COVID-19 Clinical Trials: News Digest

Apr 30, 2021

We are rolling our COVD-19 news digest into a broader industry perspective so that we can continue to bring you the important updates that have captured our attention in the clinical trial space. This page will still be available for reference, though no new articles will be added.

You can find the first Pharma Digest by clicking the button below. 

April 2021

  • An Oxford University study has discovered that the asthma medication budesonide reduces recovery time in COVID-19 patients. The drug, which is commonly used to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is being evaluated as part of the Oxford-led PRINCIPLE trial. The study involved over 1,700 people who were at high risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus. Learn more
  • Moderna is set to take messenger RNA (mRNA) flu and HIV vaccines into Phase I trials in 2021. The mRNA technology was used to develop the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, and now is being leveraged for possible treatments into other diseases. The vaccine candidates for HIV – mRNA-1644 and mRNA-1574 – offer a novel approach to HIV vaccine strategy. Read more
  • Johnson & Johnson has expanded its Phase IIa clinical trial of the single-shot vaccine to include children aged 12 to 17 years. The shot, developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, is authorized for emergency use to prevent COVID-19 in adults. The study started in September 2020 and, once the data from Phase IIa is reviewed, will be extended to a larger group of adolescents. Learn more
  • Pfizer is to seek emergency approval for its COVID-19 vaccine in younger people after a US study found the shot was “well-tolerated” in children aged 12 to 15. The trial recorded 18 cases of COVID among 1,129 people in the placebo group and zero cases among the 1,131 who received the vaccine. Pfizer, who developed the vaccine in partnership with BioNTech, has said it will submit the study data to the US Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks. Read more

March 2021

  • Pfizer has begun a Phase I study of a new oral COVID-19 treatment. The study will look at the safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics of the PF-07321332 drug. According to Pfizer Development and Medical Worldwide Research chief scientific officer and president Mikael Dolsten, the “potential oral therapy could be prescribed at the first sign of infection, without requiring that patients are hospitalized or in critical care.”  Learn more
  • Hong Kong has paused the use of BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines due to concerns over packaging. Across the city, staff at inoculation centers turned away people waiting to take the shot. Hong Kong had started offering the BioNTech shot in March. Read more
  • Leaders in the European Union have stopped short of a ban on vaccine exports. On Thursday EU leaders backed the idea in principle for strengthening export controls, but in a statement after the summit, the importance of global supply chains for vaccinations was emphasized. Read more
  • Update on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine: Safety experts from the WHO are meeting to review the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine after several European countries paused their rollouts after reports of blood clots. However, the UK medicines regulator and the WHO say that there is no evidence that the clots are linked to the vaccine. Leading EU countries such as Germany, France, Italy and Spain were among those who suspended the use of the vaccine. But other countries such as Austria, have paused the use of certain batches of the shot, while Belgium, Poland, the Czech Republic and Ukraine said they would continue to administer the vaccine. Read more
  • Seven European countries halt some or all of their Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccinations due to fear of blood clots. Austria initially clamped down on a single batch of the vaccine after a clotting issue in a recipient. Now, Denmark, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg have followed in Austria’s footsteps, by stopping using vaccines from the same batch. Meanwhile, multiple health authorities have said there is no evidence that the shot is connected to blood clots. It’s not the first time AstraZeneca has encountered vaccine problems in Europe – the pharmaceutical giant faced questions over its supply shortfall earlier this year and then several countries expressed doubts as to the vaccine’s efficacy in people over 65. Read more.
  • The European Medicines Association (EMA) approved the emergency use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, making the shot the fourth authorized by the bloc. Vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca have also been conditionally approved. The EU has ordered 55 million doses of the vaccine, which are due to be delivered in the second quarter. According to EMA Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) the vaccine is 67% effective two weeks after the single dose. Learn more.
  • Trials are underway to test the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in pregnant women. The US study will cover around 4,000 women between 24 and 34 weeks of gestation and trials on children will take place later this year. Two doses will be administered 21 days apart and the study will evaluate the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of the shot. The trial will also look at safety of infants of vaccinated women and the transfer of potentially protective antibodies to their infants. Read more.

