The independent research arm of a large nonprofit group responsible for thousands of clinical trials will run a few more to try and find an effective treatment for patients suffering from COVID-19. The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research has already enrolled patients into three studies in partnerships with Gilead Sciences (GILD -0.84%)Regeneron (REGN -1.70%), and Sanofi (SNY -1.44%)

Rheumatoid arthritis and COVID-19

In 2017, Sanofi and Regeneron launched Kevzara for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease. The injected drug dials back the immune system in the same way as Actemra, a drug from Roche (RHHBY -1.20%) that recently earned approval in China as a treatment for severe cases of COVID-19. 

Coronavirus blood samples.

Image source: Getty Images.

The most severe cases of COVID-19 appear to be associated with cytokine release syndrome (CRS), a condition in which the immune system wildly overreacts to an invader -- in this case, the virus -- causing the production of a life-threatening level of inflammatory proteins in the body. Actemra was approved to treat CRS when caused by certain powerful cancer immunotherapies, but Kevzara's list of approved indications is limited to rheumatoid arthritis.

Experimental antiviral

With Gilead Sciences, the Feinstein Institute will run two studies with remdesivir, an experimental antiviral drug that may help reduce the intensity and duration of COVID-19 by stopping the coronavirus that causes it from replicating. While it's a step in the right direction, these aren't the first trials to test remdesivir's ability to halt the novel coronavirus.

In one trial, investigators will randomize approximately 400 patients with severe cases of COVID-19 into two groups receiving different treatment durations. In the second study, Researchers will enroll around 600 patients into groups that receive standard care or remdesivir.