Britain is launching a search for antivirals to treat COVID-19 with the aim of having at least two effective at-home treatments by the end of the year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday.
Johnson has hailed the advent of COVID-19 vaccines and regular testing as the keys to restoring normality by summer, but his government is also supporting research into therapeutics to help in the fight against the pandemic.
“Our new Antivirals Taskforce will seek to develop innovative treatments you can take at home to stop COVID-19 in its tracks,” Johnson said.
“These could provide another vital defence against any future increase in infections and save more lives.”
The government hopes that new treatments could be taken at home after a positive test or exposure to the coronavirus in order to reduce transmission and speed up recovery, and they would further bolster a range of therapeutics already available.
Research by British scientists has established that both steroid dexamethasone and tocilizumab, an arthritis drug developed by Roche (ROG.S), reduced the risk of death in patients with severe COVID-19.
Patrick Vallance, the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, said that antivirals in tablet form could help protect people who could not have vaccines, and be a layer of defence in the face of new coronavirus variants of concern.