Daniel O’Day, CEO of Gilead Sciences, told CNBC on Monday that the company is testing remdesivir to see if it’s effective in treating new strains of coronavirus that have emerged in the UK and South Africa.
“Remdesivir works at the source in the cell where the virus replicates, and we know that in these new variants, that part of the cell doesn’t change at all,” said O’Day in Squawk Box. “We therefore assume that Remdesivir will be effective against these new strains.”
The antiviral drug, which became the first fully approved treatment for Covid-19 in the US last fall, has helped reduce the recovery time for some patients hospitalized with the disease. President Donald Trump received it after he was diagnosed with Covid in October.
Originally found in the UK and South Africa, the coronavirus variants are believed to be more transmissible than other strains, causing alarms among some medical professionals that they could put further strain on health systems. These tribes don’t seem any more deadly. Several US states have discovered the virus variant found in the UK
These mutations will also be discovered when Covid vaccines are introduced in the US and other countries. It has led to some questions about whether the vaccines – along with treatments for the disease – would keep their effectiveness.
In a separate interview on Monday on CNBC, Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, expressed confidence that the vaccine his company developed with Pfizer will work against the new variants.
While Gilead is researching its drug specifically against the strains discovered in the UK and South Africa, O’Day said its California-based biotechnology has already tested it in laboratories against more than 2,000 strains. In either case, he said, “It retains its effectiveness.”
O’Day compared Remdesivir to Tamiflu, an antiviral drug used to treat seasonal influenza, which Gilead helped develop. “For two decades, Tamiflu has worked season-to-season against many different strains of the influenza virus, with the vaccine, of course, having to change and change based on how it works on the virus,” he said.
“I expect these variants of remdesivir will continue to affect patients,” added O’Day, who joined Gilead in March 2019. Previously, he was Managing Director of Roche Pharmaceuticals.
Gilead’s shares rose 1.7% early in the day of trading after the company raised its full-year 2020 earnings and sales outlook. Gilead now expects earnings per share of $ 6.98 to $ 7.08, compared to its previous guidance of $ 6.25 to $ 6.60
The guideline increase is partly due to the recent surge in Covid infections, which has increased demand for remdesivir. Approximately every second patient hospitalized with Covid will receive the antiviral drug, O’Day told CNBC on Monday.