February 2021

  • The UK’s vaccination program is having a "spectacular" impact on preventing serious illness in adults, according to researchers. The first data on the country's vaccine rollout shows that within weeks one shot reduces the risk of hospitalization by at least 75% for the over 80s. The figures from Public Health England (PHE) and Public Health Scotland (PHS) were published on the same day the government in England laid out the roadmap for lifting restrictions. Read more.
  • Risk of illness from COVID-19 drops by 95.8% after the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, according to Israel’s health ministry. The findings were based on data collected through February 13th from 1.7 million Israelis who received their second dose at least two weeks previously. The shot was also 98% effective in preventing fever or breathing problems, as well as 98.9% effective in preventing hospitalizations and death. The country’s ambitious vaccination drive makes it the world’s largest study of the vaccine. Learn more.
  • Staying with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine efficacy - a new study has revealed that the first dose of the shot is 85% effective against infection between two and four weeks after inoculation. The Lancet medical journal published the study from Israel’s largest hospital, which focused on more than 9,000 healthcare workers. Scientists at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, found that the vaccine was 47% effective between one and 14 days after vaccine, rising to 85% after 15 to 28 days. Read more.
  • Pfizer and BioNTech have dosed the first participants in a global COVID-19 vaccine trial in preventing the virus in healthy pregnant women. The Phase II/III study will analyze the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of two doses of the vaccine or placebo given 21 days apart. The trial will enroll around 4,000 pregnant women who will receive the vaccine from 24 to 34 weeks of gestation. The women will be part of the study for about seven to ten months, depending on whether randomized to receive the vaccine or placebo. Learn more.
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine offers only minimal protection against the South Africa variant, study finds. Data from a small-scale study consisting of 2,000 volunteers showed that the vaccine had high efficacy against the original coronavirus strain in South Africa, but protection reduced when tested against the B.1.351 coronavirus variant. Read more.
  • The UK government signs partnership with vaccine manufacturer CureVac to jointly develop vaccines against COVID-19 variants. The tie-up will combine the UK’s experience in genomics and virus sequencing with CureVac’s resources and knowledge in mRNA vaccine development. The UK will fast-track clinical studies with the goal of gaining emergency or conditional marketing authorizations for the vaccines as soon as possible. Learn more.
  • El Lilly & Company’s combination antibody drug for COVID-19 granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA. The combination treats mild to moderate COVID-19 in patients aged 12 years and above at a high risk for progressing to severe disease and/or hospitalization. Data from the BLAZE-1 trial showed that the combination therapy lowered the risk of hospitalizations and death by 70%. Read more.
  • Clinical trials to test combining the Sputnik V and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines set to start in Azerbaijan. The objective is to boost the efficacy of the British shot. Both of the vaccines require two doses, an initial shot and a booster. The trial is part of a wider program involving hundreds of people in different countries across the world. Learn more.

January 2021

  • Vaccine supply concerns increase as EU threatens to limit exports. Delivering vaccines to hundreds of millions of people was always going to be logistically difficult. So news that the EU has had problems with distribution may not come as a surprise to some. The EU has warned producers that they must deliver agreed vaccine supplies - saying that the bloc could restrict exports of vaccines. Read more.
  • US pharmaceutical company Merck has announced it will stop developing its COVID-19 vaccine due to weak immune responses from the shots. Merck has said it will now focus on two treatments it’s developing - an antiviral medicine against SARS-CoV0-2 and another aimed at helping hospitalized patients reduce the immune system’s over-response to the virus.
    Read more.
  • Moderna is developing a booster shot against the South Africa coronavirus variant. A study showed that the company’s existing mRNA COVID-19 vaccine provided protection against new strains from the UK and South Africa, but suggested reduced protection against the South Africa strain. Moderna is now working on a new booster shot that could be used in combination with any COVID-19 vaccine. Read more.
  • Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine has demonstrated an efficacy of 66% in a Phase III trial. The vaccine, which was developed by J&J’s pharma division, Janssen, was also 57% effective against the South African strain. The ENSEMBLE trial analyzed the efficacy and safety of the vaccine for protection against moderate-to-severe cases of the virus. Read more.
  • UK clinical trials of a nasal spray starts. Developed by SaNOtize Research and Development Corp. based in Canada, scientists found nitric oxide to be highly effective in resisting viral infections. The spray is designed to kill the virus in the upper airways of the nose, stopping it from spreading to the lungs. Read more.

