China is trying to patent Gilead's experimental Coronavirus drug

Henrietta Strickland
February 5, 2020

Gilead Sciences, a biopharmaceutical firm with an experimental drug called remdesivir that is used to treat the Ebola virus, said late Friday it is working with Chinese health authorities to see if the medication can combat the symptoms of coronavirus. The company said it was also expediting laboratory testing of the antiviral drug, remdesivir, against samples of the new coronavirus, which has infected almost 10,000 globally.

The move is a sign that China wants more say over a drug it deems one of the most promising candidates against the infection that has killed nearly 500 people. The patent filing will need to prove that the drug works on this coronavirus strain, 2019-nCoV, in a way that's different from how it works on other viruses in the same category. The drug had previously been tested in patients with Ebola but was found to be ineffective.

"Even if the Wuhan Institute's application gets authorised, the role is very limited because Gilead still owns the fundamental patent of the drug", said Zhao Youbin, a Shanghai-based intellectual property counsel at Purplevine IP Service Co. Although the drug has not gone through all the procedures of clinical trials on the 2019-nCoV overseas, it has shown fairly good vitro activity in related domestic research, said Sun Yanrong, an official of the ministry, at a press conference held by the National Health Commission.

Gilead did not immediately respond to request for comment but last week said it was working with China to test Remdesivir for use in a small number of patients with the coronavirus.

"The good thing in having a patent is that it would lead to cross-licensing situations that give China more bargaining chips in negotiating the licensing fee with Gilead", said Wang. But the drug has not yet been officially licensed or approved for treatment by any global health organization, Gilead added. The company is shipping enough doses to treat 500 patients and is ramping up supply in case the clinical trials work.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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