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Coronavirus

Kao shares rise on coronavirus antibody findings

Joint research with startup and Kitasato University opens door to new treatments

 Kao joins a number of other Japanese companies in the race to find a potential treatment for the deadly virus.

TOKYO -- Shares of Japanese household goods maker Kao rose on Thursday after the company said it has jointly developed an antibody that suppresses new coronavirus infections.

The VHH antibody developed by the partnership is derived from camelids that are one-tenth the size of conventional antibodies and less costly to produce.

Kao, along with researchers at Kitasato University and Japanese biotech startup Epsilon Molecular Engineering, said they hope the findings will lead to the development of drugs for treating coronavirus infections.

The maker drew on experience with culturing microorganisms for detergents. In the joint study, Kao used technology from the Japanese biotech startup to identify the sequence information of the candidate VHH antibody. It then produced the antibody using microorganisms.

Kitasato University researchers found that the antibody suppressed new coronavirus infections.

Shares of Kao rose as much as 3% on Thursday and ended the day 1% higher.

The development is the latest in Japan's race to find a potential treatment for the deadly virus. The health ministry is scheduled to approve the U.S. drug remdesivir on Thursday, making it the first officially approved treatment for COVID-19 in Japan.

In a news conference on Thursday morning, Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan will "consult with manufacturers and try to secure supply" once remdesivir is approved.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he also wants approval for Avigan -- an antiviral drug developed by a unit of Fujifilm -- by the end of May. Avigan, known generically as favipiravir, was approved in Japan in 2014 to treat novel and re-emerging influenza, but its efficacy against the coronavirus is still undergoing clinical trials.

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