The Coronavirus outbreak: Letter from the Editor

The outbreak of the Coronavirus 2019-nCoV has caused us all to stop in our tracks, take stock of what we’re doing and what we should be doing, and reassess the plans we set out for the year.

As global health authorities ramp up their work to contain the spread of the virus, drug developers must turn on a dime to design diagnostic agents, create preventive vaccines and therapies, or redeploy programs and resources to help with the effort.

The urgency extends to the big adjustments the biopharma industry will need to make as clinical trials and supply chains are disrupted.

BioCentury will continue to prioritize coverage of these developments, with reporting and analysis of implications and consequences of the outbreak for global drug development, finance and the biomedical ecosystem.

Our analysis of developments in the discovery, testing and effectiveness of medical countermeasures will delve into the science and technology underlying these advances, and the logistics and policies needed to deliver them to patients.

The lines are busy to our friends, colleagues and partners in China, and we aim to disseminate information that can benefit the community.

Our 2019-nCoV coverage is available for free to all visitors to our site.

The following link contains a collection of articles that will be updated throughout the week:

This includes several pieces by our Washington Editor Steve Usdin, notably a broad overview of the technical and logistical issues related to generating vaccines and therapies for this virus (see “The Race Is On”).

Associate Editor Winnie Pong has tallied the companies with active programs (see “A Dozen Vaccine Programs Under Way”), and Staff Writer Hongjiang Li reports on a move by Hangzhou, China-based Ascletis Pharma Inc. to obtain approval from China’s National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) for emergency use of HIV agents to treat 2019-nCoV infections, based on evidence that similar compounds treated another coronavirus, SARS (see “China Guidelines Point to HIV Protease Inhibitors”).

An analysis by Senior Editor Lauren Martz suggests the toll on clinical trials may be heavy, with 20% of industry-sponsored trials including a site in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak (see “Coronavirus Epicenter a Hub”).

This impact on ongoing trials, plus the strategies taken by MNCs and China biotechs in response to the outbreak, will be a thread that we develop further in the next few days and weeks.

The likely time course of this outbreak is still unclear; its implications are still unfolding. What is already evident, however, is that the consequences will reverberate through all parts of the biomedical ecosystem, and well beyond. After the infection rate starts to wane, questions will remain about how to prepare for the next outbreak. BioCentury will keep a sharp focus on the policy and scientific groundwork that needs to be laid, and how the industry should adapt strategically.

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