Gilead Sciences spikes after human trials start on a possible coronavirus treatment

Shares of Gilead Sciences surged as much as 13% in pre-market trading Monday amid reports human testing will begin on an experimental drug designed to treat coronavirus.

The drug — called remdesivir — is an antiviral medication that was developed to fight infectious diseases including Ebola and SARS. It will be tested by a medical team from the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing to see if it will treat coronavirus, Bloomberg news reported, citing a spokeswoman from the hospital.

The trial for the drug will take place in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus outbreak began. As many as 270 patients with mild and moderate pneumonia from coronavirus will be recruited for the study, which will be randomized, double-blinded, and placebo controlled, according to Bloomberg.

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China's coronavirus has so far killed more than 360 and infected more than 17,000 people around the world, sending stocks lower as markets react to the continued spread of the virus. A number of pharmaceutical company stocks have traded higher after announcing work on different treatments or vaccines for the disease as China works to curb the outbreak.

Gilead's experimental drug has not been approved for use by any drug regulator in the world, the company said in a statement. Still, the drug is being used on patients with coronavirus due to a lack of other options.

The drug was given to the first US patient with coronavirus, a 35-year-old man in Washington state, Bloomberg reported. It appeared that his pneumonia had improved after a day, encouraging further tests of the drug and its potential to treat coronavirus.

The trial in China could fast-track approval of remdesivir by the Chinese drug regulator, Bloomberg reported. In China, drugs can be approved on a conditional basis with clinical data demonstrating efficacy against life-threatening ailments with no existing therapies, according to the report.

Gilead Sciences had lost 3% year-to-date through Friday's close.

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