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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Drugmaker Gilead is set to release clinical trial data in the next couple of weeks for a potential coronavirus treatment — the next big benchmark in a breakneck race to develop a drug that will help arrest the global pandemic.

Why it matters: The only way to truly get back to normal is through a treatment or, ideally, a vaccine. And the World Health Organization has said Gilead's drug, called remdesivir, is the "most promising candidate."

What we're watching: Gilead's next data release will come from a clinical trial being conducted in China. There's some concern that the trial isn't as strong as researchers had hoped, but Gilead seems to be expecting good things. It has ramped up production and supply.

What's next: Several other drugs are in late-stage trials. Those are by far the closest to mass production, but the biggest hope rests with a vaccine.

Treatments
  • Regeneron and Roche are testing existing anti-inflammatory drugs, and late-stage data for both is expected this summer. The good news: These drugs already exist, and their manufacturers already have big operations.
  • Other treatments are a long way, six months or longer, from knowing if they work. Many experts are watching an oral drug at Emory University that will start human testing soon. More U.S. hospitals and labs also started testing hydroxychloroquine, but we simply don't know yet whether the drug works, politics aside.
Vaccines
  • Moderna is still testing its vaccine in humans, and it won't be widely available for at least 12 months, assuming it's safe and effective. However, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told Goldman Sachs its vaccine could possibly be used for emergency use for "some people, possibly including health care professionals, in the fall of 2020," and the company is scaling up production to millions of doses per month.
  • Inovio just started human trials for its vaccine this week.
  • Pfizer and BioNTech are working together to start trials of their vaccine by the end of April.
  • Experts say it's unrealistic to expect a mass-produced vaccine before 2021.

The bottom line: The science behind developing coronavirus treatments has never moved this fast before. But that doesn't mean expediency will supersede knowledge, and social distancing is giving us the chance to do more rigorous research.

Go deeper

Aug 26, 2020 - Health

Carson: It would "behoove" us to move forward with COVID-19 vaccine and treatment testing

Screenshot: Axios Events

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson says "this is not necessarily the time to take everything slowly" when it comes to the Trump administration's approach to getting vaccines and treatments to the public.

Why it matters: Carson's comments, made Wednesday during an Axios virtual event, came days after the Food and Drug Administration announced an emergency use authorization (EUA) for treating the coronavirus with convalescent plasma. President Trump accused the agency of slow-walking the development and approval of vaccines and therapeutics to hurt him politically.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Moderna says vaccine shows strong immune response in kids — Vaccines for kids are getting closer — A choose-your-own booster adventure.
  2. Health: U.S. releases updated vaccination, testing rules for foreign travelers — Those who miss work without pay due to COVID also had food insecurity — Unvaccinated athletes face 21-day quarantine at Beijing Olympics.
  3. Politics: Alabama governor orders state agencies to fight federal vaccine mandate — Axios-Ipsos poll: Confidence in Biden COVID recovery tumbles — New York City police union files lawsuit against vaccine mandate.
  4. Education: Benefits of vaccine for children outweigh risks, FDA says — Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Coronavirus cases fell by 15% this week

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

New coronavirus infections fell by almost 15% over the past week, continuing a steady downward trend.

Why it matters: The standard caveats still apply — progress can always fall apart, the U.S. is climbing down from a very high number of cases, and this is far from over. But this is undeniably good news. Things are getting better.