A closely watched clinical trial has turned up a glimmer of good news in the race to find a treatment for COVID-19, in the form of preliminary data showing that Gilead Sciences’ experimental drug Remdesivir helped severely ill patients recover faster from the coronavirus in the hospital.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said Wednesday that patients who received Remdesivir recovered 31 percent faster than those who got a placebo in the government-run trial. The median recovery time was 11 days for patients who received Remdesivir compared with 15 days for those who were given a placebo.

“Although a 31 percent improvement doesn’t seem like a knockout 100 percent, it is a very important proof of concept because what it has proven is that a drug can block this virus,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the institute, said at the White House. “This is very optimistic.”

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And in Britain, as the world is racing to find a way to fight the novel coronavirus, scientists at Oxford University may have a head start on a vaccine. They plan to schedule test involving more than 6,000 people by the end of May. If the trial is successful and safe, with emergency approval, several million vaccine doses could be available by September.