December 2020

  • FDA issues emergency use authorization for first COVID-19 vaccine. The emergency use authorization allows the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed in the US. Read more.
  • Johnson & Johnson trims the size of its Phase III COVID-19 vaccine trial. The decrease from 60,000 to 40,000 participants is due to the surge of COVID-19 cases across the US. Read more.
  • Sanofi suffers major setback in development of a COVID-19 vaccine. The problem relates to inadequate results in older adults, which the company traced back to an inadequate formulation of the vaccine, Su-Peing Ng, global medical head for Sanofi Vaccines said in an interview. Read more.
  • Pfizer and BioNTech achieve first authorization in the world for a vaccine to combat COVID-19. UK Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has granted a temporary authorization for emergency use for their COVID-19 mRNA vaccine (BNT162b2), against COVID-19. Read the news.

November 2020

  • EMA publishes safety monitoring plan and guidance on risk management for COVID-19 vaccines. The plan is to ensure that all new information collected post-marketing will be promptly reviewed and any emerging new information will be shared with the public in a timely manner. Read more.
  • Pfizer and BioNTech conclude Phase III study of COVID-19 vaccine candidate, meeting all primary efficacy endpoints. Analysis of the data indicates a vaccine efficacy rate of 95% in participants without prior SARS-CoV-2 infection (first primary objective) and also in participants with and without prior SARS-CoV-2 infection (second primary objective), in each case measured from 7 days after the second dose. Read more.
  • Moderna COVID-19 vaccine candidate meets primary efficacy endpoint. The Phase III study of mRNA-1273 met the statistical criteria pre-specified in the study protocol, with a vaccine efficacy of 94.5%. Read more.
  • FDA authorizes monoclonal antibody for treatment of COVID-19. The FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the investigational monoclonal antibody therapy bamlanivimab for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adult and pediatric patients. The EUA was issued to Eli Lilly. Read the details.
  • Novavax COVID-19 vaccine granted fast track designation by FDA. Novavax announced that the FDA has granted Fast Track Designation for NVX-CoV2373, the company’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The company expects to begin its pivotal Phase III clinical trial in the United States and Mexico by the end of November. Read more.

October 2020

  • EMA implements extra transparency measures for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has published clinical data in support of the authorization of Veklury (remdesivir) and information on COVID-19 treatments and vaccines that have received scientific advice or informal guidance from its pandemic task force. Read the article.
  • FDA approves first treatment for COVID-19. The US FDA approved antiviral drug Veklury (remdesivir) for use in adult and pediatric patients 12 years and older and weighing at least 40 kilograms for the treatment of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization. Veklury should only be administered in a hospital or in a healthcare setting capable of providing acute care comparable to inpatient hospital care. Read the article.
  • Eli Lilly pauses trial of antibody drug over safety concern. The ACTIV-3 clinical trial is paused because of a safety concern. Read the article.
  • J&J pauses coronavirus vaccine trials due to unexplained illness. Johnson & Johnson said the illness was being reviewed by an independent data and safety monitoring board as well as the U.S. group’s clinical and safety physicians. Read the article.
  • EMA starts second rolling review, this time for Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The European Medicines Agency's human medicines committee (CHMP) has started a "rolling review" of data on a vaccine for COVID-19 known as BNT162b2, which is being developed by BioNTech in collaboration with Pfizer. Read the details.
  • FDA publishes vaccine rules. The FDA released new safety standard for COVID-19 vaccines, with guidance that vaccine makers should follow clinical trial participants for at least two months to rule out safety issues before seeking emergency use authorization for a vaccine. Read the article.
  • FDA reshuffles priorities to meet COVID-19 trial demand. The sudden influx of COVID-19 trials work at the FDA has required pulling resources from various departments at the agency to support the efforts. Read the article.
  • Eli Lilly rushes to FDA with its COVID-19 antibody for emergency green light, reveals new cocktail therapy data. Lilly submitted an initial request for emergency use authorization for its antibody treatment, specifically for higher-risk patients who have been recently diagnosed with mild to moderate COVID-19. Read the article.
  • GSK and Vir to expand COVID-19 antibody treatment study. GSK and Vir Biotechnology are set to globally expand the study of experimental antibody VIR-7831 for the early treatment of COVID-19 patients with a high risk of hospitalization to Phase III. Read the article.
  • How research nurses and midwives are supporting COVID-19 clinical trials in the UK. Clinical research nurses and midwives have been central to the rapid implementation of COVID-19 clinical trials. Read the article.
  • EMA begins real-time review of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. The European Medicines Agency initiated the first "rolling review" of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. Read the article.

