As of this morning – Tuesday June 22 – the current recorded case count for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK has reached 305,289 with 42,647 deaths.

Gilead has unveiled plans to start trials of an inhaled version of the antiviral remdesivir, in the hope of using the drug earlier in the treatment pathway for COVID-19.

In an open letter, the firm's chairman and chief executive Daniel O'Day said health volunteers would be screened for participation in a Phase I trial this week, currently scheduled for August.

Remdesivir is currently given to patients intravenously through daily infusions in the hospital.

An inhaled formulation would be administered via a nebuliser, potentially allowing for easier administration outside of the hospital setting, and at earlier stages of disease.

“That could have significant implications in helping to stem the tide of the pandemic,” O'Day said.

He also confirmed that Gilead intends to conduct trials using intravenous infusions of the antiviral in outpatient settings such as infusion centres and nursing homes, to help patients avoid hospitalisation altogether.

The firm will also study the potential of combining remdesivir with two immune modulators – the JAK inhibitor baricitinib, and the IL-6 receptor antagonist tocilizumab.

Researchers believe such combinations could help fight both the virus, the primary driver of illness in the initial stages, and the subsequent inflammatory response that seems to cause the more serious consequences post infection.

“Our best hope of beating COVID-19 is with a set of tools at our disposal: complementary therapeutics, effective vaccines and widespread testing,” O'Day said.