The Importance of Global Collaboration in the Fight Against COVID-19

By Dohyun Cho, Chief Operating Officer, Enzychem Lifesciences | 09.08.20

Industry continues to join forces to find new treatments for COVID-19.

The life sciences’ industry response to the current global COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of innovation and drug development in the anti-infectives and antiviral space. During this time of need, it has also highlighted our industry’s ability to come together and share resources, across borders, during a time of extreme need. One thing is certain—we need new treatments for COVID-19, whether it be therapeutics or vaccines, and soon.
Biotech and pharma companies globally are developing everything from antivirals and vaccine platforms, to DNA synthesis and antibodies, companies have put their best bet forward to try and defend the human population against this threat.
According to BIO, based on their COVID-19 Therapeutic Development Tracker, there are currently 707 unique active compounds in development. 270 are clinical compounds in development and the vast majority, 437 are preclinical compounds in development. As of today, hundreds of drugs are currently in various stages in clinical trials, from vaccines, to antivirals, small molecules, antibodies, to CAR-T therapies. The vast majority of therapies in development are in Phase 2 trials.   
Currently, only two drugs have been approved for emergency use by the U.S. FDA, Gilead Science’s remdesivir, and convalescent plasma—which has been controversial and widely debated and contested in the media.
However, as well-intentioned and committed as the industry response has been thus far, it is time to begin asking both ourselves, and our policy makers, why such a response was necessary. For example, we currently have the technology to build a vast centralized network of known antivirals for rapid screening against emerging threats. Why is it not in place? The U.S. has the technology to build rapid response systems to prevent pandemics.
In South Korea, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, has approved 22 clinical trials to develop Covid-19 treatments and vaccines. Five of the 22 trials have been completed with the other 17 in progress. Korean pharmaceutical companies are now conducting 12 trials, with seven studies in Phase 2 and the five others are in Phase 1. Enzychem Lifesciences is one of the seven companies selected by Korean regulators to conduct a Phase 2 study.
Researchers now believe some of the most severe complications of the coronavirus may be caused by an overactive immune system. Cytokine storm is an uncontrolled release of proteins that triggers a massive inflammatory response. This “overreaction” of the body’s natural immune defense can destroy vital organs, which is why we decided to focus on developing a therapy that would stop this cascade of symptoms and effects in the body. There is currently no proven treatment for a coronavirus-induced cytokine storm. EC-18 has been shown pre-clinically to control neutrophil infiltration, thereby modulating the inflammatory cytokine and chemokine signaling that has been implicated in severe COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Cameron Wolfe, an infectious disease expert and head of Duke Medical’s Coronavirus Task Force, will lead our U.S. clinical program in COVID-19. Enzychem is only one of many international biopharmaceutical companies developing a potential therapeutic in the U.S in the fight against COVID-19.
According to the CDC Covid Data Tracker, there are currently over 6 million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with over 180,000 total deaths. In the last 7 days, there were close to 300,000 confirmed cases alone. Some states have more cases than the entire country of Canada right now. If there was ever a time for the life sciences industry to come together, share resources, knowledge and data, the time is now.
Since COVID-19 was first reported, scientists all over the world have worked with remarkable speed to understand the virus and share findings and knowledge.
Despite how poorly regarded and misunderstood the pharma industry is by the wider population—58% of Americans hold a negative view of our industry based on the 2019 Gallup survey, and ranked us last, scientists and researchers in our field continue to press on. Our hope is that the wider public will change its views towards the pharma industry, as scientists and researchers work tirelessly around the clock to bring a potential therapy or vaccine to patients in this race against time.

DoHyun Cho is the chief operating officer for Korea-based Enzychem Lifesciences, a global new drug development company that was founded in July 1999. With its headquarters in Seoul, global new drug development center in New York, and two GMP manufacturing plants in Jecheon, Korea, Enzychem produces active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and offers new drug development services. Before he became COO of Enzychem Lifesciences, DoHyun was the director general of Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI) USA in New York, a specialized agency of Ministry of Health of Republic of Korea. As the director general of KHIDI USA, he was in charge of all the KHIDI’s activities in the U.S. and Latin America for 6 years. Prior to becoming the head of KHIDI USA, he worked at KHIDI’s headquarters in Seoul as a senior researcher.