In the mission to defeat COVID-19, scientists from all over the world are racing two develop two avenues of treatment: an effective therapy, and eventually a vaccine. This is so important to the investing world because we won't be able to go back to a 100% economy, with travel and leisure industries back to normal, until we have a vaccine. In the meantime, effective testing and treatment could help consumers get confident enough to go back to some businesses, allowing the economy to open up more than it has already.
Most experts put the timeline for a vaccine at 18 months, though it might be either a bit shorter or longer than that. Until then, many market participants have focused on Remdesivir, a drug from Gilead (NASDAQ:GILD). There have been conflicting reports around Remdesivir as of late, with the World Health Organization accidentally posting a Chinese study saying that Remdesivir wasn't materially effective. However, Gilead chimed in the next day disputing the results. Apparently, the Chinese study was stopped because of low enrollment, and a Gilead spokesperson said the results of the trial were actually encouraging, particularly for patients treated early.
While Remdesivir could be helpful, it also isn't the only game in town. Recently, two new avenues of treatment have come to light that could prove helpful in mitigating the effects of coronavirus until we get a vaccine.
Last week, Chinese researchers published a report touting the success they had in cloning antibodies developed in COVID-19 patients who had recovered. In a lab-controlled experiment, these cloned antibodies were successful in preventing coronavirus from binding to cell receptors in test tubes.
This is an alternative to using the plasma of recovered patients and injecting that into new patients. That avenue of treatment may also hold promise, but it may be difficult to get enough plasma from the relatively small portion of the population who have recovered to the vast majority who haven't yet been exposed.
Before you get too excited, the results were of course done in a lab, not in live patients. As the research is still at its earlier stages, it could still turn out that the synthetic antibodies may or may not be effective in humans. In addition, synthetic antibodies are a relatively new invention that could be very expensive to produce.
Still, if synthetic antibodies can prove effective in human trials later this year, one can be sure governments, foundations, and private companies would invest heavily in manufacturing of this potential therapeutic to mitigate the worst effects of the virus.
Despite President Trump's erroneous assertion that the human body can be treated for COVID-19 with ultraviolet light, there is actually some support for the idea that UV light can neutralize viruses on surfaces and in the air within public spaces. This solution could be instrumental in beginning to open up stadiums or arenas with lots of people in attendance.
According to a January 2018 paper in Scientific Reports (opens a PDF), researchers were able to neutralize 95% of aerosolized H1N1 influenza by hitting it with something called far-UVC light. UV light hasn't been used in such a setting before, because it can be harmful to both the skin and the eyes. However, "far" UVC light of 207 to 222 nanometer wavelengths was able to effectively inactivate bacteria without harming eyes or skin, according to the study. According to the paper, because of "its strong absorbance in biological materials, far-UVC light cannot penetrate even the outer (non-living) layers of human skin or eye; however, because bacteria and viruses are of micrometer or smaller dimensions, far-UVC can penetrate and inactivate them. We show for the frst time that far-UVC efficiently inactivates airborne aerosolized viruses, with a very low dose of 2mJ/cm2 of 222-nm light inactivating >95% of aerosolized H1N1 infuenza virus."
The paper went on to conclude that "far-UVC light in indoor public locations is a promising, safe, and inexpensive tool to reduce the spread of airborne-mediated microbial diseases."
Keep tabs on these developments
These days, the market can move with either promising medical news or setbacks to previous hopes. Investors especially looking to potentially bottom-fish in the troubled travel, leisure, or transportation sectors should definitely monitor both Remdesivir as well as these new emerging treatments to see if they hold promise. If we can mitigate the worst outcomes of the disease by fall, certain parts of the economy can return sooner, along with the stocks in those industries.