September 2020

  • Pfizer follows Moderna in releasing COVID-19 vaccine study protocol. Protocols are typically kept under wraps until studies are complete, but Pfizer and Moderna have made their SARS-CoV-2 trial protocols public in a transparency push. Read the article.
  • First patient in OSCAR trial receives GSK’s otilimab in UK. The Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust in the UK has said that the first patient in the OSCAR clinical trial received GSK’s investigational drug otilimab to treat severe lung disease related to COVID-19. Read the article.
  • Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine generates strong immune response, early data shows. The company released positive interim results of its Phase I/IIa study. It has moved into a Phase III trial that will enroll up to 60,000 volunteers across three continents. Read the article.
  • Older people likely to be underrepresented in COVID-19 trials. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine concludes that despite the fact that people over 65 are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, they are underrepresented in the clinical trials. Read the article.
  • Adverse event reporting clarified in FDA’s COVID-19 clinical trial guidance. Investigators should review and report AEs and SAEs, according to updated FDA guidance. Read the full article.
  • Pfizer and BioNTech propose expansion of pivotal COVID-19 vaccine trial. The companies have submitted an amended protocol to expand the enrollment of their Phase III pivotal COVID-19 vaccine trial to up to 44,000 participants. Read more.
  • UK’s MHRA allows restart of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trials. The Medicines Health Regulatory Authority (MHRA) in the UK has said that the clinical trials of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine candidate are safe to resume. The late-stage trials were paused after a participant in the UK study experienced an unexplained illness. Read the full article.
  • Biopharma leaders unite to stand with science. Nine CEOs sign historic pledge to continue to make the safety and well-being of vaccinated individuals the top priority in development of the first COVID-19 vaccines. Read the pledge.
  • Sanofi and GSK move COVID-19 vaccine into human trials. Sanofi and GSK are launching a large Phase I/II clinical trial at 11 sites across the US, initially enrolling 400 people. This candidate is the first outside of China to use a vaccine approach for which there is already a licensed vaccine. Read the full article.
  • Sanofi says Kevzara drug fails as possible COVID-19 treatment. The international Phase III clinical trials of Kevzara didn't meet primary or secondary endpoints and as a result trials will be stopped. Read the full article.

August 2020

  • Phase III clinical testing of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine candidate begins. A multi-site, Phase III clinical trial for AZD1222 has begun. The trial will enroll 30,000 adult volunteers at 80 sites in the US. Read more.
  • Translate Bio, Sanofi COVID-19 vaccine proves promising in animal studies. Experimental COVID-19 vaccine induced immune responses in animal studies. The companies plan to start human trials in November. Read the full article.
  • COVID-19 and readjusting clinical trials. The disruptions from the pandemic are numerous, but there are some reasons to be optimistic about changes with clinical trials, according to the Lancet. Read the full article.
  • COVID-19 clinical trials must append more diversity, researchers assert. Researchers raise concerns about the lack of diversity in COVID-19 clinical trials. Read the full article.
  • Disruptions to global oncology trials have fallen to a three-month low. Cancer trials disrupted by COVID-19 are resuming faster than other therapeutic areas. Read the full analysis.

