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Rigel Pharma to Test Potential Drug for Covid-19 Pneumonia

Rigel Pharma shares jumped after the drugmaker started a U.K. trial of a drug that could combat covid-19 pneumonia.
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Shares of Rigel Pharmaceuticals RIGL jumped on Tuesday after the drugmaker said it started a U.K. trial of a drug designed to combat covid-19 pneumonia. 

Fostamatinib is an oral spleen tyrosine kinase, or SYK, inhibitor already marketed in the U.S. and Europe under the name Tavalisse as a treatment for blood clots. 

"Severe covid-19 pneumonia can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS, which can often be fatal," Chief Executive Raul Rodriguez said. 

'Given encouraging data from preclinical models of fostamatinib, we believe there is potential for SYK inhibition to help treat the severity of the disease for these patients and to prevent ARDS." 

Researchers at MIT and Harvard recently led a test to identify Food and Drug Administration-approved compounds that reduce a biomarker that predicts the development of ARDS.

Of 3,713 compounds that were screened, fostamatinib was the only one that was identified to both meet the necessary criteria and gain FDA clearance, the company said. This will potentially enable the company to rapidly repurpose the drug, Rigel said. 

The Imperial College of London will host a two-stage open-label controlled randomized clinical trial that will feature two other control groups, one receiving a chemotherapy treatment and the other receiving standard coronavirus care. 

Treatment during the trial will be administered twice daily for 14 days and patients will receive a follow-up assessment at day 14 and day 28 after the first dose. 

Rigel shares at last check rose 94% to $4.18. They have traded on Tuesday as high as $5.24, more than double their Monday close at $2.16.