Tuesday 14 April 2020 9:04 am

Astrazeneca rushes to open coronavirus drug trial

Astrazeneca is set to begin clinical trials to test its Calquence drug’s effectiveness in the treatment of severe coronavirus patients.

The pharmaceutical giant’s shares shot up on the FTSE 100 in early trading after saying it would begin a clinical trial.

The trial will seek to assess Calquence’s potential to treat Covid-19 infections.

Read more: Pharma giant GSK takes $250m stake in firm to develop coronavirus vaccine

Calquence is an Astrazeneca drug used to treat some blood cancers. But the firm said it could be used to treat the immune response in severe cases of coronavirus.

Early tests have indicated Calquence could suppress the inflammation caused by coronavirus and so mitigate respiratory harm.

“With this trial we… hope to demonstrate that adding Calquence to best supportive care reduces the need to place patients on ventilators and improves their chances of survival,” Jose Baselga, executive vice president of oncology R&D, said.

“This is the fastest launch of any clinical trial in the history of Astrazeneca.”

The British drugmaker will open the Calquence coronavirus trial in the coming days in the US and across Europe.

The company hopes to assess how safe and effective it would be to use Calquence. It could potentially help patients in need of breathing support and so reduce the coronavirus death rate.

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Astrazeneca’s investor update buoyed its share price, which surged 6.2 per cent to 7,564p in the morning. It comes as other pharma giants have paused or delayed clinical trials to prioritise coronavirus treatments.

Last month Astrazeneca and and British rival Glaxosmithkline agreed a deal to build a testing laboratory for coronavirus with Cambridge University.

GSK has taken a £200m stake in a US biotech firm to help create a coronavirus vaccine. Vir Biotechnology specialises in severe infectious diseases.