Coronavirus drug creates international patent issue

Feb. 7, 2020

Chinese researchers have applied for a national patent on remdesivir, an experimental drug developed by Gilead, that is being tested for its potential to fight the coronavirus.

Th drugmaker recently donated doses of the experimental drug — which has yet to be approved for treatment of anything, anywhere — for use in trials studying potential treatments for the Wuhan coronavirus. To date, there have been over 28,000 cases of coronavirus infection reported in mainland China.

Gilead had applied for a Chinese patent for remdesivir in 2016, and still has not received one.  The drugmaker's patent application only specified using remdesivir to treat the family of coronaviruses. Now, the government-run Wuhan Institute of Virology has announced that it had applied for a "use patent" for remdesivir. Their patent specifies the use of the drug to treat the novel coronavirus.

In order for China’s intellectual property authorities to approve the institute’s application, the filing will need to prove that the drug works on the specific  coronavirus strain, 2019-nCoV, in a way that’s different from its effect on other viruses in the same category.

A video from an internal event at Gilead has been circulating on Twitter, featuring CEO Daniel O'Day's pledge to put patients before patents. "We will not get into a patent dispute; We will find a way to help patients and of course, we will protect our international property as a separate step of the process, but patients first," says O-Day.

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