(Reuters) - Gilead Sciences Inc <GILD.O> said on Wednesday it has started two late-stage studies to test its drug in patients with severe and moderate cases of the illness caused by the coronavirus, sending its shares up 4% in extended trading.
Beginning March, the studies will test the experimental antiviral drug, remdesivir, among nearly 1,000 patients at medical centers across Asian countries, as well as in other nations with high numbers of diagnosed cases, the company said.
Two dosing durations of remdesivir will be administered intravenously in the late-stage studies following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's rapid acceptance of remdesivir as a new investigational drug.
U.S. health officials said on Tuesday the first clinical trial testing remdesivir in hospitalized patients with the coronavirus had started.
Earlier this month, the drug, which is currently in clinical trials in China, appeared to prevent the disease in monkeys prior to being infected with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
The main goal of the first study will be to evaluate if the drug normalized fever among the patients and oxygen balance in the blood, while the second trial will test remdesivir in proportion of participants in each group discharged by day 14.
The first study will test the drug in about 400 patients with severe manifestations of the coronavirus for five or ten days, while the second one will test it in about 600 patients with moderate symptoms, the company said.
Gilead said the new studies expand the drug's research that are under way in China's Hubei province led by the China-Japan Friendship Hospital and in the United States led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
(Reporting by Trisha Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)