The Institut Pasteur laboratories in Lille, France.

Photographer: Adrienne Surprenant/Bloomberg

Luxury billionaire Bernard Arnault donated 5 million euros ($5.9 million) to researchers from his hometown of Lille, France, who are in the early stages of developing a treatment for Covid-19.

The researchers have identified a molecule that appears to be effective against the virus in laboratory experiments and are preparing to test it in people, according to a statement Friday from the Institut Pasteur in Lille. Arnault, the chairman and chief executive officer of luxury giant LVMH, is originally from the Lille metropolitan area.

Hundreds of laboratories around the world are searching for ways to fight the pandemic that has upended society and smothered economies. A few experimental vaccines have reached the final stages of human testing, and some therapies, such as Gilead Sciences Inc.’s remdesivir, have been authorized for emergency use against the virus.

“The scientific discovery of the researchers at the Institut Pasteur in Lille creates huge hope for a treatment,” Arnault said in the statement. “It’s vital this research can go on and that’s why I have decided to bring support to this crucial phase of clinical trials.”

LVMH earlier supported France’s pandemic efforts by producing and providing free hand sanitizer. Arnault is France’s wealthiest person with a fortune of about $87 billion.

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