Monday, March 23, 2020

MB biotech firm fast tracks coronavirus treatment

Winnipeg biotech company says COVID-19 treatment nearing production | Global News - Skylar Peters

March 22, 2020 - "A Winnipeg company is working on a way to treat those who have become ill with COVID-19. Emergent Biosolutions is developing experimental treatments for the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. At the same time, it has partnered with two American pharmaceutical companies to work on a vaccine for COVID-19.... Emergent has teamed up with clinical-stage vaccine company Novavax as well as biotech company Vaxart to develop two oral vaccines.

"As senior vice president of therapeutics Dr. Laura Saward tells 680 CJOB, the company has a bit of a head start. 'We started right away, looking across our different platforms for how we could have an impact, and of course everyone is doing this quickly,' Saward says. 'We looked at some of our proven technologies – platforms that have supported several licensed drugs, and we put those to work on coronavirus.'

"Saward explains while many researchers are focused on a vaccine that would make someone immune to COVID-19, they’re focused on therapeutics for those who would have already contracted the illness. 'When you use a vaccine, you’re developing antibodies over time. This is a way to give someone a dose of these antibodies right away, and that would help to remove the infection or the virus from their system,' Saward says. 'It’s an approach we’ve used with many other infectious diseases where you isolate these antibodies from plasma sources. There’s hundreds of years of research behind this type of approach. It does take some of the risk out, and our focus is on going as fast as possible.'

"Winnipeg epidemiologist Dr. Cynthia Carr tells 680 CJOB while any vaccine could still be over a year away, it’s important to remember we might not get one at all, as none of the previous seven strains of the coronavirus has had a vaccine, so developing treatment is equally important....

"Saward explains her group is making great progress.... 'We will work with regulators to ensure we’re doing this in a way that’s safe — but our target is to get in the clinic by the end of summer. We will be manufacturing at our Winnipeg site by the beginning of summer.'"

[Statistics appended to the article report 1,510 cases of coronavirus in Canada, of which 20 people have died and 18 were pronounced recovered - gd.]

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