Coronavirus research: UC San Diego begins testing experimental drug for fighting COVID-19

The clinical trial will be open only to members of UCSD Health


UC San Diego said Tuesday, March 25 that it is beginning to test whether remdesivir, an experimental antiviral drug, can be safely and effectively used to fight the novel coronavirus

The school is joining with University of California medical centers at Irvine, Davis and San Francisco to study the drug, which has already undergone some animal and human testing involving other viruses, including SARS-CoV and Ebola.

UCSD emphasized that the test will be limited to a small number of patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and who are patients of UCSD Health or other UC Health systems involved in the project.

“Due to the evolving, fluid nature of this research and what we’re learning daily about the virus and about improving treatment, the trial is designed to be adaptive, to shift investigation to the most promising avenues,” Dr. Constance Benson, a UCSD professor of medicine, said in a statement.

The university said the study will run for about three years and involve hundreds of patients.

The drug was created by Gilead Sciences, which says on its website that it is “mapping out options to make access to investigational remdesivir more widely available through expedited regulatory processes should it demonstrate the potential to be a safe and effective treatment option based on the results of preliminary clinical trials.”

Remdesivir grabbed a lot of public attention after President Donald Trump cited it as a possible treatment for coronavirus. Public health officials quickly downplayed expectations, noting that the drug hasn’t undergone the kind of testing needed to know whether it can be broadly used against this specific virus.

UCSD is quickly expanding its research and testing on the novel coronavirus. The university just began working with Scripps Research in La Jolla to find COVID-19 survivors who are willing to donate blood that would be screened for antibodies capable of fighting the coronavirus.

Survivors who are interested in the program should e-mail researcher Dr. Tom Rogers at

-- Gary Robbins is a reproter for The San Diego Union-Tribune