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Can Gilead tame the coronavirus?

February 27, 2020, 4:36 PM UTC

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Good morning, readers.

The buzz around Gilead’s coronavirus treatment—an experimental antiviral called remdesivir—is reaching a crescendo. Not just from a public health perspective (by far the most important part of this story), but from an investor standpoint, too. It raises the question: Can Gilead tame this biological beast?

As I reported last night, Gilead’s treatment is barreling through the clinical trial process at an unusually rapid pace. Remdesivir was already being tested in Chinese patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus strain. Two days ago, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said the Gilead drug would be deployed in the first U.S. clinical trials of a coronavirus therapy.

And then, on Wednesday, Gilead announced that late-stage clinical trials of remdesivir will launch in multiple countries (primarily in Asia, the hardest-hit region) next month. In fact, there will be two separate studies studies encompassing 1,000 patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19—for more on those details, head right over here.

Why is this particularly important? Should Gilead’s treatment live up to the promise public health officials have imbued upon it, remdesivir could prove a critical stopgap as the long, arduous process of developing a coronavirus vaccine continues—not to mention a product used long into the future should COVID-19 become a permanent feature of daily life.

The markets have certainly noticed. Gilead stock is up 3% just this week (and spiked as much as 7% on Wednesday).

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com
@the_sy_guy

DIGITAL HEALTH

Telehealth firm Ro expands into the allergy business. Last month, I reported on telehealth upstart Ro's expanding ambitions (you may be more familiar with the company's original name, Roman, which is now its men's health arm). Ro started off as an online, direct-to-consumer service for products like erectile dysfunction drugs. But it's since expanded into the women's health and virtual care spaces—and now it's getting into the allergy care business. In its latest expansion, Ro will offer prescription allergy medicines via its online marketplace (though only for seasonal allergies). (MobiHealthNews)

INDICATIONS

Acacia Pharma finally gets its post-operation nausea drug approval. Acacia Pharma finally pulled it off. The small British biotech has received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for Barhemsys, a therapy meant to treat a surprisingly common condition called postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV)—i.e., feeling nauseated or throwing up after a surgical procedure. Acacia had been stymied in two previous approval attempts over manufacturing woes for the treatment. The company's stock is up 18% in Thursday trading.

THE BIG PICTURE

Vice President Pence tapped to lead U.S. coronavirus response as California reports non-travel related transmission case. The White House announced on Wednesday that Vice President Mike Pence will oversee America's response to the coronavirus, which the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has warned could become a disruptive public health crisis in the U.S. Pence has faced criticism in the past over unusual views on modern science that don't jive with academic orthodoxy. On the same day, the CDC confirmed that there has been one reported coronavirus case in California that doesn't appear to be related to travel or direct contact with an infected patient—possibly the first case of its kind in America.

Insuring for a global health emergency. The toll that the coronavirus outbreak has taken on businesses is clear. What's less clear is how industries can mitigate the risk of the emergency. My colleague Naomi Xu Elegant explores how such an outbreak plays into the world of business interruption insurance, which traditionally is meant to cover catastrophic events like fires and tornadoes. (Fortune)

REQUIRED READING

College backlash against facial recognition technology growsby David Z. Morris

Europe's coronavirus response is very different from China'sby David Meyer

Mastercard has its eyes on the fintech prizeby Rey Mashayekhi

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