Stocks to Watch as Investors Monitor Omicron Variant

Covid-19 cases are surging worldwide and a number of countries have imposed fresh restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of a new strain of the virus first identified in South Africa.

The discovery of the heavily mutated variant, called Omicron, spooked global markets last week.


The worldwide case count stood at more than 266.8 million Tuesday afternoon, with more than 5.27 million reported deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Oncotelic Therapeutics, Inc. (OTLC) recently announced that its COVID-19 trial (“C001”) for OT-101 has successfully met its safety and efficacy endpoints.

OT-101 is a first-in-class anti-TGF-β ribonucleic acid (“RNA”) therapeutic that has exhibited single agent activity in relapsed/refractory cancer patients in multiple clinical trials. OT-101 has also demonstrated activity against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19, and is currently being evaluated in the Company’s C001 clinical trial against hospitalized severe COVID-19 patients.

Both tumor cells and SARS-Cov-2 induce TGF-β as part of their immune evasion mechanism. Consequently, inhibiting TGF-β by OT-101 is expected to impact both cancer and COVID. By targeting the host protein, OT-101 is expected to work against multiple respiratory viruses, including related emerging variants, unlike traditional antiviral drugs and vaccines.

On October 18, Data lock and Study Data and Analysis Data Models (SDTMs & ADaMS Databases) were generated for a Phase 2 C001 Covid Study: “A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo Controlled, Multi-Center Study of OT-101 in Hospitalized COVID-19 Subjects”. The trial compares OT-101 + Standard of Care (“SOC”) versus Placebo + SOC (N= 32 pts at 2:1 randomization ratio). SOC includes dexamethasone, the only drug known to improve outcomes in severe cases of COVID-19. The top line data is:

1)  Safety endpoints met. OT-101 as a TGF-β inhibitor was safe to administer to COVID-19 patients including severe/critical COVID-19 patients.

2) Efficacy signals were obtained. End of treatment (Day 7) mortality for the entire study population was 4.5% OT-101 versus 20% for placebo.

3)  Incidence of >96% viral load knockdown on End of Treatment (Day 7) was 89% for OT-101 versus 67% for placebo.

4)  Overall survival improved 3X for critical COVID-19 pts (4 days for placebo versus 14 days for OT-101, p < 0.0166).

Roche’s (RHHBY) newly acquired subsidiary TIB Molbiol has developed three new test kits to help researchers detect mutations in the new Omicron variant of coronavirus, Roche said on Friday.

 

Pfizer (PFE) now expects to make 80 million courses of COVID drug Paxlovid by the end of 2022, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, Ph.D., told CNBC during a Monday interview. The company previously said it plans to have capacity to make 50 million courses.

Pfizer has filed Paxlovid for an FDA emergency use authorization and has signed a contract to provide 10 million courses to the U.S. government by 2022 for $5.29 billion.

Gilead Sciences (GILD) said new findings of its antiviral Veklury, a.k.a. remdesivir, showed the treatment is expected to remain effective against the omicron variant, Fox Business reports. An analysis of more than 200 available sequences of the strain, including those from South Africa, Asia and Europe, found no new mutations present in the variant expected to alter the viral RNA polymerase the antiviral targets. The biotech will continue to conduct in vitro lab testing of remdesivir against the omicron variant.

Merck & Co Inc’s (MRK) experimental COVID-19 drug molnupiravir should have similar activity against any new coronavirus variant, a company executive said on Tuesday.

The drug, developed along with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, shows antiviral properties against coronavirus variants such as the Delta variant, Daria Hazuda, vice president of Merck’s infectious diseases and vaccines division, said.

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