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Roche tried to see if its arthritis drug could fight coronavirus. It didn’t work

July 29, 2020, 6:14 PM UTC

Good afternoon, readers.

Drug development is a weird business. It’s crucial during a pandemic and the companies trying to make drugs have to get creative in emergency moments like this.

That’s why a whole lot of pharmaceutical firms have been testing out whether their own existing products can fight the coronavirus. Roche is one of them—and, unfortunately, on Wednesday announced that the gambit didn’t work out.

The Swiss drug giant was attempting to see whether or not Actemra, an anti-inflammatory which treats rheumatoid arthritis, could be promising for patients who had been hospitalized for COVID-19 with severe symptoms.

The company said in a statement that the trial of this drug failed both its primary and secondary goals: improvement in health for those with COVID-associated pneumonia as well as lowering the risk of death for these patients.

It’s a disappointing development. But it doesn’t mean that an old drug can’t learn new tricks. Gilead’s remdesivir, one of the only authorized coronavirus treatments in the world, had been in the making for a decade. Experimental vaccines rely on old technologies for similar coronaviruses. It isn’t easy to balance expedience with effectiveness.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


Geneticist George Church and other reportedly testing a DIY coronavirus vaccine on themselves. MIT Technology Review reports that at least 20 scientists, including the renowned genetics expert George Church, are testing out DIY coronavirus vaccines on themselves. That's a pretty controversial approach in the scientific community since these products haven't been validated by rigorous trials. But this particular group defends it with a risk-benefit argument. “I think we are at much bigger risk from Covid considering how many ways you can get it, and how highly variable the consequences are,” Church tells the Technology Review. "I think that people are highly underestimating this disease." (MIT Technology Review)


Kodak stock soars on $765 million Trump administration deal to create drugs. Shares of Kodak—a company best known for its photography products—are up a shattering 320% after the Trump administration announced a $765 million deal for the company to create generic drug ingredients. The funds were authorized under the Defense Production Act (DPA), which allows for emergency funding during situations like a pandemic. "Our 33rd use of the Defense Production Act will mobilize Kodak to make generic, active pharmaceutical ingredients,” said President Trump in a press conference on Tuesday. "We will bring back our jobs and we will make America the world’s premier medical manufacturer and supplier." (CNBC)


Coronavirus deaths top 150,000 in the U.S. The U.S. now has one of the highest per-capita global COVID-19 death counts, per Reuters, with the mortality toll rising beyond 150,000. If you look at other metrics, such as the Johns Hopkins COVID tracker, there are more than 4.3 million coronavirus cases in the U.S. and Florida (a "hot spot" with surging cases) had a second consecutive day of record deaths on Wednesday.


Big Tech is likely to defend its dominance by pointing to an alternativeby Grady McGregor

Kodak's pharmaceuticals shift comes years after Fujifilm tried to do the sameby Naomi Xu Elegant

How ugly the U.S. GDP report may getby Bloomberg

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