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In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

April 20, 2020 by Ansley Kahn

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Early data from two phase 3 clinical trials at the University of Chicago testing Gilead Sciences’ antiviral medicine remdesivir among COVID-19 patients is showing rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms among the patients. The university recruited 125 patients with COVID-19 to participate in these studies, of which 113 had severe cases of the disease. Researchers overseeing the trials reported nearly all patients were discharged from the hospital in less than one week after receiving daily infusions, noting only two patients have died. Although public health experts largely view these results as encouraging, clinical trials of remdesivir, including those with randomized control groups, are being run concurrently at other institutions to determine if this drug is safe and effective against COVID-19. Positive results from these trials could lead to fast approvals by the US Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies in what could be the first approved treatment for the disease.

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) are joining forces to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. Sanofi will test its experimental coronavirus vaccine with GSK supplying some of the adjuvants—additional ingredients that improve efficacy and make it easier to produce vaccines in larger quantities. The companies plan to start human trials in the second half of this year, with the goal of having a vaccine available by the second half of 2021 if the studies are successful. If this partnership does produce a vaccine, GSK has also committed to reinvest any short-term profit from the vaccine into COVID-19 research and long-term pandemic preparedness. This partnership is one among many working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Earlier this year, Sanofi partnered with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a US agency focused on funding research and development for global health threats. In a statement, both companies pledged to make any vaccine that is developed affordable and accessible worldwide.

Last week, President Trump announced he was halting US payments to the World Health Organization (WHO) pending a 60 to 90-day review. In his announcement, President Trump cited the organization’s failure to properly investigate early reports of the virus’ emergence and to stop its spread after it first appeared in China as reasons for halting payments. President Trump accused WHO of being China-centric and alleged the organization was critical of his administration’s travel ban from China as COVID-19 continued to spread globally. President Trump’s announcement has prompted international outcry with many noting now is not the time to end support for WHO. The US government contributed nearly US$900 million to WHO’s 2018–2019 budget, representing one-fifth of the agency’s operating budget for those years.

About the author

Ansley KahnGHTC

Ansley Kahn is a senior program assistant at GHTC who supports GHTC's communications and member engagement activities.