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Top India Drugmaker Starts Trials for Plant-Based Virus Drug

June 5, 2020, 9:27 AM

Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. has launched clinical trials of a plant-derived drug it’s developing to treat Covid-19, joining the race to find an effective treatment for the disease that’s killed almost 400,000 people worldwide.

India’s largest drugmaker will commence Phase II trials on 210 patients across 12 centers in India and the results are expected by October, according to an exchange filing Friday. The therapy, AQCH, was initially developed to treat dengue but has “shown broad antiviral effect” in laboratory tests against the coronavirus, the company said in the filing.

This is the first phytopharmaceutical -- or plant-based -- drug permitted for a clinical trials by the Indian drug regulator to fight the deadly pathogen that’s sickened 6.6 million people globally and has no approved cure or vaccine yet. Sun Pharma’s experimental drug is among the few candidates among the hundreds being tested worldwide to emerge from India, a country better known for making cheap generic versions of drugs developed elsewhere.

Sun Pharma’s shares rose as much as 3.3% on Friday in Mumbai, reaching their highest level since November 2018. The benchmark S&P BSE Sensex advanced as much as 1.3%.

Positive early results in in-vitro and small animal studies gave Sun Pharma the confidence to evaluate this potential treatment option, Dilip Shanghvi, its chairman said in the statement.

Effectiveness was seen in in-vitro studies conducted in collaboration with Italy’s International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, said the statement.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Bhuma Shrivastava in Mumbai at bshrivastav1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Rachel Chang at wchang98@bloomberg.net

Bhuma Shrivastava

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