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Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus; Fosun test cleared in China

Top news

* U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first leader of a major economy to test positive for the novel coronavirus. Johnson is self-isolating, his government announced.

* Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Group) Co. Ltd. received emergency approval from China's National Medical Products Administration for its test to detect the novel coronavirus. The Shanghai-based pharmaceutical company said its test kit detects gene targets of the virus and can complete an analysis of 96 samples in two hours.

* Ongoing clinical trials aimed at defeating the coronavirus pandemic with Gilead Sciences Inc.'s experimental antiviral drug remdesivir are set to show results soon, but lack of access to the potential treatment has hindered progress for some institutions.

Northwell Health Inc., the largest healthcare provider in New York City and the state, has an agreement with Gilead to begin enrolling patients for two clinical trials of remdesivir in moderate and severe patients. Kevin Tracey, CEO of Northwell's research arm the Feinstein Institutes, told S&P Global Market Intelligence that the clinics have not had access to the drug and no patients have been treated yet.

* The novel coronavirus has so far affected nearly 86,000 people in the U.S., surpassing China, which has over about 82,000 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering. The death toll in the U.S. has reached about 1,200, while China has recorded more than 3,200 deaths. Worldwide, there have been more than 537,000 confirmed cases of individuals with COVID-19, with over 24,100 deaths.

President Donald Trump wants to set up a ranking system for U.S. counties based on the spread of the new coronavirus in their jurisdictions, in an effort to relax social distancing measures and reopen portions of the nation's economy. But Microsoft Corp. cofounder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates pushed back at the idea, saying it could exacerbate the spread of the disease in the U.S.

* The European Medicines Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use recommended Sanofi's Sarclisa, in combination with pomalidomide and dexamethasone, or pom-dex, for treating certain adult patients with a type of blood cancer called multiple myeloma.

Coronavirus updates

* Most for-profit hospitals should have enough liquidity to overcome the next three to six months of volume declines, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to stress health systems and take a toll on the U.S. economy, according to S&P Global Ratings analysts.

* Sanofi's vaccines unit Sanofi Pasteur and Translate Bio Inc. are collaborating to develop a messenger ribonucleic acid, or mRNA, vaccine for COVID-19. Translate Bio has begun to produce multiple mRNA constructs and will use its mRNA platform to discover, design and manufacture vaccine candidates for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

* Dynavax Technologies Corp. and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations will work together to identify potential COVID-19 vaccine programs globally that could benefit from Dynavax's proprietary drug agent CpG 1018 — an adjuvant added to vaccines to boost immune response.

* Relief Therapeutics Holding AG and privately held NeuroRx Inc. are seeking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's approval to investigate RLF-100, or aviptadil, as a potential treatment for acute and moderate respiratory distress due to the new coronavirus.

* Novo Nordisk A/S will not initiate any new clinical studies due to the strain on the healthcare system caused by the coronavirus pandemic. However, the Danish pharmaceutical company will continue ongoing clinical trials with no significant delays expected in the ones close to finalization.

* Bluebird bio Inc. is expecting a delay in its rolling submission to the U.S FDA for its gene therapy LentiGlobin due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The company estimates that the submission will be complete by mid-2021.

* Spain's government is seeking replacements to the rapid coronavirus tests provided by China's Shenzhen Bioeasy Biotechnology Co. Ltd. as they were deemed defective, with a sensitivity level of only 30%, instead of at least 80%, Spanish daily El País reported. Bioeasy said it will provide replacements for the test kits it exported to Madrid, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post wrote, citing a statement from the company.

* CK Life Sciences International Holdings, the pharma unit of conglomerate CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd., will distribute test kits developed in Singapore to help Hong Kong's hospitals and laboratories get faster results in diagnosing patients suspected of having contracted the novel coronavirus, the SCMP reported.

READ MORE: Sign up for our weekly coronavirus newsletter here, and read our latest coverage on the crisis here.

Drug and product pipeline

* The U.S. FDA accepted Genentech Inc.'s application to use flu medicine Xofluza to treat children aged one to less than 12 years. The oral suspension could potentially benefit children and other people who have difficulty swallowing, the Roche Holding AG subsidiary said.

* Dr. Reddy's Laboratories Ltd. is recalling four lots of its coagulation disorder drug phytonadione injectable emulsion due to ampules breaking and shattering upon opening.

* Oncopeptides AB (publ)'s investigational drug melflufen reduced blood cancer in certain patients, a mid-stage study dubbed Horizon showed.

* Ipsen SA terminated the phase 2 study of palovarotene in patients with a rare disease called multiple osteochondromas due to concerns regarding data integrity following a partial clinical hold. Multiple osteochondromas is a rare disease in which children develop cartilage-capped bony tumors called osteochondromas on bones all over the body.

* Eisai Co. Ltd. submitted its blood cancer therapy denileukin diftitox for approval by Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

* Recordati Industria Chimica e Farmaceutica SpA submitted Isturisa, or osilodrostat, for Japanese approval to treat a rare hormonal disorder called Cushing's syndrome.

Operational activity

* Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. and privately held Evox Therapeutics Ltd. are collaborating to develop novel protein replacement and mRNA therapies for rare diseases, including a genetic disorder called Niemann-Pick disease type C.

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng rose 0.56% to 23,484.28, and the Nikkei 225 was up 3.88% to 19,389.43.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was down 3.84% to 5,592.54, and the Euronext 100 was down 3.07% to 853.92.

Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.

This S&P Global Market Intelligence news article may contain information about credit ratings issued by S&P Global Ratings. Descriptions in this news article were not prepared by S&P Global Ratings.

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