What We’re Reading: Sanofi, GSK Begin Vaccine Trial; Steroids Effective in Treating COVID-19; ALS Treatment Breakthrough

September 3, 2020

Sanofi and GSK begin human trials for their COVID-19 vaccine; steroids prove effective in severe COVID-19 cases; a drug combination poses a breakthrough in ALS treatment.

Sanofi, GSK Begin Human COVID-19 Vaccine Trials

Drug makers Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced they have started a clinical trial of their protein-based coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine candidate, Reuters reports. The companies expect to reach the final testing stage by December 2020 and hope to produce up to one billion doses in 2021. The current stage aims to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and immune response in 440 healthy adults across 11 sites in the United States. The vaccine uses the same protein-based technology as one of Sanofi’s influenza vaccines and is combined with an adjuvant, or booster, developed by GSK.

Study Results Find Steroids Reduce Mortality in Severe COVID-19 Cases

Results from 3 studies show inexpensive and widely available steroids are the most effective treatment for serious COVID-19 cases found to date, NPR reports. Although steroids help suppress the immune system’s potentially deadly overreaction to an infection, some doctors were initially cautious to administer the drugs to patients with COVID-19, as steroids may also prevent the body from fighting off the virus. However, results from the studies found the use of systemic corticosteroids can reduce the risk of death by one-third in individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 compared with usual care or placebo.

Experimental Drug Combination Slows ALS Progression

Results from a 6-month study of 137 patients show the combination of 2 experimental drugs appears to slow decline in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), according to NPR. All patients enrolled in the trial had a fast-progressing form of the disease and those who received the 2-drug combination (AMX0035) scored several points higher on a standard measure of function. Although the difference was modest, results were meaningful to patients for whom continued use of their hands to cut food or type emails is a major benefit. The results are far from a cure for the disease, but lead investigator Sabrina Paganoni, MD, PhD, is convinced the findings mark the beginning of a new era in ALS treatment discovery.