The Wuhan Institute of Virology, part of the China Academy of Sciences, has applied to patent the use of Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir to treat the current coronavirus outbreak.
The company has partnered with Chinese health authorities to run a Phase III clinical trial to assess remdesivir for treatment of the virus. The drug was originally developed to treat the Ebola virus, but wasn’t effective. Preclinical assays have suggested that the drug might be effective against the coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, as was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). The drug was given to a U.S. patient for compassionate use on day seven of the disease and their condition improved on day eight.
The new clinical trial will be conducted at Friendship Hospital in Beijing, China. The trial will enroll 270 patients with mild and moderate pneumonia caused by the virus.
“Gilead is working closely with global health authorities to respond to the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak through the appropriate experimental use of our investigational compound remdesivir. While there are no antiviral data for remdesivir that show activity against 2019-nCoV at this time, available data in other coronaviruses give us hope,” the company stated.
The Wuhan Institute submitted the patent application jointly with the Military Medicine Institute of the People’s Liberation Army Academy of Military Science. Researchers with both organizations noted in a paper published in Nature’s Cell Research this week that both remdesivir and chloroquine, used to treat malaria, may be effective in stalling the coronavirus.
“Even if the Wuhan Institute’s application gets authorized, the role is very limited because Gilead still owns the fundamental patent of the drug,” said Zhao Youbin, a Shanghai-based intellectual property attorney at Purplevine IP Service Co. “Any exploitation of the patent must seek approval from Gilead.”
The Wuhan Institute indicated it filed the patent application on January 21, but also noted it would temporarily drop the patent claims if it had the opportunity to collaborate with foreign biopharma companies to battle the epidemic.