French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi and American drugmaker Regeneron said on Monday they have started clinical trials for a new drug in patients hospitalised with severe coronavirus infections.
In a statement, they said phase 2 and 3 trials were underway for Kevzara, an immunosuppressor.
Regeneron will begin trial in the United States, while Sanofi plans trials initially in Italy, particularly hard hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Kevzara, the brand name for sarilumab, an antibody that blocks the ability of some viruses to latch on to humane immune cells, has been in development since 2017.
Specifically, it inhibits the immune receptor that plays a key role in lung inflammation, something severe coronavirus patients suffer from.
Around 400 patients will take part in the studies, which will evaluate the effect of Kevzara on fever and oxygenation levels of patients.
It will also look at how the drug works over the long term in reducing mortality rates, and potentially how it can reduce the need for respiratory apparatus in hospitals.
The number of novel coronavirus cases globally stood at 168,250 with 6,501 deaths, across 142 countries and territories at 0900 GMT Monday, according to an AFP tally based on official sources.