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Czech biochemist involved in development of remdesivir, potential treatment of COVID-19

The American biotech company Gilead Sciences is working closely with global health authorities to respond to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak through the appropriate experimental use of the investigational compound remdesivir. This promising antiviral drug was originally developed by a team of scientists led by Czech biochemist Tomáš Cihlář to treat Ebola.

Czech biochemist Tomáš Cihlář is one of the pupils of the prominent Czech scientist Antonín Holý (1936-2012), who in cooperation with Belgian colleague Erik De Clercq and the Gilead Science developed the antiviral drugs used in the treatment of HIV and AIDS. After earning his PhD in Biochemistry at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry in Prague in 1994, Tomáš Cihlář joined Gilead as Postdoctoral Fellow and later as Research Scientist, supporting the discovery and development of antiviral nucleotide analogs including tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Viread), one of the leading HIV drugs. Tomáš Cihlář is currently working as a vice president of Virology at Gilead Sciences, where he is responsible for biology research on HIV and respiratory viruses and plays an important role in the development of the potential treatment of COVID-19, remdesivir.

Remdesivir was originally created and developed by Gilead Sciences as a treatment for Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus infections. Gilead Sciences subsequently discovered that remdesivir had antiviral activity in vitro against multiple filo-, pneumo-, paramyxo-, and corona- viruses including SARS and MERS.

Gilead has initiated two Phase 3 clinical studies to evaluate the safety and efficacy of remdesivir in adults diagnosed with COVID-19. These randomized, open-label, multicenter studies began enrolling patients in March 2020 and will enroll a total of approximately 1,000 patients in the initial phase of the studies, in countries with high prevalence of COVID-19.

The first of two studies will evaluate the safety and efficacy of both a 5-day and a 10-day dosing duration of remdesivir, in addition to standard of care, for patients with severe manifestations of COVID-19. The second study will evaluate the safety and efficacy of the same dosing regimens of remdesivir in addition to standard of care for patients with moderate manifestations of COVID-19, compared with standard of care alone.

The world’s first patient treated with the experimental Gilead drug was a US national who fell ill in mid-January after returning home from Wuhan.

Remdesivir is now being tested in six Covid-19 clinical trials and Gilead Sciences have implemented also programs that are designed to provide emergency treatment access for patients with severe clinical manifestations of COVID-19.

Gilead Sciences: latest updates on our ongoing response to COVID-19