MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian company trialling a drug to treat the new coronavirus said on Thursday it was testing it on infected patients in what it called second- and third-phase clinical trials based on World Health Organisation (WHO) criteria.

The first phase of testing, which involved healthy volunteers, was carried out by the drug’s initial developer, before trials began in Russia, a spokeswoman for ChemRar, the company conducting the trials, told Reuters.

The drug, favipiravir, which was first developed in Japan under the name Avigan, secured 150 million roubles ($2 million) in funding from the Russian Direct Investment Fund.

Favipiravir is also undergoing trials in India by Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

RDIF chief Kirill Dmitriev on Wednesday said the drug could cut coronavirus recovery times in half, after early results showed 60% of 40 patients taking the tablets tested negative for the virus within five days.

Avigan was developed by a company later bought by Fujifilm as it moved into healthcare. The drug works by short-circuiting the reproduction mechanism of certain RNA viruses such as influenza.

ChemRar said its trials fall into the second and third phases of the WHO’s overview of how clinical trials work, as they are testing people infected with the virus.

Andrei Ivashchenko, a professor at the Russian Academy of Sciences and chairman of the board of directors at ChemRar, on Wednesday said early tests showed that there were minimal side effects, although he said pregnant women were prohibited from using it.

Avigan is known to be destructive to foetuses. A spokeswoman for Fujifilm said that was discovered in tests on animals and that the drug had never been administered to women.

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow, Gleb Stolyarov and Katya Golubkova)