NIH hits pause on non-critical lab work

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NIH became the latest group to pare back its research due to the COVID-19 outbreak, following in the footsteps of multiple biopharmas that have paused preclinical and clinical programs this week. The organization will shift all non-mission critical lab operations to maintenance, starting March 23.

Lab work that will continue includes care of research participants in NIH clinical protocols that are non-elective; research directly on COVID-19; urgent public health research recommended by NIH scientific leadership; work involving significant research investments that could be lost if not continued; and protection of life, property and resources, including the care of research animals.

Data analysis, literature reviews, and drafting and review of manuscripts will be performed remotely.

NIH’s move comes after several San Francisco Bay Area biopharmas, including the Genentech Inc. unit of Roche (SIX:ROG; OTCQX:RHHBY), told BioCentury this week that lab access is being restricted to essential staff in the wake of a shelter-in-place order that took effect Monday; California Governor Gavin Newsom expanded the directive to the whole state Thursday. Non-mission critical research activities -- largely preclinical programs that aren’t on track for an imminent IND -- are being cut back (see “Bay Area Labs Pare Down to Essentials”).

A slew of other companies have halted clinical trials to preserve patient and staff safety. On Friday, Forty Seven Inc. said it will delay the initiation of its Phase I trial of FSI-174, a mAb targeting cKIT, which was slated to begin this quarter. In a statement, the company said it would “re-visit the timing of a potential trial initiation in the second quarter” (see “Trials, In-Hospital Treatments and Guidances Hit Snags”).

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