Pfizer's Coronavirus Vaccine Deal, Antiviral Treatment

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U.S. drugmaker Pfizer has reported that early data has helped it identify a drug candidate with the potential to help treat patients infected with the novel coronavirus. Pfizer also finalized a plan to develop a coronavirus vaccine in partnership with German drugmaker BioNTech and said the companies hope to produce millions of vaccines by the end of 2020. The companies said they plan to start trials of the vaccine as early as this April 2020. Pfizer will pay BioNTech $185 million upfront to develop the vaccine, with additional incentive payments that could boost its total investment to nearly $750 million. Pfizer's data from preclinical studies of a compound that was originally developed to treat SARS in 2003 shows its potential to treat patients with the new coronavirus. Pfizer will conduct additional preclinical studies of the drug with the hopes of beginning human trials in the third quarter of 2020. In addition, Pfizer will support studies to determine whether existing Pfizer medicines, including its rheumatoid arthritis drug Xeljanz, may provide benefits for those with the COVID-19 related respiratory illnessed. More than a dozen large drugmakers, including Pfizer, have announced plans in recent months to develop vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus, even though none are likely to reach any currently infected patients during the current outbreak. Pfizer will help manufacture any eventual product and said it aims produce hundreds of millions of vaccines next year. The largest U.S. drugmaker also announced a plan for confronting the virus that includes collaborating with companies and institutions on the research, development and manufacture of treatments. Pfizer will help fund a study to investigate whether Xeljanz, which also treats the autoimmune disease ulcerative colitis, can help patients with pneumonia caused by COVID-19. Rheumatoid arthritis treatments from other drugmakers that work differently than Xeljanz are also being studied as possible COVID-19 treatments. Pfizer is also looking into the potential of other drugs that work on the immune system to help coronavirus patients, the company said. The company is also working with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine on two studies to better understand the relationship between coronavirus and pneumonia, which plays a role in many deaths caused by the virus that attacks the lungs. Pfizer will also publish a review of research into whether its antibiotic azithromycin, sold under the brand name Zithromax, can play a role in treating COVID-19. Azithromycin has been used with the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine by some doctors after a French study suggested the combination might benefit some COVID-19 patients.

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