Trump to Reveal Major ‘Breakthrough’ on Therapeutic for Virus From China: White House

August 23, 2020 Updated: August 23, 2020

President Donald Trump and top health officials in his administration are poised to reveal a “major therapeutic breakthrough” on the new virus from China, the White House said.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump, Health Secretary Alex Azar, and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn would hold a press conference regarding the breakthrough on Sunday.

Trump said in a social media statement that the briefing would be held at 5:30 p.m., teasing “Very good news!”

SARS-CoV-2, or the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, causes COVID-19, a disease that kills a small percentage of patients.

Scientists around the world have been scrambling to identify treatments for the disease while others work on developing a vaccine against the virus.

Earlier Saturday, the president accused the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of “making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics.”

It’s obvious that the people there want to delay until after the Nov. 3 election, Trump said.

“Must focus on speed, and saving lives!” he added on Twitter, tagging Hahn’s account.

President Donald Trump speaks
President Donald Trump speaks to the 2020 Council for National Policy Meeting, in Arlington, Va., on Aug. 21, 2020. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

The FDA didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“We’ve looked a number of people that are not being as diligent as they should be, in terms of getting to the bottom of it,” Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said Sunday during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week. It’s difficult to fire government employees, he added.

“We really need to make sure that we have good science and the proper protocol, but we also can’t wait around and assume that this virus is going to go away. This president wants real results. And that’s why he took to Twitter,” Meadows said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the remarks “scary,” telling reporters in Washington Saturday that the FDA “has a responsibility to approve drugs with judging on their safety and their efficacy, not by a declaration from the White House about speed and politicizing the FDA.”

Drug-remdesivir-COVID-19
Rubber stoppers are placed onto filled vials of the investigational drug remdesivir at a Gilead manufacturing site in March 2020. (Gilead Sciences via AP)

Few medicines have proven effective against COVID-19.

Remdesivir, made by California-based Gilead Sciences, showed some efficacy in clinical trials, but costs thousands of dollars for a course. Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial, has worked when given early, but the FDA withdrew emergency use authorization in June because of concerns of side effects and effectiveness.

Researchers last month said a cheap steroid that’s widely available, dexamethasone, appeared to help patients recover from severe COVID-19 cases.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched a clinical trial on Aug. 4 evaluating the safety and efficacy of potential new therapeutics, including an investigational one based on synthetic monoclonal antibodies. The trial is part of the agency’s effort to accelerate both treatments and vaccines through a public-private partnership program.

Developed by Eli Lilly and Company’s collaboration with NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the monoclonal antibody was isolated from a blood sample from a recovered COVID-19 patient before being synthesized in a lab.

“Using an antibody generated by the immune system of a recovered COVID-19 patient gives us a jump start on finding a safe and effective therapeutic,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the institute, said in a statement. “Investigating a variety of different therapeutics, including monoclonal antibodies, will help ensure that we advance towards an effective treatment for people suffering from COVID-19 disease as quickly as possible.”

Allen Zhong contributed to this report. 

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