Gilead Sciences (GILD 0.64%) announced Wednesday evening that it's initiating two late-stage clinical studies to evaluate its experimental antiviral drug remdesivir in treating adults diagnosed with coronavirus disease COVID-19.

The biotech company stated that it plans to enroll around 1,000 patients in these studies beginning in March. The patients will primarily be in Asian countries, but Gilead will also include patients from other countries across the world that have been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak.

Moving quickly

It's practically unheard of for a drugmaker to advance to late-stage clinical studies of an experimental drug as quickly as Gilead is doing, but the urgency of the coronavirus epidemic has paved the way for much faster clinical progress than usually happens.

The company first announced that it was considering remdesivir for treating the coronavirus disease in late January. Remdesivir was initially developed as a treatment for Ebola virus infection, but has shown promise in targeting coronaviruses.

Female healthcare professional holding a mask over her face while holding a vial of blood with a label with "Coronavirus" printed on it

Image source: Getty Images.

Gilead already has several early stage clinical studies of remdesivir underway for treating COVID-19. The company is evaluating the antiviral drug in two studies in China, and recently began a study in the U.S. that's being led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

What's next

It probably won't take very long for initial results from the late-stage studies that Gilead plans to start in March. Both studies will administer remdesivir over 5-day and 10-day dosing regimens, and will monitor patients' health for 14 days.