Katy Beth Boyers / Arts & Life Editor
The University of Alabama in Birmingham is working with local authorities in the World Health Organization and in China to develop a new drug that can combat the novel coronavirus called COVID-19. This drug, called Remdesivir, is being used to treat select patients affected by COVID-19 in the United States and China.
In an update from the University of Alabama in Birmingham, UAB was awarded $37.5 million to study and develop treatment to emerging high priority infections. The Antiviral Drug Discovery and Development Center, or AD3C, is being used to treat patients affected by the coronavirus. Dr. Richard Whitley, a Professor at UAB and the principal investigator of the U19 grant, discussed in a statement about UAB working with other universities and research centers on Remdesivir.
“The collaboration between UAB, our colleagues at Southern Research, Vanderbilt University and the University of North Carolina, along with our pharmaceutical partner Gilead Sciences, is indicative of our collaborative approach to respond to outbreaks in real time, and in helping communities worldwide fight 2019-nCoV. This is a prime example of how the research we are conducting at UAB plays a critical role in treating patients on a global scale and our contribution of substantial scientific advances,” Whitley said.
Remdesivir is being used due to it being found to have a lot of activity against COVID-19.
“Remdesivir, developed to treat the coronavirus causing MERS, was found to have significant activity against the 2019-nCoV strain when the outbreak began in the Chinese city of Wuhan,” UAB stated.
Gilead Sciences released Remdesivir to use in a few patients in the United States. Remdesivir hasn’t been tested for safety and efficacy in coronaviruses yet. However, Gilead Sciences is working with the World Health Organization and health authorities in China to determine whether this drug is safe and effective in treating COVID-19.
“This is an experimental medicine that has only been used in a small number of patients with COVID-19 to date, so Gilead does not have an appropriately robust understanding of the effect of this drug to warrant broad use at this time,” Gilead Sciences stated on their website.
Dr. Whitley considers this to be an accomplishment for UAB’s AD3C.
“The release of remdesivir for safety and efficacy studies is a major accomplishment for the AD3C – namely the U19 grant – as it shows significant and swift advance of antiviral drugs to help treat and respond to emerging infectious disease outbreaks on an international scale and, importantly, to anticipate the introduction of these infections in the United States,”Whitley said in the statement.
Whitley also recommends that partners build backup molecules for possible testing and treatment due to COVID-19’s potential to mutate.
The number of cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the United States. At the time of press, according to the CDC there are a total of 1,629 cases in the United States. On Friday, President Trump declared the COVID-19 virus a national emergency, and U.S. officials recommend that people take necessary precautions to stay healthy and protect those that may be vulnerable to this virus.
“The risk to the American public of contracting the Coronavirus remains low but every American should make sure to pay special attention to the vulnerable senior population in this Country who are at higher risk,” Vice President Mike Pence tweeted.