Although the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged COVID-19 is spreading, they say it has not yet reached pandemic disease status. The statement did little to comfort the nerves of investors Feb. 24 as they exited global markets big time in the wake of an eruption of new infections in Italy, Iran and South Korea.

All major European stock indices dropped about 3%, as did the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which shed 3.5% of its value by market close. Biopharmaceutical equities were also pulled down with the BioWorld Biopharmaceutical index falling about 2%. The fall was attenuated by index members who have announced they are working on virus treatments. Gilead Sciences Inc.’s shares (NASDAQ:GILD) closed at $72.90, up 4.59%. The company’s NUC inhibitor, remdesivir, which was originally developed for Ebola, is being rushed into clinical trials. The study, expected to be completed on April 27, is a phase III randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of remdesivir in hospitalized adult patients with mild and moderate COVID-19 infections. It will enroll 270 patients and be carried out in the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. is also ramping up its R&D efforts in this area, and its shares (NASDAQ:REGN) closed at $425.38, up 5.5%.

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