The death toll from the virus now stands at 567, and that now includes the whistleblower doctor who was reprimanded by the Chinese government for spreading "rumors" about the new virus back in December.
Even so, the use of the experimental drug has been allowed only as an emergency treatment, which can be administered in the absence of any other approved treatment options.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) announced yesterday that it has filed a Chinese patent application covering the use of antiviral drug remdesivir to treat the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) plaguing China.
If the application succeeds, Gilead would need to get Chinese patent owners on board in sales of the drug for treating coronavirus infections outside China.
Large areas of China have been paralyzed by the coronavirus, and the move signals a desire to speed development of one of the most promising potential treatments. The patent would leverage negotiations for access to the drug, along with pricing benefits.
The institute said it applied for a "use patent" that specifies the Wuhan virus as the drug's target.
In addition to the clinical trial likely to be initiated in China, Gilead will expand laboratory testing of remdesivir against 2019-nCoV samples and provide the drug to a limited number of physicians for emergency use. The two drugs' efficacies on humans required further clinical tests, the institute said in the statement.
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Hong Kong has already suffered a steep downturn in passenger traffic as anti-government protests have roiled the island city. The recent move by United comes amid concern over the coronavirus outbreak in China and around the globe.
The company reported that it had filed patent applications for the application of the drug for coronaviruses in China and for use in some other countries and regions in 2016, it had however not received approval in China. But it also might fuel complaints Beijing abuses its regulatory system to pressure foreign companies to hand over valuable technology.
In light of that existing patent Stephen Yang, managing partner at IP March in Beijing, says the Wuhan Institute's application "must provide sufficient argument to support the inventive step of the new use", which could be a hard hurdle to clear. Payment would consist of a license fee relative to fair market value.
"If relevant foreign companies plan to contribute to China's epidemic prevention and control, we both agree that if the state needs it, we will not require enforcement of rights given by the patent", it said.
Last week, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that a coronavirus patient in the USA improved after being given an infusion of the experimental drug as a part of his treatment. A single patient treated with remdesivir in Washington state is reported to have made a recovery from the coronavirus.
Gilead is donating about 500 patients' worth of the experimental drug, and Chinese hospitals will be in charge of conducting the tests.
"There are now limited available clinical supplies of remdesivir, but we are working to increase our available supply as rapidly as possible", McKeel said.