A Chinese company is already mass producing Gilead's experimental coronavirus drug
In a highly unusual step, a Chinese company said it has begun mass producing an experimental Gilead drug that US doctors used to treat patients infected with the novel coronavirus.
BrightGene Bio-Medical Technology Co said in a filing to the Shanghai stock exchange that it developed technology to manufacture remdesivir and began mass producing the active pharmaceutical ingredient for the event the drug is approved by Chinese authorities while the outbreak is ongoing. They said they are in the process of making the full drug.
Although other companies have started producing compounds for potential clinical trials, BrightGene stands out both for its scale and because the company does not have the rights to the experimental drug, remdesivir, and says it will license it from Gilead. Gilead has supplied sufficient doses of the drug for Chinese researchers to begin clinical trials on several hundred patients, but the company has shown little indication of how they would proceed if the drug is approved.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has also filed for a patent to use remdesivir against the novel coronavirus, recently dubbed COVID-19 by the World Health Organization. Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day said in response that the company “will not get into a patent dispute.”
China could also invoke a “compulsory license,” a legal maneuver that allows countries to override patents in emergencies, but it has not done so.
Gilead could not be immediately reached for comment. Bloomberg was the first to report the news.
Gilead originally developed remdesivir as an antiviral to treat Ebola and a similar infection known as Marburg Virus, but in clinical trials after the last Ebola outbreak in West Africa, it proved less effective than Regeneron’s REGN-EB3 antibody and another antibody developed by the US government. Those trials, however, established the drug as largely safe.
Doctors in Washington state turned to the drug as they struggled to treat the first US case of the outbreak in January. The patient recovered, although doctors cautioned that the drug would have to be tested in clinical trials to show efficacy.
Social image: Coronavirus via CDC