A group of Italian biotech companies has recently entered the world race to contain and finally defeat the coronavirus, and are getting results. While the chronicles are full of Japanese miracle drugs and vaccine trials in the four corners of the world, Italian biotech is getting international recognition and is close to important trials.
“Perhaps more than other sectors, we are aware of what it means to face a pandemic,” said Riccardo Palmisano, president of Assobiotec-Federchimica, the trade association that brings together over 130 companies involved in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals (as well as agriculture and the environment). “For this reason, like the entire productive fabric, we have taken measures against the virus, we have done smart working and readjusted shifts, but the laboratories have never remained empty because at the end of our chain there is the patient, not only those affected by the coronavirus,” Palmisano continued.
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Italian researchers are working hard to find a vaccine
Palmisano explained that there are several centers of excellence in the territory equipped to make a contribution against the virus, especially in two fields: diagnostics and vaccines.
In the field of testing, there is DiaSorin, a company based near Vercelli. With a very strong international presence, the company has developed a molecular diagnostic test capable of giving results on coronavirus positivity within an hour. The test is so sensitive that it is able to recognize the virus even in case of mutations.
The U.S. division of the company, DiaSorin Molecular, was one of the few companies to receive emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to proceed with the use of its tests, along with some federal funds. DiaSorin tests are carried out with machines that the company has already installed all over the world.
Irbm, ReiThera and Takis are among the companies that have entered the race to find a vaccine against COVID-19
Three Italian companies have also entered the vaccine race, and all three come from Lazio, where a pole of excellence has been created in recent years.
Irbm is a company that counts over 250 scientists and has entered in collaboration with the Jenner Institute of the University of Oxford to create a vaccine against the new coronavirus. Irbm has a lot of experience since back in 2016 the company developed a vaccine against Ebola. In addition, in recent years, Irbm has already done a lot of work on another parainfluenza virus, the adenovirus. Irbm has started the development of the first batch of vaccines for clinical trials (i.e. those on people), which hopes to start before the summer.
ReiThera was also involved in the development of a vaccine to stop Ebola. The company’s vaccine against the coronavirus is currently being tested in vitro and on animals. The company should have a 10,000-dose batch ready to begin clinical trials by the end of May.
Similar timing for Takis, a biotech company that has developed four possible variants of the vaccine. The company started animal testing in collaboration with the Spallanzani Institute. The first results should arrive by the end of April, and clinical trials will take place by the end of the year.
“Italy has many scientists of international excellence and we should not need a global pandemic to remind us of that,” said Palmisano. “We have the weapons to fight this emergency and defeat it, but there are ways to be better prepared when the next one comes.”
Palmisano recalled that research funding is not yet at the European level: “The target for 2020 would have been to allocate 3% of GDP to research, but we are still at 1.3. And this is why when this crisis is over we need a national plan: Italy has all the capacity to be a protagonist.”
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First published in IL FOGLIO, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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