CLEVELAND — In 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic, University Hospitals Harrington Discovery Institute put out a call to scientists around the world: Send us your ideas to battle the coronavirus and we may fund your research.
They received three hundred applications.
All they needed was a fraction of the money governments were pouring into vaccine research, say $200 million, and they could have funded fifty projects they thought could change the world.
But that didn’t happen, so they chose twelve they thought had the most promise.
“But that dozen treatments may push the future of COVID treatments to the next level, because many are planning for what comes next,” said Dr. Jonathan Stamler, president of the UH Harrington Discovery Research Institute.
“We have developed a once a day spray, that gives you a 100 percent protection right now, this one is still, preclinical, but it's, it's magical,” Dr. Stamler said.
Imagine, a nasal spray you could use just before heading to a Browns game or the theater, and never worry about inhaling the virus. It’s being developed by Dr. Anne Moscona at Columbia University.
You’ve probably heard of monoclonal antibody therapy. It’s the treatment they give people who get COVID-19 but are at a much higher risk of getting very sick because of an underlying condition.
Another one of the Harrington Discovery Institute researchers is light years ahead in just a year with next-generation monoclonal antibody therapy. Dr. Michel Nussenzweig from The Rockefeller University already had a pharmaceutical company license for his work.
“One of them has been licensed to Bristol Myers Squibb and it is in phase three clinical trials, so one drug is very close to approval, it’s very exciting. it's an improved antibody, combination that, has longer protection, more powerful protection against variants,” Dr. Stamler said.
We know that those with compromised immune systems had less protection from the current vaccines, and were the first to need a booster. We also know that there are limited treatments for those who become very sick from COVID. This research may change that need.
“We have a second-generation vaccine, one that's supposed to help people whose immune systems don't work so well, in clinical trials. We have a medicine for patients on ventilators, who, are very, very sick. We still don't have a medicine to treat them and this is a first-in-class medicine that should improve lung function and help the body get the amounts of oxygen it needs, it has also been approved by the FDA for clinical trials, incredibly exciting,” Dr. Stamler said.
Harrington Discovery Institute already has four medicines currently in clinical trials that were developed over the last year.
“That's really a tremendous accomplishment, when you think usually it takes 10 or 12 year time intervals from a discovery to a clinical trial and success, we're already in the clinic with four medicines. So we are advancing these drugs very effectively,” Dr. Stamler said.
Just a few examples of what could be next in the fight against COVID-19. The virus may never disappear, but our tools for battle are getting stronger every day.
MORE FROM MONICA ROBINS:
Editor's note: the video in the player above is from a previously published, unrelated.