Remdesivir Named After Indian Scientist Ramesh Desigan? Not True

Himanshi Dahiya
·3 min read

A viral message on social media claims that antiviral drug Remdesivir – currently being used in treatment of COVID-19 – has been named after an Indian scientist named Ramesh EM Desigan from Tamil Nadu.

The Quint went through publicly available data on the development and trials of the drug and spoke to its parent company Gilead Sciences who said that the claim isn’t true.

CLAIM

The said message makes the following claims:

  • Remdesivir was developed by Gilead Science, a California-based pharmaceutical company where a team led by Czech scientist Tomas Cihlar worked on the drug for treatment of Ebola.

  • The drug however, was named after Ramesh EM Desigan, the lead scientist of Cihlar’s team. Ramesh hails from Rasipuram in Tamil Nadu and moved to California in 2002 to work for Gilead.

  • Remdesivir, initially named Ebpantuvir was later renamed after Ramesh EM Desigan and Gilead donated $ 2 million to his primary school in Tamil Nadu, Rasi International School.

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An archived version of the post can be accessed <a href="https://perma.cc/ER4R-NXPF" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>.
An archived version of the post can be accessed here.

This message is viral on multiple social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. Archived version of the claim can be accessed here, here and here.

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WHAT WE FOUND OUT

The first claim mentioned in the viral text about California-based Gilead Sciences being the parent pharmaceutical company of Remdesivir is correct. On Gilead’s website, we found a document detailing the development of the drug.

Gilead_RDV Development Fact Sheet 2020 by Himanshi Dahiya on Scribd

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The document mentions that research that led to the development of Remdesivir started in 2009 with research programmes underway in hepatitis C (HCV) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The drug was subsequently tested for Ebola in 2014 and more recently for coronavirus.

We also came across another article on the company’s website titled ‘Four Questions with Tomas Cihlar: Committed to the Field of Emerging Viruses’, which mentioned that Cihlar is the Vice President of Virology and leads Gilead’s antiviral research. He has led the development efforts related to Remdesivir.

However, we could not find any mention of a ‘Ramesh EM Desigan’.

Next, we reached out to Gilead Sciences to confirm if someone identifying as ‘Ramesh EM Desigan’ was associated with the team responsible for development and trials of Remdesivir.

The pharmaceutical company told The Quint’s WebQoof team in an email exchange that no such person was associated with them.

"“I can confirm that this is not correct. There is no one by the name quoted in your email who has had any involvement with Remdesivir.”" - Bahar Turkoglu, Senior Director (Public Affairs), Gilead Sciences

To verify the final claim in the message, we reached out to Rasi International School in Tamil Nadu. Speaking to The Quint, Dr D Vidyasagar, principle of the school told us that the the message doing the rounds is completely false and that the school has not received any such donation.

He further told us that as contrary to the viral claim, the school was setup only in 2008 so how could a student be enrolled in the school before that.

Evidently, a message making multiple false claims around antiviral drug Remdesivir caught steam on social media.

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