Russian Venture Says Covid-19 Treatment Is ‘Promising’

Bloomberg, 13.05.2020

Russia’s sovereign wealth fundsays clinical trials for an antiviral medicine to treat coronavirus patients that it backs has shown potential.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund’s joint venture with ChemRar group has been testing favipiravir at 18 clinics in Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and Smolensk. Preliminary results are “promising,” indicating that 60% of people who receive the treatment test negative for Covid-19 on the fifth day, Chief Executive Officer Kirill Dmitriev said Wednesday.

The fund is seeking to fast-track the drug’s approval in Russia as the country faces a growing problem with Covid-19. It passed Spain with the second-most cases in the world Tuesday, and has averaged over 10,000 new diagnoses a day for the past 11 days.

Favipiravir is a generic version of Fujifilm Holdings Corp.’s Avigan, which in a non-randomized Chinese study in March resulted in faster clearance of the virus than when using an HIV pill. Companies around the world are considering production of it, with Glenmark Pharmaceuticals currently conducting Phase 3 clinical trials in India that might be completed as early as July.

The Russian trials began in April on a group of 330 patients. The 60% cure rate with favipiravir compares with 30% for the control group, according to Dmitriev.

ChemRar Chairman Andrey Ivaschenko said the joint venture is several weeks away from completing the clinical trial and could produce up to 600,000 doses of favipiravir per year. RDIF invested 150 million rubles ($2 million) into the project.

RDIF has been at the forefront of Russia’s race to contain the coronavirus. It invested 1 billion rubles into Evotech Mirai Genomics, a Russian-Japanese joint venture, that produces test kits for domestic use.