Navigating COVID: Why it still matters




This article is sponsored by Gilead Sciences, Inc.

In this special sponsored episode from Gilead, I’m joined by Anu Osinusi, an infectious disease physician and Vice President of Clinical Research for Hepatitis, Respiratory, and Emerging Viruses at Gilead, to discuss navigating COVID-19 today. We look back on the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and the development of treatments that helped get us to where we are today.

The first days: Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic

Like most of us, Dr. Osinusi remembers the first day she heard of COVID-19: December 2020 in an email about the mystery cases of pneumonia in the Wuhan district in China. Just a week later, these mystery cases were confirmed as a novel coronavirus, and Anu and her team at Gilead were off to the races.

“There were a lot of unknowns, but I think one thing that I was really proud of the team for is that we were never paralyzed by that fear, or the fear of the unknown,” Dr. Osinusi says, “We just kept pushing ahead, recognizing that if we could be part of the solution, we would want to be part of the solution.”

Gilead was one of the first pharmaceutical biotech companies to commit to addressing the pandemic, an accomplishment Dr. Osinusi credits to the company’s 30 plus years of experience and expertise in viral diseases.

COVID-19 treatment options available today

In terms of where we are today with COVID-19, Dr. Osinusi emphasizes the tireless efforts by researchers across the globe that have yielded what she defines as remarkable treatment approaches and guidelines for the disease.

These developments have led to COVID-19 vaccines, antiviral therapies, and immune modulators, including corticosteroid therapies. All these tools continue to play a critical role in the treatment of COVID-19 patients, especially those who are at the highest risk of complications or who are hospitalized for COVID-19.

On the topic of COVID-19 treatment, Dr. Osinusi emphasizes the importance of avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach when treating viral infections.

“I think rather than us touting one treatment as superior to the other, it’s important to explore how different drugs and medications can be used in tandem to enhance the effectiveness of each individual treatment, and customized for each individual patient,” Dr. Osinusi says.

Unmet needs in the COVID-19 landscape

Even today, there are still unmet needs in COVID-19 treatment.

Gilead continues to pursue multiple approaches to transform and bring to the fold innovative medicines and science into transformative therapies to really address the unmet needs that remain with COVID-19, such as treating immunocompromised patients.

“I think real-world evidence increasingly offers this really crucial information on how the treatment is working in the actual clinical settings, which can then be used to supplement the clinical trial results,” Dr. Osinusi says. “And then it also gives us insights to populations maybe that weren’t necessarily greatly represented in the early treatment trials, especially I would think, for instance, immunocompromised patients who continue to be at higher risk of severe disease from COVID-19.”

Looking ahead

“Even as we see this shift to this endemic phase of the virus, it’s not going away,” Dr. Osinusi says.

COVID-19 has evolved in many ways, including greater awareness and interest in Long-COVID and its impact on patients and providers.

“And so, for us, the patients they are our North Star, it’s a focus for us on the Gilead research and development team,” Dr. Osinusi says. “With that commitment, we’ve been working very closely with regulatory agencies across the globe as well as researchers and academia to really learn about the unmet needs that remain in COVID-19.”

Backed by a strong heritage in virology and research and development, Dr. Osinusi is confident Gilead is built to continue to address unmet needs in the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as future pandemics because as Dr. Osinusi puts it, the next pandemic is not a matter of if, but rather of when.

“We need to definitely stay extremely vigilant because I think as we’ve seen since the very start of the pandemic, many variant lineages have continued to emerge,” Dr. Osinusi says. “Each variant brings very different transmissibility or different disease outcomes severity. And despite the tremendous progress, the impact of what the future variants will bring remains unclear. So, I think it’s important for the field as a whole for us to keep optimizing, adhering to the treatment recommendations, prioritizing antiviral treatment for hospitalized patients at high risk, but also continuing to innovate.”

Anu Osinusi is an infectious disease physician and Vice President of Clinical Research for Hepatitis, Respiratory, and Emerging Viruses, Gilead.

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