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Natco, Laurus Labs talking to Gilead to make remdesivir, say sources

Cogencis, Friday, May 1

By Narayana Krishna

HYDERABAD – City-headquartered Natco Pharma Ltd and Laurus Labs Ltd are in talks with US phamaceutical major Gilead Sciences Inc for a licence to manufacture antiviral drug remdesivir that is undergoing trials for the treatment of COVID-19, two sources familiar with the development told Cogencis. 

According to reports, Gilead's remdesivir is emerging as the first drug to treat COVID-19 patients in the US.

The two Indian companies are keen on the licence for the drug and are already engaged in a non-disclosure agreement with Gilead, the sources said.

Laurus Labs declined to comment on the development, while officials of Natco Pharma were not reachable.

"Both companies have an existing partnership with Gilead for Hep-C (Hepatitis-C) portfolio, and this may be extended to remdesivir at an appropriate time," one of the sources said.

Laurus Labs has the capacity to manufacture enough active pharmaceutical ingredients and intermediates to make the drug while Natco has the capacity to make the final injectable formulation for remdesivir generic.

Remdesivir is yet to get the US Food and Drug Administration's nod for the treatment of COVID-19.

The drug may soon get regulatory approvals as the initial results were encouraging, one of the sources said, adding that Gilead may immediately look for partners across the globe to make the drug widely available.

With no clear treatment or vaccine available yet, the novel coronavirus pandemic has claimed well over 200,000 lives globally, with the cumulative number of cases at over 3.2 mln. In India, the total count has breached 35,000, while fatalities have topped 1,100.       

"Gilead is fully aware of risk of compulsory licensing. Instead, they may look for partners, well before the litigation emerges," the source said.

According to a report on Moneycontrol.com, Gilead Sciences has said it is open to collaborations with governments and pharmaceutical companies–including those from India–without giving any specific timeline.

Earlier, Gilead had used the voluntary licence route to rope in Indian companies to manufacture and launch HIV and Hepatitis-C medications and allowed several companies to make copies of its drugs.

On Thursday, shares of Natco Pharma ended 1.4% lower at 610.70 rupees on the National Stock Exchange, while shares of Laurus Labs ended 0.5% lower at 512.50 rupees.  End

Edited by Ranjana Chauhan

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