Covid-19 treatment on the horizon but vaccine remains elusive

GlobalData Healthcare 1 May 2020 (Last Updated May 1st, 2020 15:23)

Covid-19 treatment on the horizon but vaccine remains elusive

The Covid-19 pandemic that has swept the globe has led to a massive search for a drug with which to combat this deadly virus, yet despite many pharmaceutical companies continuing to pour their resources into a cure for this virus, the development of prophylactic vaccines for Covid-19 appears to be lagging.

According to GlobalData’s Pharma Intelligence Center Pipeline Database and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) dashboard, there are, as of 23 April, 80 therapeutic drugs in Phases I, II, and III that may be able to treat Covid-19, but only nine prophylactic vaccine drugs in Phases I and II, indicating that while a possible cure for Covid-19 may be imminent, a prophylactic vaccine to combat the pandemic may need more time to come to fruition.

The response from pharma and biotech companies globally to finding a Covid-19 vaccine has contributed to 438 unique drugs to treat Covid-19: 298 therapeutic drugs and 140 prophylactic vaccines, spread across all stages of development (Discovery, Preclinical, Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III), which is especially remarkable considering that the virus was only identified at the beginning of this year. In these unprecedented times, this massive pipeline in such a short time is demonstrative of the pharmaceutical industry compiling resources and talent, to finding a drug to combat this pandemic of the Covid-19 virus.

Therapeutic drugs account for two thirds of the entire pipeline, with prophylactic vaccines accounting for the remaining third of the current Covid-19 pipeline. Therapeutic drugs have 73% of their pipeline in early-stage development (Preclinical and Discovery) and 27% in late-stage development (Phases I, II, and III); despite the majority of drugs being in early stages, there is a viable pipeline of late-stage drugs that may in the coming months offer a solution to the ongoing crisis. The key drugs to watch are two small molecule–based drugs, remdesivir by Gilead Sciences Inc. and favipiravir by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co Ltd, and sarilumab, a monoclonal antibody by Regeneron Pharmaceutical, all three of which are currently in Phase III. At the same time as they are being developed for the Covid-19 virus, these drugs are also being developed for multiple other indications.


In direct contrast, the prophylactic vaccine pipeline largely comprises drugs in early-stage development, with 94% of the pipeline. There are currently only three drugs in Phase II, the current highest stage of development for prophylactic vaccine pipeline. These three Covid-19 vaccines are being developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd, the University of Oxford, and the third vaccine, named CIGB-2020, is being developed by the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. This huge disparity in late-stage and early-stage development is indicative of a lack of focus within the industry for vaccines in comparison to the therapeutic drugs pipeline. The massive global response towards the coronavirus and the massive increase in the therapeutic pipeline, however, does mean that this state of affairs is liable to change in the coming weeks. As this pandemic continues and governments and pharmaceutical companies continue to look for ways to combat Covid-19, the therapeutic landscape is sure to change, but as of now any hopes for a fast vaccine may not materialize.

You can view more information on the Covid-19 therapeutic landscape on GlobalData’s Pharma Intelligence Center Pipeline Database and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) dashboard where the most up-to-date and latest information on drugs, trials, and news on Covid-19 can be found.