Halifax drugmaker Appili Therapeutics has raised US$1 million from FUJIFILM Toyama Chemical Co. to pay for ongoing clinical trials of the Japanese pharma giant’s favipiravir antiviral medication, which the two companies hope will prove useful in treating COVID-19.

Favipiravir, sold under the names Avigan and Reeqonus, was approved for use in treating influenza pandemics by the Japanese government in 2014. Appili and FUJIFILM are part of a four-member consortium conducting phase three -- late stage -- clinical trials to determine the medication’s efficacy for patients infected with the coronavirus.

Phase three clinical trials are the second-to-last step in the American drug approval process. They involve testing medications on patients who suffer from the condition the drug is meant to treat.

The phase three favipiravir trials began in the United States last year. And in June, Appili announced it was expanding the trials into Mexico and Brazil, where there are steady streams of infected test subjects.

Appili said in November that data from the trial would also be used as part of the Health Canada approval process. And the company said in a press release FUJIFILM will share the results with regulators in Japan.

“[FUJIFILM] recognizes the unmet need of this pandemic, which is the lack of safe, effective oral antiviral medicines to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 patients,” said Appili CEO Dr. Armand Balboni in a press release. “With FFTC’s support, we are one step closer to determining if Avigan/Reeqonus will meet this need.”

If the trials are successful, the consortium members will also help manufacture and distribute favipiravir globally.

Last year, Appili raised $27 million from two private placement sales of shares on the TSX Venture Exchange before moving to the Toronto Stock Exchange’s main board.

It also inked a deal with Florida-based Ology Bioservices to jointly manufacture US$6.3 million worth of an Appili-owned drug to treat tularemia -- an airborn infectious disease well-suited for use as a bioweapon -- under a contract with the U.S. Department of Defence.