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Tests for remdesivir, likely cure for new coronavirus, to begin in Korea

Gilead Sciences is in talks with Korean health authorities to begin clinical trials of remdesivir, a drug believed to have the most chance of treating the novel coronavirus.

“We are in discussions with Gilead Sciences Korea. It is likely they will submit their application for clinical trials this month,” a Ministry of Food and Drug Safety official told The Korea Herald.

“We will review the clinical design in a timely manner once we receive it, and begin targeted large-scale trials,” the official said.

Gilead Sciences Korea said it would make an official statement soon.

Remdesivir is an experimental antiviral drug of Gilead Sciences that was being developed as a potential Ebola treatment.

The drug has shown efficacy in preventing Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus infection in monkeys, according to the US’ National Institutes of Health mid-February.

China has for some time been carrying out phase 3 clinical trials of remdisivr to treat patients afflicted with the new coronavirus.

Bruce Aylward, an assistant director general of the World Health Organization, said at a press conference in Beijing earlier this week, that “there is only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy and that’s remdesivir.”

Gilead Sciences shares jumped nearly 5 percent after the remark.

With China now claiming credit for advancing the remdesivir studies, and a local pharma firm -- BrightGene -- reporting that it has successfully copied remdesivir, the US is also mulling global clinical trials of the drug, to be conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center along with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at 50 sites around the world.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (