In the fight against the corona virus, the search for drugs and a vaccine is ongoing worldwide. The Ebola preparation “Remdesivir” has so far apparently shown promising results.

The antiviral agent “Remdesivir” was originally developed against Ebola and comes from the laboratories of the US pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences. According to a clinical study, it should also work in corona patients and shorten their recovery time by around 30 percent, as the American National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announced on Wednesday. “This will be the standard treatment,” said NIAID boss Anthony Fauci, impressed.

An Austrian is significantly involved in the development of “Remdesivir”. Biochemist and “Tamiflu” inventor Norbert Bischofberger (64) has been with Gilead since 1990 and has meanwhile become Vice President. On Thursday the Vorarlberger answered the questions of “ZiB2” moderator Armin Wolf via a studio circuit from California.

In the interview, the drug researcher is confident. He believes that finding an effective remedy for the coronavirus will not be difficult. “The problem in the past was that clinical trials could not be carried out,” Bischofberger explains. Due to the worldwide spread, this is now also possible internationally. This is the only way to prove whether a remedy is effective and also safe. “I am convinced that there will be a drug quickly. We know the viruses, we know what they need.”

The sooner the better

Wolf notes that the Ebola drug “Remdesivir”, which Bischofberger helped to develop, cannot cure corona patients, but only shorten their stay in hospital. The moderator wants to know: Are the expectations so far for “Remdesivir” too high?

The Austrian biochemist gives in, but points out that the study participants have so far been all Covid 19 patients in an advanced stage of the disease. In principle, “Remdesivir” and other antiviral agents apply that the earlier they are used, the more effective they are. Ideally, they would be administered immediately after diagnosis of the first symptoms and a positive corona test. “I think this is an opportunity for Remdesivir,” said Bischofberger.

When does a vaccine come?

While the expert is certain that an effective medication will soon be found, the search for a vaccine may take longer. There are three critical questions to answer: 1) Does the vaccine produce immunizing antibodies? 2) How long are they stable? And 3) Is the vaccine safe? After all, this completely healthy person is injected. “You have to be very, very sure that the vaccine has no side effects,” Bischofberger said.

The chance that there will be such a vaccine against the coronavirus is very high, said the Gilead vice president. At the same time, one must be aware that some viruses (e.g. HIV) do not have a vaccine even after years of research.

“We will experience something like this again.”

Wolf wants to know if an obligation to vaccinate makes sense. “If you could make the majority of the population immune, then the corona virus will die out,” says the expert. Alternatively, one could mainly vaccinate people who are at greater risk from Covid-19. Bischofberger cites older people and doctors as an example. “However, we still don’t know how many people are actually infected today.” The number of unreported cases can only be determined with antibody tests.

Incidentally, the corona virus is no exception. The expert’s warning: “It is certainly not the last virus that comes from an animal and infects humans. We will experience something like this again.”

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