Top Pharmaceutical Companies Racing for a Vaccine to Halt the Coronavirus

March 19, 2020 -

The race is on for a vaccine for the coronavirus. Over the last 24 hours, up to 9,000 have been infected with the virus just in the U.S. Up to 149 have now died. Worse, according to the U.S. government, the pandemic could last 18 months or longer, and “include multiple waves of illness,” as noted by CNN. Hospitals are already sounding the alarms on short supplies with the outbreak showing no signs of slowing, as well. Around the world, there are now a total of 218,000 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, as also highlighted by CNN. Worse, the number of global deaths has now passed 8,810. China reported another 34 new cases. Italy saw an increase of 4,207 cases in a day. As the virus spreads, top pharmaceutical companies are working on a vaccine. Some of the top stocks to keep an eye on include WPD Pharmaceuticals Inc. (CSE:WBIO), Trillium Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ:TRIL)(TSX:TRIL), Sona Nanotech Inc. (CSE: SONA)(OTC:LMTCF), Vaxil Bio Ltd. (TSXV:VXL)(OTC:VXLLF), and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:REGN).

WPD Pharmaceuticals Inc. (CSE:WBIO) BREAKING NEWS: WPD Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s icence partner, Moleculin Biotech Inc., has entered into an agreement with a leading government-funded research facility in the United States to conduct research on its patented portfolio of molecular inhibitors, including drug candidate, WP1122, for anti-viral properties against a range of viruses, including coronavirus.

Published research has revealed that viral replication can be highly dependent on specific monosaccharides and has demonstrated the effectiveness of a compound known as 2-DG, a dual decoy of glucose and mannose, in the treatment of certain viruses. This is rooted in an emerging field of research focused on the role of glycolysis and glycosylation, or more specifically, on glucose and mannose metabolism in viral activity, including the coronavirus. Importantly, although 2-DG has shown promise in the laboratory in relevant in vivo models, its potential as a therapy is severely limited by its lack of drug-like properties, including circulation time and organ uptake. The drug candidate, WP1122, is a pro-drug of 2-DG (2-deoxy-D-glucose) that, based on recently developed preclinical data, appears to overcome 2-DG's lack of drug-like properties and is able to significantly increase tissue/organ concentration.

Mariusz Olejniczak, chief executive officer of WPD, commented: "We are eager for testing to begin on our WP1122 drug for anti-viral properties against viruses, including the prevalent coronavirus. The in vivo research supporting the use of 2-DG as dual inhibitor of glycolysis and glycosylation to defeat viruses like coronavirus through multiple effects critical to the progression of viral infection is promising. We believe that during this difficult time, it is the responsibility of every biotech company to remain committed to research and test the entire drug portfolio to find alternative treatment for patients."

Other related developments from around the markets include:

Trillium Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ:TRIL) reported financial and operating results, including an update on its transformation program, for the year ended December 31, 2019. 2019 was a critical year in Trillium’s evolution toward a more clinical development-focused CD47 immuno-oncology company. Key developments, as part of a wide-ranging transformation program, were: Transitioned leadership to a new CEO, Jan Skvarka, who joined in September. Mr. Skvarka is an experienced healthcare executive, who was previously CEO of a PureTech Health portfolio company (Tal Medical), and leading Partner in the Healthcare practice at Bain & Company. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. Established office in Cambridge, MA, which will allow the company to tap the local talent pool. The CEO office and clinical development are now based in Cambridge. Restructured the company’s footprint by reducing staff by 40% to create a more efficient organization with stronger clinical development focus, as well as extend the cash runway. Substantially revised the company strategy, namely: Refocused on intravenous TTI-621 & TTI-622 programs and large hematologic malignancy indications, specifically acute myeloid lymphoma & myelodysplastic syndromes (AML/MDS), peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL), diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) and multiple myeloma; Deprioritized a lead intratumoral TTI-621 program with intended focus on early-stage cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL). Zeroed in on execution of TTI-621 & TTI-622 dose escalation studies, which were declared mission critical path in the near term.

Sona Nanotech Inc. (CSE: SONA)(OTC:LMTCF) provided an update on the development of its rapid-response Covid-19 test.  Sona is leading a consortium of diagnostic test developers including GE Healthcare Life Sciences, to create  a rapid-response, lateral flow test that will directly identify the Covid-19 virus and provide in-field test results in minutes, without the use of specialized laboratory equipment or technicians. Sona is pleased to report its consortium has achieved a significant milestone in its test development programme by generating an active conjugate which produces a signal when exposed to Covid-19 viral antigens.  With the achievement of the positive identification of the viral antigens, the consortium has now commenced development of a functional prototype of the rapid-response test.  Sona expects its Covid-19 test to benefit from reduced regulatory and field-testing requirements as announced by several regulatory agencies including in the United States’ FDA. Sona’s Covid-19 test will offer a unique advantage over other lateral flow tests as it detects the presence of the Covid-19 virus. To date, the only competitive lateral flow tests that have been announced for sale are serological assay tests, which are designed to identify IgM and IgG antibodies present post infection.   Serological tests are susceptible to producing false positive and false negative results if a patient is suffering from any one of a variety of unrelated infections (I.e. ear or tooth infection, regular flu, etc.).  Sona’s test is being developed to indicate a positive result only when the Covid-19 virus is present, allowing for direct and clear interpretation.  (For more information on the unique advantages of Sona Covid-19 test over serological tests, see our previous new release dated March 12, 2020)

Vaxil Bio Ltd. (TSXV:VXL)(OTC:VXLLF) announced that it has completed in silico analyses and believes that it has successfully identified a corona virus (COVID-19) vaccine candidate. The Vaccine Candidate is based on unique and patent protected signal peptide technology, utilizing Vaxil’s proprietary VaxHit™ bioinformatics platform. The Vaccine Candidate’s design is also based on successful in vivo experiments testing a tuberculosis signal peptide vaccine. “We are very excited to have been able to isolate a preliminary candidate that might address the current and emerging need in such a short time,” said David Goren, Vaxil’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, who went on to say that “we look forward to the next step of identifying resources and partners to solidify the most efficient path forward.” Mr. Goren continued to explain that “we have identified signal peptide combinations which we believe can be effective as a prophylactic vaccine against the current corona virus and might also demonstrate therapeutic value in the future.” Vaxil plans to initiate non-GMP manufacturing followed by testing as we explore partnerships and other possibilities.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:REGN) announced the latest progress in its efforts to discover and develop a novel multi-antibody cocktail that can be administered as prophylaxis before exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus or as treatment for those already infected. Regeneron scientists have now isolated hundreds of virus-neutralizing, fully human antibodies from the company's VelocImmune® mice, which have been genetically-modified to have a human immune system. Regeneron has also isolated antibodies from humans who have recovered from COVID-19, in order to maximize the pool of potentially potent antibodies. From this large pool of candidates, Regeneron will select the top two antibodies for a 'cocktail' treatment based on potency and binding ability to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, as well as other desirable qualities. Using a multi-antibody approach allows for targeting of different parts of the virus and may help protect against multiple viral variants. Regeneron previously used these technologies to rapidly develop a successful treatment for Ebola virus infection, which is currently under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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