By Junko Fujita and Chris Gallagher
TOKYO (Reuters) – Takeda Pharmaceutical Co said on Wednesday it was developing a drug for high-risk patients infected with the new coronavirus, joining several other drugmakers seeking to develop a treatment for an illness that has killed over 3,000 people.
The Japanese firm said it was working on a plasma-derived therapy which had previously been shown to be effective in treatment of severe acute viral respiratory infections.
Its research would require antibodies from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus infections or who have been vaccinated, once a vaccine has been developed.
“By transferring the antibodies to a new patient, it may help that person’s immune system respond to the infection and increase their chance of recovery,” Takeda said in a statement.
It is also studying whether its currently marketed or pipeline products might be effective treatments for infected patients, the company said, adding those efforts were at an early stage.
Takeda joins other drugmakers working on developing drugs to treat the flu-like disease which has struck more than 90,000 people worldwide.
U.S.-based Gilead Sciences Inc said last week it had started two late-stage studies to test its drug, remdesivir, in patients with severe and moderate cases of the illness.
Pfizer Inc said on Monday it had identified certain antiviral compounds it has in development that have the potential to inhibit coronaviruses and is engaging with a third party to screen the compounds.
Takeda said it would share its plans with members of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday and was in talks with various health and regulatory agencies and healthcare partners in the United States, Asia and Europe to move forward its research into the drug.
The announcement comes amid news the U.S. Congress could debate and pass as early as this week emergency funding, possibly in the range of $6 billion to $8 billion, to help battle the virus and aid businesses.
Prior to Takeda’s announcement, shares in the company, Japan’s biggest pharmaceuticals firm by market value, closed down 0.95%.
(Reporting by Junko Fujita and Chris Gallagher; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Miyoung Kim and Mark Potter)