UPDATED — Covid-19 roundup: WHO all but confirms virus not man-made; NeuroRx, Relief say they don't know if IV treatment works
The WHO has been working on tracing the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic in recent weeks, sending a field team to Wuhan, China, to investigate. And Tuesday morning, they all but ruled out the possibility that the virus was man-made.
Researchers with the organization said the novel coronavirus stemming from the result of a lab accident was “extremely unlikely,” confirming what most health experts had said since it first emerged in late 2019. The evidence continues to point toward the virus spreading from animals to humans.
“All the work that has been done on the virus and trying to identify its origin continue to point toward a natural reservoir,” lead scientist Peter Ben Embarek said at a news conference, per a New York Times report.
In speaking with reporters, Embarek swatted down the lab accident theory that had been promoted at times by former President Donald Trump’s administration, among others. “It was very unlikely that anything could escape from such a place,” he said, noting the heavy safety protocols.
The WHO mission comes after months of criticism that the organization has gone out of its way to defer to the Chinese government in its assessments of the pandemic. China had been reluctant to allow the scientists into the country but ultimately acquiesced last month, letting the group of 14 conduct their investigation.
The country also used Tuesday’s news conference to continue asserting that the virus first appeared elsewhere, a theory that many health experts dismiss. WHO scientists have said they will investigate these claims while also calling for more research into animals sold at a market in Wuhan where some of the first cases were reported.
Efficacy for severe Covid-19 treatment still TBD, NeuroRx and Relief say
NeuroRx and Relief Therapeutics have teamed up on developing inhaled and IV formulations of an experimental drug for severe Covid-19 cases, and on Tuesday revealed that the jury is still out on whether or not the IV program works as intended.
The pair said they are still working to determine whether or not the candidate, dubbed Zyesami, met the primary endpoint of recovery from respiratory failure within 28 days in a Phase IIb/III study. Patients are being followed through 60 days.
The pair also revealed key secondary endpoint data, including that researchers did not see differences in survival benefit after four weeks. NeuroRx and Relief appeared to blame that on overall ICU care improving, saying in a release “With the improvement in survival since the start of the pandemic, differences in survival were not seen at day 28.”
Investors in Relief were apparently not pleased, sending shares of the Swiss penny stock down more than 30%.
138 patients out of a total of 203 survived in that timeframe, with 91 of those taking Zyesami and 47 on standard of care. Patients were randomized into the drug arm at a 2-to-1 ratio.
The companies attempted to highlight a small positive in another secondary endpoint, though, noting that patients who were treated with Zyesami on top of the maximal standard of care benefited over placebo. They measured this output using time to discharge from the hospital, saying that in six of eight evaluable cases patients saw a three-day median difference in hospital stay.
But by the companies’ own admission, that finding may not end up meaning anything.
“The secondary endpoint data reported today should not create an expectation that the primary endpoint will be met overall or for any subgroup,” the companies said.
Endpoints News sent out a request for comment on the news, and received this in an emailed response from CEO Jonathan Javitt:
“The endpoint data we reported are statistically-significant and clinically meaningful to doctors, patients, and families. Reduced hospital stay has been a key basis for regulatory determinations during the COVID pandemic and the reduced hospital stay seen in this population was shown in a population that lacks effective therapies. These data are therefore material.”
The candidate itself is a formulation of vasoactive intestinal polypeptide, which is known to be highly concentrated in the lungs. Though Tuesday’s results come from the IV version of the program, the inhaled formula is currently in a Phase II/III study.
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