Aetion Statement on UCSF-Led Study to Inform Drug Development for COVID-19, Future Pandemics

Aetion co-authored a study published today in Science, which examined lethal coronaviruses SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV-1, and MERS-CoV to identify molecular characteristics of potential treatments.

NEW YORK, Oct. 15, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Aetion co-authored a study published today in Science, which examined lethal coronaviruses SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV-1, and MERS-CoV to identify molecular characteristics of potential treatments. The study, which was led by the Quantitative Biosciences Institute at UCSF and involved nearly 200 researchers from leading institutions, applied a novel approach to evaluate molecular hypotheses by analyzing real-world data from COVID-19 patients.

Aetion researchers ran analyses on Real-Time Insights and Evidence, an instance of the Aetion Evidence Platform® with real-time health care data designed to generate evidence on prospective treatments for COVID-19.

Jeremy Rassen, Sc.D., Aetion co-founder, president, and chief science officer and one of the study’s authors, made the following statement:

“These results demonstrate the value of using real-world data on COVID-19 to evaluate molecular hypotheses generated in the lab, and represent a new pathway for the use of real-world evidence to support the drug development process. While these findings are based on limited use of these medications in patients with COVID-19, we can further validate the findings with real-world or randomized evidence.

“The reach and severity of COVID-19 has created extreme urgency as researchers work to identify potential therapies and vaccines. Using near real-time healthcare data, we were able to efficiently and rigorously screen prospective interventions for COVID-19, accelerating time to insights from months to a matter of weeks. As COVID-19 treatment candidates emerge, real-world evidence — properly generated — has an important role in complementing clinical trials with real-world insights on usage, safety, and effectiveness across the drug lifecycle.”

The team of global researchers started with lab-driven hypotheses that suggested certain medications — those that block the coronavirus’s interaction with the enzyme PGES-2 or sigma receptor 1 — may inhibit viral replication in vivo. To evaluate whether these molecular actions reduced the severity of COVID-19 in clinical settings, Aetion identified nearly 740,000 U.S. COVID-19 patients who shortly after diagnosis began treatment with one of the potential therapies. Aetion researchers assessed whether COVID-19 severity was decreased in these patients as compared to those treated with medications without the hypothesized antiviral properties.

Aetion’s analyses showed:

  1. COVID-19-positive new users of indomethacin, a marketed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that inhibits the enzyme PGES-2, appeared substantially less likely to require hospitalization or inpatient services than matched new users of celecoxib, an NSAID that does not target PGES-2; and,
  2. Hospitalized COVID-19-positive new users of typical antipsychotics that have activity against the sigma receptor 1 protein (such as haloperidol, chlorpromazine) were over 50% less likely to require mechanical ventilation as compared to matched new users of atypical antipsychotics (such as quetiapine, olanzapine).

Aetion has been a leader in advancing the understanding of and response to COVID-19 since early in the pandemic. The company is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration through a research collaboration agreement and is an active participant in the COVID-19 Evidence Accelerator, a collaboration organized by the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the FDA and Friends of Cancer Research.

About Aetion
Aetion is a health care analytics company that delivers real-world evidence for the manufacturers, purchasers, and regulators of medical technologies. The Aetion Evidence Platform® analyzes data from the real world to produce transparent, rapid, and scientifically validated answers on safety, effectiveness, and value, across the product life cycle. Founded by Harvard Medical School faculty members with decades of experience in epidemiology and health outcomes research, Aetion informs health care’s most critical decisions — what works best, for whom, and when — to guide product development, commercialization, and payment innovation.

Aetion is based in New York City, and backed by investors including New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Flare Capital Partners, Lakestar, Greenspring Associates, Town Hall Ventures, McKesson Ventures, Sanofi Ventures, EDBI, Amgen Ventures, Johnson & Johnson Innovation — JJDC, Inc., UCB, and Horizon Health Services, Inc. Learn more at and follow us at @aetioninc.

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