Two drug companies partner with US government for coronavirus treatment and vaccine

By | February 18, 2020

Government medical agencies are contracting with two different pharmaceutical companies to try to lock down a vaccine and treatment against the new strain of coronavirus that has been spreading globally.

There currently are no vaccines or treatments for the coronavirus, which has infected over 72,000 in China and killed over 1,800 there, but officials are trying to work quickly to create them so they can be prepared in case the virus turns into a pandemic or returns in future years around the flu season. So far, the new coronavirus has infected 15 people in the United States.

The agency in charge of overseeing the development of medicines, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, announced Tuesday that will be providing funding to French drug manufacturer Sanofi to research and develop a vaccine. The company worked to develop a vaccine for SARS, which is another type of coronavirus.

“Our goal is a licensed vaccine to provide long-term health security against this latest virus and prevent future coronavirus outbreaks,” Rick Bright, the director of BARDA, said in a statement.

The government has been collaborating with Sanofi since 2009 to help produce more flu vaccines, but a vaccine against the new coronavirus strain probably won’t be available for testing until more than a year from now.

Sanofi is the second company to announce it’s working with the U.S. government on a vaccine. Janssen, part of Johnson & Johnson, is also working to develop one.

On Tuesday, Janssen announced a second undertaking related to the coronavirus. It will be working with government scientists to review its medicines to see which treatments might be used to try to reduce symptoms of the illness, dubbed COVID-19, which include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The company will be looking at medicines already on the market as well as those currently being tested — as long as they have already been cleared for safety.

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Janssen will work with Rega Institute for Medical Research, based in Belgium, to screen the medicines.

BARDA is also working with other government agencies to review potential vaccines, treatments, and ways to test for the virus. Some possibilities include drugs to prevent and treat severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, another strain of coronavirus. It has also created a website for drug companies and researchers to share some potential treatments and vaccines they have to fight the virus.