Coronavirus News: New twist on plasma treatment could be ready by summer's end

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Wednesday, May 6, 2020
New twist on plasma treatment could be ready by summer's end
At least 5 companies have cloned antibodies to coronavirus, setting stage for new drugs that would mimic convalescent plasma.

A biotech company says it might have a treatment for coronavirus available by the end of the summer.

It relies on a century-old concept that's found a major place in treatment for COVID-19.

The key to making a brand-new drug for the disease could be in the vial of blood from Eli Epstein, who has recovered from coronavirus.

Doctors at Rockefeller University in New York City are searching that blood for just the right antibodies.

"We really want something very potent. Potent means can neutralize, kill the virus," says Dr. Michel Nussenzweig.

It's a twist on the use of convalescent plasma, where someone who's recovered from COVID gives blood plasma to someone who's sick.

It can work, but it's old technology.

Dr. Emil Von Behring won a Nobel Prize for his work on it in 1901.

The new approach uses monoclonal antibodies, and it's cutting edge.

Here's how it works - when someone is sick with COVID-19, antibodies develop inside their blood to fight off the virus. After the person recovers, they donate blood.

Scientists select the most powerful antibodies and clone them and turn it into a drug.

It's one of the hottest areas in coronavirus research.

Companies in New York and San Francisco, Vanderbilt University, and even the Department of Defense are involved in projects.

"These are all distinct, hitting the same site, but distinct antibodies," remarked the Vanderbilt team as they selected antibodies to include.

The treatment could possibly prevent infection, or treat those already sick.

Vanderbilt's lead researcher, Dr. James Crowe, specializes in vaccines but says monoclonal antibody research will be faster.

"I think antibodies will be finished first and will be the bridge toward longer immunity, which will be conferred by vaccines," says Dr. Crowe.

So far, the pharmaceutical company Regeneron says they might be able to have their monoclonal antibody drug on the market by the end of summer.

Their technology is already used to treat cancer, arthritis, and asthma.

"We can clone out the best of the antibodies from recovered humans, we've selected the best ones to create an antibody cocktail, as we call it," says Dr. George Yancopoulos of Regeneron.

"I think the more groups we have working on it all the better and the more shots on goal we have for getting effective prevention or treatment," says Dr. Crowe.