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O'Day on remdesivir: ‘We will not get in a patent dispute’

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day said a patent application from two Chinese institutions for the use of the company’s unapproved antiviral remdesivir to treat the coronavirus “has no impact on what we’re going to do for global health.”

“It’s tremendously clear that our responsibility is to patients, and our number one responsibility is to pursue the right clinical programs to determine whether or not this medicine has an impact with patients,” according to remarks O’Day made at a company meeting that were made available on YouTube. “We will not get into a patent dispute; we will find a way to help patients.”

Gilead plans to start enrolling patients mid-February in two Chinese clinical trials evaluating remdesivir to treat 2019-nCoV. The trials are being coordinated by China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing (see “Gilead Prepares for Chinese Trials of Antiviral”).

On the company’s earnings call Tuesday, CMO Merdad Parsey said Gilead is “investing pretty heavily” in manufacturing of the therapy “to make sure we’re prepared as best as we can” (see “Gilead Working ‘Night and Day’ on Coronavirus Response”).

Wuhan Institute of Virology and Beijing Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology said in a statement that on Jan. 21, they applied for a patent on remdesivir to treat 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease to “protect national interests.”

The institutes said that if “the relevant foreign company” contributes to prevention and control of the epidemic, they would temporarily not implement the rights claimed by the patent. The partners plan to seek international patent protection under the patent cooperation treaty system.

The institutes selected remdesivir to patent because it is not marketed in China, and preclinical data demonstrated the antiviral’s ability to block 2019-nCoV infection in human cell lines.

Gilead spokesperson Sonia Choi told BioCentury that the company has patented remdesivir in China and filed additional patent applications for its use against coronavirus in 2016; the application is still pending in China.

“Gilead has no influence over whether a patent office issues a patent to the Chinese researchers,” Choi said. “Their application has been filed more than three years after Gilead’s filing and will be considered in view of what is already known about the compound and pending patent applications.”

Gilead was off $1.53 to $65.87 on Wednesday.

Further analysis of the coronavirus crisis can be found at https://www.biocentury.com/coronavirus. The 2019n-CoV content is free to all who visit the site.

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