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Pharmaceuticals

Japan's Takeda in push to debut COVID-19 treatment this year

Drugmaker joins big pharma's commitment to pool resources in fight against virus

Takeda hopes to launch an antibody treatment for COVID-19 this year.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- Japanese drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceutical is aiming to roll out an antibody treatment for COVID-19 as early as this year, as it joins global big pharma's pledge to rise to the occasion amid a global pandemic.

"We believe that within nine to 18 months we could have a product that has real potential to treat the most critically ill patients," Rajeev Venkayya, president of Takeda's global vaccine business unit, said Thursday.

Takeda's experimental treatment -- a concentration of antibodies taken from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 -- is part of a concerted effort to search for effective treatment and vaccines against the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 and has infected over 240,000 worldwide, killing nearly 10,000.

More than 80 clinical trials are underway to test new and existing medicines, according to the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations.

Companies are developing medication targeting the coronavirus "at light speed," Venkayya said at a Thursday news briefing with IFPMA, which also featured executives from Eli Lilly, Roche, Sanofi Pasteur and Johnson & Johnson.

The group issued a statement the same day, promising to "share tools and insights" to test potential therapies and vaccines, and to scale up diagnostics for testing.

The multinational drugmakers' efforts will be supported by an expedited regulatory process in the U.S. On Thursday, American President Donald Trump ordered the Food and Drug Administration to fast-track coronavirus drugs and vaccines to meet the pressing need.

"We have to remove every barrier or a lot of barriers that were unnecessary, and they've done that to get the rapid deployment of safe, effective treatments," Trump said at a White House briefing.

Takeda is the largest life sciences employer in Cambridge, Massachusetts -- the U.S. biotech capital -- following its acquisition of Shire last year.

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