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UK government aims to have COVID pill by autumn

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The Heath Secretary says the UK is "leading the world" in finding new COVID-19 treatments

The UK government announced this week that it is looking to develop two antiviral treatments for COVID-19, setting the end of summer as a target for its completion.

Speaking at a Downing Street briefing on Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a taskforce had been set up to find new medicines that could treat coronavirus and stop it spreading.

The treatment, which would come in either a pill or capsule form, would be given to those who have tested positive for the virus or people who have come into contact with it. It would be taken at home helping speed up recovery and stopping transmissions.

The Antivirals Taskforce is looking to establish two effective medicines through the use of clinical trials, particularly looking at opportunities to develop the drugs in the UK.

These could also be especially useful for those who refuse or are ineligible for the vaccine.

Speaking at the briefing, the Prime Minister said: “The success of our vaccination programme has demonstrated what the UK can achieve when we bring together our brightest minds.

“Our new Antivirals Taskforce will seek to develop innovative treatments you can take at home to stop COVID-19 in its tracks. These could provide another vital defence against any future increase in infections and save more lives.”

He also did not rule out the possibility of a third wave of the virus as new variants are cultivating across the world, including one from India which was found in the UK last week.

Despite this he said the country is still on track with its roadmap out of lockdown.

Talk of finding a drug that is able to treat COVID-19 has been around for some time now, as Health Tech World covered last year looking at a partnership between Absolute Antibody Ltd and University of Zurich.

The pair were looking at the possibilities of creating an inhalable drug as a convenient therapy for coronavirus.

Researchers at the University of Bristol recently demonstrated how virtual reality could help establish new treatments, allowing them to share models in new ways.

The UK’s vaccination rollout is well underway, with over 30 million people already receiving their first dose and all restrictions in the country expected to be lifted at the end of June.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “The UK is leading the world in finding and rolling out effective treatments for COVID-19, having identified dexamethasone, which has saved over a million lives worldwide, and tocilizumab.

“In combination with our fantastic vaccination programme, medicines are a vital weapon to protect our loved ones from this terrible virus.

“Modelled on the success of the vaccines and therapeutics taskforces, which have played a crucial part in our response to the pandemic, we are now bringing together a new team that will supercharge the search for antiviral treatments and roll them out as soon as the autumn.

“I am committed to boosting the UK’s position as a life science superpower and this new taskforce will help us beat COVID-19 and build back better.”

The Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, also weighed in saying: “The speed at which vaccines and therapeutics such as dexamethasone have been identified and deployed against COVID-19 has been critical to the pandemic response.

“Antivirals in tablet form are another key tool for the response. They could help protect those not protected by or ineligible for vaccines. They could also be another layer of defence in the face of new variants of concern.

“The taskforce will help ensure the most promising antivirals are available for deployment as quickly as possible.”

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