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Drugmakers Hunt for Ways to Halt Virus That Eludes Travel Curbs

Drugmakers are racing to find medicines that can curb the spread of the coronavirus as the infection bypasses China’s travel restrictions.Pharmaceutical companies from Gilead Sciences Inc.

Drugmakers are racing to find medicines that can curb the spread of the coronavirus as the infection bypasses China’s travel restrictions.

Pharmaceutical companies from Gilead Sciences Inc. to Moderna Inc. are pursuing two main strategies: helping to re-purpose medicines developed against other lethal viruses from Ebola to HIV, and relying on new technologies to develop a vaccine faster than ever before.

Deaths in China climbed to at least 80 on Monday as the country announced new measures, including an extension of the Lunar New Year holiday. Chinese authorities said the new respiratory virus isn’t under control despite aggressive steps to limit movement for millions of people who live in cities near the center of the outbreak.

Gilead’s experimental Ebola treatment remdesivir is being studied to determine whether it can combat the coronavirus — a member of a family of crown-shaped viruses that includes SARS as well as some forms of the common cold. 

The company said by email that it’s coordinating with researchers and clinicians in the U.S. and China.

Meanwhile, doctors in China have started using a combination of AbbVie Inc.’s HIV drugs ritonavir and lopinavir at hospitals. 

clinical trial is assessing whether the combination, sold under the brand name Kaletra, is more effective than an antiviral medicine known as interferon-alpha 2b in treating patients.

The use of existing drugs for a new virus, especially one whose patterns aren’t well known, is entirely experimental, and there is no guarantee of success.

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