July 2020

  • FDA Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program (CTAP) dashboard. This dashboard provides updates specifically on therapeutics (not vaccines or devices). View dashboard.
  • Many early COVID-19 studies have low-quality design, risk low-value evidence, research finds. The researchers estimated that only about 29% of studies would produce data strong enough to potentially inform changes in clinical care. Read the full article.
  • US biotech uses AI to pick antiviral for COVID-19 trial. US biotech AI Therapeutics begins a Phase II trial of its LAM-002A, an antiviral drug. The company develops drugs identified with a proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm. Read the full article.
  • "Promising" data on Oxford/AZ coronavirus vaccines. Data from more than 1,000 healthy volunteers dosed with a coronavirus vaccine developed at Oxford University and AstraZeneca suggest the shot is safe and stimulates an immune response against the virus. Read the full article.
  • Moderna COVID-19 vaccine candidate has positive results in all participants in Phase I trial. Moderna published interim analysis of the open-label Phase 1 study of mRNA-1273 in the New England Journal of Medicine. A Phase III trial is expected to start later in July. Read the report.
  • NIH launches trials network for COVID-19 vaccines and therapies. The COVID-19 Prevention Trials Network (COVPN) is expected to operate more than 100 trial sites across the US and internationally. The first Phase III trial conducted is expected to be Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine. Read the full article.
  • UK universities launch new COVID-19 drug testing platform. The University of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Southampton Clinical Trials Unit launched a COVID-19 drug testing platform called AGILE. It will test multiple potential therapeutics. Read the full article.
  • UK trial begins testing second-wave COVID-19 drug from US biotech Ridgeback. Ridgeback Biotherapeutics is starting enrollment for a Phase II trial for its oral antiviral drug EIDD-2801, which will be conducted using the AGILE testing platform. Read the full article.

June 2020

  • Running clinical trials for other drugs in the age of COVID-19. There is some evidence of recovery for clinical trials beyond COVID-19. Read the full article.
  • Some COVID-19 trial sponsors never posted other study results in an EU database. Will they hide data again? Two-thirds of 118 COVID-19 clinical trials analyzed by the non-profit research advocacy group TranspariMED had no record of uploaded results to the European Union Drug Regulating Authorities Clinical Trials Database, though it is required under EU rules. Read the full article.
  • MHRA instructs all UK hydroxychloroquine COVID-19 clinical trials to suspend recruitment. UK clinical trials using hydroxychloroquine to treat or prevent COVID-19 should stop recruiting further participants, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Read the full article.
  • COVID-19 vaccine development pipeline gears up. There are 10 COVID-19 vaccines in clinical trials. They are working at a rate that could defy usual timetables, which on average is 10 years to develop a new vaccine. Read the full article.
  • FDA’s MyStudies app provides platform for electronic informed consent. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is making its FDA MyStudies app available to investigators for free to obtain informed consent from patients when face-to-face contact is not possible or practical due to COVID-19. Read the full article.

May 2020

  • How COVID-19 could improve clinical trial conduct. Sheuli Porkess Director, Research, Medical and Innovation from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry talks about three areas for change with clinical trials. Read the full article.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic and clinical trial disruptions. Nearly 70% of global clinical trials have been disrupted by enrollment suspensions, according to research. Read the full article.
  • FDA updates COVID-19 clinical trials guidance to address serious adverse events. The FDA updated guidance for clinical trial conduct, including how and when serious adverse events should be reported. Read the full article.
  • Institute for Advanced Clinical Trials for Children launches program to speed up COVID-19 pediatric trials. The Institute for Advanced Clinical Trials for Children (I-ACT for Children) launched the COVID-19 Emergency Access Program to speed up the development of pediatric COVID-19 trials. Read the full article.
  • Clinical trials press on for conditions other than COVID-19. Will the pandemic’s effects sneak into their data? Researchers will need to adjust their studies during the pandemic. Disruptions to movement and visit schedules and/or sickness or death caused by COVID-19 could impact the data of ongoing clinical trials. Read the full article.

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