LONDON – The COVID-19 outbreak appears to be sliding toward pandemic status, with the virus spreading to four more countries and confirmed cases and deaths mounting in infection hotspots in Italy, Iran and South Korea. Parts of northern Italy are in lockdown, with 200-plus cases and seven deaths. Austria and Switzerland are reported to be considering closing their borders with Italy, and the EU has responded with a €232 million (US$252 million) package of aid, including €90 million for development of a vaccine and €10 million for therapeutics and diagnostics.
Investors continue to keep a close eye on the progress of companies involved in developing medicines targeting the central nervous system and, in the main, their reaction has been generally positive. The BioWorld Neurological Diseases index, a price-weighted index of public biopharmaceutical companies that are focused on developing therapies to treat neurological diseases, closed the year up over 16% and after, a dip in January, is now tracking up more than 12% by market close on Friday Feb. 21, well ahead of the general markets for the same period.