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European Biopharmaceutical Review

A Conversation with an Expert in Drug Development

EBR: What can you tell us about the main areas of research being undertaken for COVID-19 therapies?

Colin Orford: Researchers are working to develop COVID-19 therapies passionately and compassionately. Fortunately, the list of candidates in development is robust and reflects interest in treating all stages of the disease – interventions for mild, moderate, and severe disease states. Target participant populations span ambulatory and hospitalised patients as well as post-exposure. We are starting to see a shift in focus from vaccine development and treatments for those most critically ill, to treatments for those who suffer only mild to moderate symptoms.

What is the likelihood that we will have an effective treatment in advance of a widely distributed vaccine, which we understand can take 18 months if all goes well?

Work is progressing on both treatments and vaccines in parallel. However, the need for an effective treatment has been top of mind for researchers. I expect that we will have a treatment before we have a vaccine as the industry is investigating the feasibility of repurposing existing, approved medications that either look to reduce viral replication or to target the underlying immunological and inflammatory processes. There is also a lot happening behind the scenes. There are numerous companies with drug candidates still ‘on the bench’ that are seeking funding at this point.

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Dr Colin Orford, PhD, Senior Vice President, is Head of Drug Development Services at ICON plc. He has 29 years of experience in the pharma sector gained at GSK (SmithKline Beecham), Novartis, Quintiles, and Eisai, which combines development strategy with operational execution. Colin has 20 years of hands-on drug development experience having led multiple R&D project teams, and has worked across all stages of the development spectrum from preclinical through to Phase IIIb. He has been responsible for transitioning multiple molecules in the neurosciences area, from preclinical (candidate selection), through proof of concept, and into late phase development. He has also led a number of Phase III teams and been involved in several new drug applications and marketing authorisation application submissions.

Colin leads ICON’s drug development and consulting team, is a member of the commercial leadership team, and a member of ICON’s clinical research services, senior leadership team. He has developed and established ICON’s due diligence capabilities and has continued to focus on developing new models of drug development collaborations which range from fully virtual development, with small companies, through to externalised development for larger pharma.
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Dr Colin Orford
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