.
With initial testing goals now being upped to 100,000 completed tests per day, and the whole country in lockdown for at least another few weeks, medical professionals are suggesting that the UK could see a peak in the spread somewhere around Easter Sunday. This, of course, is just an estimation and relies heavily on the population following the strict rules set out by the government only a few weeks ago.
It’s very difficult to comment on the situation in the US, as a whole, right now due to the country still being in its early stages of the spread. From predictions released by White House officials, the US is suggested to have a death toll of between 100,000 to 240,000; and while this is certainly heartbreaking, the statistics are still in-line with the rates reported elsewhere. However, testing measures are still not entirely clear across the country as a whole and President Trump remains to enforce a nation-wide lockdown, leaving it up to states to decide on action to prevent further spread. Much like the UK a few weeks ago, the US is currently in a state of the unknown.
Yet, this cannot be said about the US pharmaceutical industry. The US is now home to a number of promising clinical studies that are now finding their feet and racing towards their trial stages.
Moderna Therapeutics, based in Boston, has produced a vaccine that is set to enter human trials imminently. The vaccine consists of mRNA, which is genetic material found in DNA that also creates proteins, and is thought to help the body to identify coronavirus proteins in order for the body’s immune cells to then attack them. Equally, Novavax announced at the end of March that a protein-based vaccine was also in development, with phase 1 clinical trials looking to take place in May or June. The company had been researching vaccines and treatments for SARS and MERS up until the latest outbreak and, according to a company statement, has ‘a proven track record of rapid innovative vaccine development against novel emerging viruses’ that put the company in good stead for approaching COVID-19.
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