North Carolina is a hotbed for COVID-19 research

There’s a reason you’re hearing “North Carolina” and “Covid-19 “ used In the same sentence. It’s all about science


May 15, 2020 

North Carolina is a hotbed for Covid-19 research

Here’s a few examples:

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Ranks Highest in Covid-19 Research:

Microsoft Academic, a public search engine for scholarly publications and journals, ranks UNC-Chapel Hill as the top U.S. university for coronavirus research. The rankings were driven by the prominence and quality of coronavirus research, based on how often scientists cite articles written by university researchers and other experts. UNC placed eighth globally.

It was the third-highest U.S. institution, right behind the number-two-ranked Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and number-five-ranked National Institutes of Health. Microsoft Academic monitors 267,000 institutions. The University of Hong Kong ranked number one. Two universities in the Netherlands topped UNC.

It’s no surprise the research at UNC Chapel Hill is cited so often. Ralph Baric, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the Gillings School of Public Health are considered the leading experts in coronavirus research. The team has tested the potential of a small-molecule inhibitor to fight outbreaks of coronavirus. The findings led to the development of Gilead Sciences’ drug, remdesivir. The antiviral intravenous medicine recently received emergency use authorization from the FDA to treat severely ill COVID-19 patients. Baric’s team also is also working on a new antiviral drug to treat the coronavirus through a collaboration with researchers at Vanderbilt and Emory universities. The investigational therapy, EIDD-2801, is taken in pill form. If it works, it could limit the spread of COVID-19 and also control future outbreaks of other emerging coronaviruses. EIDD-2801 is slated for human trials in the next few months.

Grifols Expands Plasma Collection Centers in Search of Treatment

If you’ve been diagnosed with the Covid-19 coronavirus and have recovered, you can help scientists find a treatment for the disease. The bio-pharmaceutical company Grifols is expanding its plasma collection program across the country in order to collect blood plasma from recovered patients. It hopes to use that blood product, with its naturally occurring antibodies, to make hyperimmune globulin. The medicine is rich in COVID-19 antibodies that will hopefully kick current patients’ immune systems into high gear to fight the infection. Grifols will produce the plasma-based medicine at its facility in Clayton, NC. 

LabCorp Making Covid-19 Antibody Tests Available to Individuals

LabCorp recently launched a Covid-19 antibody test to detect whether someone has been exposed to the coronavirus. Now the Burlington, NC company is making that test available to individuals.

The so-called serology tests are “for patients that don’t have symptoms, that do not currently have Covid-19 but believe they’ve had it in the past,” explains CEO Adam Schechter. Patients can get the blood tests through their physicians and urgent care clinics. Orders are placed through LabCorp service centers. Patients will need to go to the service centers to have their blood taken. The samples are sent to LabCorp labs and the results are known in one to two days.

“We do know that if somebody’s had the virus, and they show that they have the antibodies, that our test can certainly detect those antibodies,” Schechter told CNBC. “What we don’t know is a year from now whether those antibodies will still be as meaningful as they are today.”

—Frank Graff

Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci NC, a broadcast and online science series.