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It was not that long ago that the medical community had a small arsenal of new drugs to prevent and treat COVID-19 in people most susceptible to severe disease. But the arrival of new variants, as well as the loss of two treatments for immunocompromised people, has amped up the urgency to develop a stronger generation of medicines.

Some biotech companies are looking to rebuild and expand the war chest, including British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and several smaller Massachusetts firms. With about 300 to 400 Americans dying with the disease each day, doctors and drugmakers say they are worried the coming months will carry an echo of the earlier days of the pandemic, when there were too few tools to fight a spreading virus.

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