Pharma Companies Scramble to Address Coronavirus

- January 27th, 2020

With concern growing about the novel coronavirus, pharmaceutical firms are jumping to try to keep up with the quickly spreading disease.

In response to the new coronavirus, pharmaceutical companies across the market have begun to step up work on tests and treatments amid the growing unease about the disease’s spread.

One such firm, Utah-based Co-Diagnostics (NASDAQ:CODX) has completed the first phase of design for a screening test that detects the disease.

Following the Thursday (January 23) announcement, the company jumped 138.9 percent when the markets opened from its close on Wednesday (January 22). Shares opened at US$2.77 on Monday (January 27).

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Co-Diagnostics’ potential offering is a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) screening test using the company’s diagnostic test platform. PCR tests are often used for the early detection of HIV.

In a press release, Co-Diagnostics CEO Dwight Egan said the novelty of the disease does pose a challenge for trying to build an accurate test, but the firm’s platform can tell the difference between similar genetic sequences in viruses to reduce the chance of a false positive diagnosis.

“We believe that if the (World Health Organization) takes the step of declaring the illness a global health emergency following collection of more data in the days and weeks to come, Co-Diagnostics will be well positioned to quickly assist in providing these state of the art tools to affected countries,” Egan added.

Since investors are looking for companies on the edge of preparing countermeasures to the disease, shares of Co-Diagnostics soared.

The first indication of the emergency came late last year when WHO was notified of a number of cases of pneumonia with unknown causes in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, China.

Since the initial outbreak, countries in Asia, North America, Europe and Australia have all confirmed cases of the virus.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, according to WHO.

With growing concern about the novel coronavirus, pharmaceutical firms have jumped to try and keep up with the quickly spreading disease.

Meridian Bioscience (NASDAQ:VIVO) joined Co-Diagnostics on the screening front, announcing on Monday that laboratories in China have used its proprietary formulation to create accurate screening assays, a procedure that measures the amount and activity of a target virus.

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Another company, Vir Biotechnology (NASDAQ:VIR), rose 43.5 percent between the opening bell on Thursday and the market open on Monday after telling investors it’s determining if its previously identified anti-coronavirus antibodies are an efficient measure against the disease.

Other companies have been quick to pick up the task of developing treatments for the novel coronavirus.

With the help of a recently confirmed agreement with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) plans to develop a vaccine against the disease.

Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, said in a press release that the company’s mRNA vaccine technology could have a solid chance of offering protection against coronavirus.

“Advances in global public health require the collective effort of public-private partnerships – no organization can act alone,” Bancel said.

As a part of the deal, CEPI will fund Moderna’s research as it designs the drug, which will then be placed in a Phase 1 clinical study in the US. The firm saw an increase of 3.5 percent on Monday, sitting at a price of US$22.78 as of 11:32 a.m. EST.

In the meantime, China has announced its plans to use lopinavir and ritonavir by AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV), a combination medication used to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS, as an intermediary treatment as researchers rush to find a viable drug.

Following the Sunday announcement (January 26), Abbvie saw a slight increase of 1.8 percent from the market close on Friday to the market open on Monday. Prices currently sit at US$84.45 as of 11:41 a.m. EST.

Don’t forget to follow @INN_LifeScience for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Danielle Edwards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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