VUMC

Vanderbilt Vaccine Center director James Crowe and senior staff scientist Pavlo Gilchuk in the Crowe Lab at Vanderbilt.

 

Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers are working on an antibody-based COVID-19 treatment that could neutralize the illness' effects and spread. 

The Vanderbilt Vaccine Center began researching coronavirus-laced blood samples last month to identify which antibodies already being created by cells are most effective in combating COVID-19. Scientists have been replicating those antibodies to infuse them into infected patents. Vaccine Center Associate Director Robert Carnahan said more than 500 antibody therapeutics are now under further study.

The therapy would not serve as a vaccine but rather as a short-term treatment that can be used to lessen symptoms and protect doctors and hospital workers from the illness' spread. VVC leaders said they hope to have their antibody-based treatment for COVID-19 ready for human clinical trials by this summer.

“We have ultra-rapid antibody discovery technologies and already have discovered SARS-CoV-2 antibodies,” Director James Crowe said in a press release. “Our partners have the manufacturing and product development expertise to turn these antibodies into effective biological drugs very quickly.”

The center's research is being funded by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which enlisted Vanderbilt alongside Duke University and two other private entities several years ago to launch the Pandemic Prevention Platform. The goal of that $28 million, five-year program is to create within 60 days antibody treatments to lessen the effects and spread of new viruses.

Through that partnership, the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center last year used similar methods to find the antibody that stopped the spread of the Zika virus. That process lasted a total of 78 days. The team also has generated antibodies against a wide range of other pathogenic viruses. including ebola, chikungunya, HIV, dengue, norovirus and respiratory syncytial virus.

The hunt is already on for a COVID-19 vaccine, with some human clinical trials have been launched at a quick pace. However, the commercialization of a vaccine could still take years and immediate relief to COVID-19’s symptoms and spread is still necessary. 

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