Canadian Manufacturing

Bayer partners with Hamilton research institute on COVID treatments

Bayer will make a financial commitment of $1.5 million towards the studies and will supply study drugs to support the research

April 21, 2020  by CM Staff

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — On April 21, the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI), a joint research institute of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, and pharmaceutical giant Bayer Inc. announced plans to immediately launch a major clinical research program aimed at identifying potential COVID-19 treatments.

The two studies, according to Bayer, will evaluate the safety and efficacy of different combination therapies including Bayer’s chloroquine and interferon beta-1b.

Bayer produces chloroquine phosphate, which is approved in some countries outside of Canada for use in malaria and some other illnesses. The Chinese health authorities have included chloroquine in the treatment recommendations for COVID-19. Subsequently, many other health authorities, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have adopted similar guidance for supervised emergency use of chloroquine.

Interferon beta-1b was the first drug to show in multiple sclerosis (MS) a decrease in relapse rate and to reduce MS disease activity as measured by MRI in clinical studies. These findings led to its approval by FDA as the first therapy for treatment of MS in 1993. Approvals by other agencies around the world followed subsequently.


“Specifically, an outpatient study will evaluate the combination of chloroquine with azithromycin to see if this treatment can prevent deterioration leading to hospital admission, while a second study will evaluate the combination of chloroquine with azithromycin, as well as interferon beta-1b, to prevent admission to intensive care, mechanical ventilation and/or death to combat COVID-19,” said Salim Yusuf, executive director of PHRI, in a prepared statement. “Our goal is to assess the value of these and other therapies rapidly so that the results can inform practice as soon as possible.”

Azithromycin is an antibiotic used for the treatment of a number of bacterial infections including strep throat and pneumonia, as well as travellers’ diarrhea and certain other intestinal infections. Along with other medications, it may also be used for malaria. Azithromycin was first approved for medical use in 1988. It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.

Bayer will make a financial commitment of $1.5 million towards the studies and will supply study drugs to support the research. This adds to the $0.5 million committed by the PHRI earlier this month which enabled development of the research program.

“We look forward to once again partner with the outstanding research team at PHRI,” said Shurjeel Choudhri, senior vice-president, Medical & Scientific Affairs at Bayer Inc. “This is another great example of joining forces with partners in the fight against COVID-19. Taking bold action around the world to fight and contain COVID-19 is our goal.”

PHRI plans to enroll 6,000 patients into the two studies from more than 60 contributing research sites across Ontario, Canada and internationally.

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