South Korea Daewoong Pharma eyes Phase II trials of coronavirus drug, shares jump

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SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean drugmaker Daewoong Pharma said on Thursday it had sought regulatory approval for Phase II trials of its anti-parasite niclosamide drug to treat COVID-19 patients, sending its shares up nearly 6%.

Drugmakers worldwide are rushing to develop treatments for the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 1.5 million people since it first emerged in China late last year.

Daewoong Pharma, which has sought permission from South Korea's food and drug safety ministry to hold Phase II clinical trials of its coronavirus drug DWRX2003, said 200 infected patients would participate.

"When injecting a single dose of DWRX2003 to hamsters as part of animal testing, they could see strong antiviral effect of the drug by the third day and viral genome was barely found by the fifth day," it said in a statement.

The company said its anti-parasite nicholasmide drug DWRX2003 does not need to be refrigerated, unlike some vaccine candidates, which could reduce concerns over supplying the drug domestically or exporting it.

The viral effect of the drug helped minimize weight losses in hamsters, potentially improving the survival rate, it added.

The company said it was also preparing to seek regulatory approval for Phase II trials in the United States.

In September, Daewoong launched another overseas human trial of the drug in the Philippines.

It had said in June that its anti-viral drug had completely eliminated the novel coronavirus from animals' lungs during pre-clinical testing.

(Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Rashmi Aich)