Wang Chen (1st R), president of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAMS), speaks at a conference in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei Province, Feb. 5, 2020. The registration for clinical trials on the antiviral drug Remdesivir has been approved.

As the relentless spread of the coronavirus continued, scientists around the world are working round the clock to find the right cure. Till now, there is no approved treatment for the infection, and only symptoms are being treated across the globe. Till now, confirmed cases of the outbreak has been reported from 24 countries, including India.

On Thursday, China has initiated a clinical trial of a new drug named remdesivir, an antiviral medicine made by Gilead, the American pharmaceutical giant. The enrolled patients for the trial will be administered intravenously. Previous studies on mice and monkeys have reportedly proven that this drug can fight coronavirus. As the drug was tested during the Ebola outbreak as well, scientists are confident that the drug is safe.

As of Friday afternoon, the death toll in China due to the deadly new coronavirus stood at 638, with 31,526 confirmed cases and 1764 recovered.

WHO to accelerate research

The World Health Organization (WHO) will convene a global research and innovation forum next week to mobilise international efforts to combat the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Thursday.

The forum, to be held here from February 11-12, has been organised in collaboration with the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness, reports Xinhua news agency. It will bring together key players in critical public health research and the development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, among other innovations.

Participants, including leading scientists, public health agencies, ministries of health and research funders, will discuss such areas of research as identifying the source of the virus as well as sharing of biological samples and genetic sequences. Experts will build on existing SARS and MERS coronavirus research and identify knowledge gaps and research priorities, to accelerate scientific information and medical products that are most needed to minimise the impact of this novel coronavirus outbreak.

“Harnessing the power of science is critical for bringing this outbreak under control,” Tedros told the media on Thursday.

Hong Kong researchers invent fast NCoV detection device

Meanwhile, researchers of a Hong Kong university have invented a portable device to detect the deadly novel coronavirus that reduces the whole procedure from sampling to testing to merely 40 minutes. With the latest microfluidic chip technology, the device heats up testing samples by 30°C per second, improving significantly from the current 4-5 degrees per second, Xinhua news agency quoted a Hong Kong University of Science and Technology statement as saying on Thursday.

The speed of temperature change is the key that determines the efficiency of the detection, the faster the temperature rises, the shorter a device can come up with the test result, the researchers said. The invention was jointly made by a research team of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology led by Professor Wen Weijia and a Shenzhen-based biotechnology startup company, co-founded by Wen and his doctoral graduate Gao Yibo.

The researchers came up with the testing kit within a week after obtaining the new coronavirus sequence on January 20. The equipment set has been in use by disease control and prevention centres in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, South China’s Guangdong province, and two more sets were being delivered to the centre of China’s Hubei province.

The invention has obtained international CE certification (EU standard).

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