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Coronavirus

Avigan maker gets hometown help to secure scarce key ingredient

Toyama Prefecture will fund companies that produce A11 as China halts exports

Fujifilm Toyama Chemical developed the flu drug Avigan, which was approved for use in 2014. (Photo courtesy of Fujifilm Toyama Chemical)

TOYAMA, Japan -- The maker of Avigan is slated to receive local government help in accessing a critical ingredient, a goal in line with Japanese plans to stockpile the flu drug showing promise against the novel coronavirus.

The Fujifilm Holdings unit's home prefecture of Toyama plans to support local companies that make investments to produce the precursor.

Japan has been unable to import the ingredient, A11, because China has begun manufacturing Avigan, Toyama Gov. Takakazu Ishii told reporters Tuesday. He plans to call on pharmaceutical companies in the prefecture to help produce A11.

"Toyama Chemical is having difficulty finding companies to work with," the governor said.

Toyama Prefecture will use funds allocated from Japan's $1 trillion stimulus package to provide support for refurbishing equipment and procuring raw materials, according to Ishii. He said he had appealed directly to the central government for support.

Fujifilm has started clinical trials of Avigan to treat COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Japan aims to triple the national stockpile of the drug. Japanese chemical manufacturer Denka said last week that it would resume production of diethyl malonate, the base material processed into A11.

Toyama, located in central Japan, is a pharmaceutical center that ranked second in production among all prefectures by value in 2017. The prefecture is known for traveling medicine sellers dating to the Edo period.

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