Fujifilm Holdings Corp. is starting a new phase III trial in Japan of its new Covid-19 treatment, Avigan. This is not a vaccine, it is a treatment and possibly a cure. But Avigan (known generically as favipiravir) has caused some concern because it has been shown to cause birth defects in animal studies.
In much of the world, the name “Fujifilm” still connotes a camera company. But over the years, since the rise of digital photography and the decline of traditional cameras, Fujifilm has gradually and successfully transformed into a healthcare/pharmaceuticals concern. In December 2019 for example it acquired a diagnostic imaging business from Hitachi for US$1.63 billion.
In June 2020, Fujifilm invested $928 million in a Denmark bases biologics production facility.
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Avigan, which is taken orally — and, given the results of the animal studies mentioned, cannot be taken by pregnant women — is already approved in Japan for the treatment of influenza. It selectively inhibits RNA polymerase, as so interferes with viral replication. The search for necessary regulatory approvals for Avigan as a treatment of Covid-19 is also underway in the United States, though it is at an earlier stage in the proceedings here than in Fujifilm’s home country.