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Expectations grow for development of COVID-19 drugs by Japanese scientists

  • May 25, 2020
  • , Nikkei , p. 9
  • JMH Translation

Expectations are mounting for the results of research by Japanese Nobel Prize winners and other scientists to give a boost to possible treatments for the new coronavirus. Kitasato University will soon launch domestic clinical trials for a drug developed by the university’s Professor Emeritus Satoshi Omura as a treatment for infectious diseases. Meanwhile, the effectiveness of an anti-rheumatic drug developed by Osaka University and other institutes has been reported, and plans are underway to conduct clinical research on an anti-cancer drug developed by Kyoto University professor and Nobel laureate Tasuku Honjo. These drugs are drawing attention as they could lead to a possible breakthrough in treating COVID-19.


Kitasato University will soon start a clinical trial for Ivermectin, a parasite-killing drug developed by Professor Emeritus Omura, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. The study will be conduced on about 100 patients. Hideaki Hanaki, director of the Omura Satoshi Memorial Institute, says “We hope to report on the results within a year of starting the clinical study.”


Kitasato University plans to conduct a double-blind test as this approach is expected to produce more credible results. The drug will move closer to approval once its effectiveness is confirmed in the study. But since how the drug will work still remains unknown, study on the mechanism will be carried out concurrently.


The anti-rheumatism medicine “Actemra” is another candidate drug for the treatment of COVID-19. Chugai Pharmaceutical, which sells the drug, will conduct trials within Japan, while Roche, a Swiss firm, has begun trials on about 300 patients in the U.S. and other countries.


Actemra blocks the IL-6 receptor. IL-6 was discovered by Tadamitsu Kishimoto and National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology (QST) President Toshio Hirano. Both of them have served as president of Osaka University before and are rumored to be promising candidates for a Nobel Prize.


The results of the trials are expected to come out some time in the future, but there have been reports of the administration of the drug leading to the improvement of symptoms at home and abroad. “This drug can offer a treatment option for patients in severe condition,” said Murakami. “If it is administered in the later phase of infection, it can be expected to stop the immune response from getting out of control.”


Study on using Opdivo, which was developed by Kyoto University Distinguished Professor Honjo, to treat COVID-19 patients is also being considered. The U.S. National Institutes of Health indicates in its website that China and France have registered their plans for clinical research. (Abridged)


Drugs that are being considered for COVID-19 treatment trials

Drug name

Who discovered/developed?



Satoshi Omura, professor emeritus at Kitasato University

Treatment of parasitic infections  


Tadamitsu Kishimoto and Toshio Hirano, former presidents of Osaka University

Treatment of rheumatism


Tasuku Honjo, distinguished professor at Kyoto University

Immunotherapy cancer treatment

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