Bayer partners with Hamilton research institute on COVID treatments


General Bayer Hamilton McMaster University

The pharmaceutical giant will commit $1.5 million towards the studies and will supply study drugs to support the research.

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — The Population Health Research Institute (PHRI), a joint research institute of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, and German pharmaceutical giant Bayer Inc. are launching a major clinical research program aimed at identifying potential COVID-19 treatments.

Bayer will make a financial commitment of $1.5 million towards the studies and will supply study drugs to support the research. This adds to the $500,000 committed by the PHRI that enabled development of the research program.

PHRI plans to enroll 6,000 patients into the two studies from more than 60 contributing research sites across Ontario, Canada and internationally.

Bayer said the two studies will evaluate the safety and efficacy of different combination therapies including Bayer’s chloroquine and interferon beta-1b.


The pharmaceutical company produces chloroquine phosphate, which is approved in some countries outside of Canada for use in malaria and some other illnesses. Chinese health authorities have included it in the treatment recommendations for COVID-19, while other health authorities, such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have adopted similar guidance for supervised emergency use.

In clinical studies, interferon beta-1b was the first drug to show a decrease in relapse rate multiple sclerosis (MS) and reduce disease activity as measured by MRI. These findings led to its approval by FDA as the first therapy for treatment of MS in 1993. Approvals by other agencies around the world followed.

“Specifically, an outpatient study will evaluate the combination of chloroquine with azithromycin to see if this treatment can prevent deterioration leading to hospital admission, while a second study will evaluate the combination of chloroquine with azithromycin, as well as interferon beta-1b, to prevent admission to intensive care, mechanical ventilation and/or death to combat COVID-19,” said Salim Yusuf, executive director of PHRI, in a prepared statement. “Our goal is to assess the value of these and other therapies rapidly so that the results can inform practice as soon as possible.”

Azithromycin is an antibiotic used for the treatment of a number of bacterial infections including strep throat and pneumonia, as well as travellers’ diarrhea and certain other intestinal infections. Along with other medications, it may also be used for malaria. Azithromycin was first approved for medical use in 1988. It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.



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